Category Archives: NORSE/VIKINGS

Two Viking Boat Graves—With a Warrior Inside—Found in Sweden

Two Viking Boat Graves—With a Warrior Inside—Found in Sweden

Previously, two Viking burial boats in Uppsala, Sweden have been unraveled by archaeologists the remains of a dog, a man, and a horse are remarkably preserved.

The horse skeleton.

A few of the powerful elites were sent back to their afterlife by the Vikings in boats laden with sacrificed animals, weapons and artifacts; the funeral practice dates back to the Iron Age (A.D. 550 to 800) but was used throughout the Viking age (A.D. 800 to 1050), according to a statement.

Throughout Scandinavia, several richly decorated gravestones have been found. For example, archeologists had already discovered one of those burial boats throughout Norway with evidence of human remains, and one in western Scotland with many burial artifacts, including an ax, a shield boss, a ringed pin a hammer and tongs.

Recent excavations of Viking boat burials reveal the remains of a man, a horse, and a dog.

The elites who were given such elaborate send-offs were also often buried with animals, such as stallions.

These burial boats were typically built with overlapping wooden planks (called “clinker-built”) and had symmetrical ends, a true keel, and overlapping planks joined together, said Johan Anund, the regional manager for The Archaeologists, an archeological organization working with the National Historical Museums in Sweden.

A man’s remains were discovered in one of the boat graves. 

Archaeologists have also found other, simpler boat structures, such as logboats, which are like a dugout wide canoe, Anand told Live Science in an email. 

The remains of the dog and the horse were nestled in the bow of the well-preserved boat, while the remains of the man were found in the stern.

“We don’t know much” about the man yet, Anund said. But analysis of the skeleton will reveal how old he was, how tall he was and if he had any injuries or diseases. Anund’s group may even be able to figure out where the man grew up and where he lived for most of his life, Anund said.

As for the animals buried with him, they could have been sacrificed to help the dead person on the “other side” but could also be there to show the man’s status and rank, Anund said. It’s common to find horses and dogs in such burials, but also big birds like falcons.

Archaeologists also found other items on the boat such as a sword, spear, shield, an ornate comb, and leftover wood and iron nails that were likely used in its construction.

A comb and a part of a shield were discovered in one of the boat graves.

The other boat was badly damaged, probably because a 16th-century medieval cellar was built right on top of it, according to the statement.

Some human and animal bones were still preserved on the damaged ship, but they seem to have been moved around, making it difficult for archaeologists to say much about them, Anund said.

Archaeologists discovered the ships, the well, and the cellar after a plot of land outside Uppsala was marked off to become a new building for the vicarage of Gamla Uppsala parish.

They excavated the boats last month and some of the finds will go on display at Gamla Uppsala museum and the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm.

Scottish storms unearth 1,500-year-old Viking-era cemetery

Scottish storms unearth 1,500-year-old Viking-era cemetery

The native Picts, a Celtic-language speaking tribe, once populated the Scottish Islands, similar to the natives that live on what is now Scotland. 

Archaeologists and volunteers are working to preserve human bones exposed by recent storms in an ancient cemetery above a beach on the Orkney Islands.

Several powerful storms on Scotland’s Orkney Islands have now revealed ancient human remains in a Pictish and Viking cemetery dated back to about 1,500 years ago.

To order to protect the damage to the former Newark Bay cemetery on Orkney’s largest island, volunteers are now placing sandbags and clay around. The site dates from the middle of the sixth century when ancient Pictish people inhabited the Orkney Islands.

The site is currently being protected by sandbags.

Picts or Norse?

The cemetery was used for about 1,000 years, and numerous burials from the ninth to the 15th century were Norsemen or Vikings who had seized the Orkney Islands from the Picts. Now, storm waves are destroying the low cliff where the ancient site is located, Peter Higgins from the Orkney Research Center for Archaeology (ORCA), said.

“Every time we have a storm with a bit of a south-easterly [wind], it really gets in there and actively erodes what is just soft sandstone,” Higgins explained.

Approximately 250 skeletons were taken out of the cemetery about 50 years ago, but researchers do not know how far the site extends from the beach. They believe that hundreds of Pictish and Norse bodies are still buried there.

“The local residents and the landowner have been quite concerned about what’s left of the cemetery being eroded by the sea,” Higgins said.

Uncovered bones are usually either coated with clay to protect them or removed from the site after their positions are thoroughly labeled, so it is rather unusual for bones to end up on the beach, he explained.

Researchers do not know yet of the exposed bones belong to Picts or Vikings, as no burial objects or funeral clothes were spotted, and the bodies were buried four of five layers under the surface.

Cultural Transition

Historians claim that the first Norse immigrants to the Orkney Islands established there in the late eighth century, leaving a rising new monarchy in Norway. They used the Orkney Islands to begin their own voyages and Viking raids, and ultimately, all the islands were ruled by the Norse, according to The Scotsman.

The relationship between the Picts and the Norse on the Orkney Islands is highly argued by scholars. They cannot know for sure whether the Norse took over by force, or were settlers who traded and entered marriage with the Picts. However, now, the ancient cemetery at Newark Bay may help researchers answer their questions.

“The Orkney Islands were Pictish, and then they became Norse,” Higgins said. “We’re not really clear how that transition happened, whether it was an invasion, or people lived together. This is one of the few opportunities we’ve got to investigate that.”

A part of the scientific work on the remains would require testing genetic material from the ancient bones, which might demonstrate that some people living on the Orkney Islands today are successors of people who lived there more than 1,000 years ago.

The scientific study of bones from the ancient cemetery at Newark Bay could reveal clues to the cultural transition from Pictish to Norse domination of the Orkney Islands.

“We’re fairly confident that we’re going to find that some local residents are related to people in the cemetery,” Higgins said.

Archaeologist hails ‘extraordinary’ Viking village find in Dublin

Archaeologist hails ‘extraordinary’ Viking village find in Dublin

Researcher excavations have modified our understanding of the oldest Viking settlement in Dublin with a black pool or Dubh Linn which was considered to be much larger than originally expected.

The excavation alongside Dublin Castle has also revealed the oldest police cells in the city and a grave of punishment.

The excavation is taking place on Ship St near where the remains of one of Dublin’s oldest churches – St Michael le Pole that was founded in the 6th century – are known to be.

The dig is taking place beside Dublin Castle

Archaeologist Alan Hayden from University College Dublin said the work has uncovered the cells from a police station on Chancery Lane built-in 1830, and beside it are walls from a medieval farm.

There are 12th Century quarries that provided the stone to build Dublin Castle and its walls.

The most important discovery yet is that Dubh Linn – the pool on the River Poddle where the Vikings first settled – was much bigger than originally thought.

At present, a garden inside Dublin Castle marks what was thought to make up most of the original Dubh Linn.

However, this excavation has established it was nearly 400 meters wider extending to the present dig site and where St Michael le Pole church stood.

Mr. Hayden says this solves two questions that have puzzled historians – why St Michael’s Church referred to ‘le pole’ or the pool and how reports that the Vikings had up to 200 ships on the Dubh Linn.

Evidence of the settlement in the 12th Century

Niamh Donlon of the One Le Pole Square project says a development planned for the site will consist of a two-story convention center below six floors of office space.

It will incorporate the history of the site in its name.

The remains of the original St Michael le Pol church will be visible below a screen in a new public square and a tile from the church will be used in a new spa area.

A map of the site in the 14th Century

Tom Wilson, the senior civil engineer with builders JJ Rhattigan, said the archaeological dig was already factored into the development and has not caused delays.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hayden says there was one unusual find – a burial of a man found outside the church cemetery with his hand and feet cut off. He said this was a medieval punishment for insulting a lord or king.

Hoards Of Viking Coins Discovered On The Island Of Saaremaa, Estonia

Hoards Of Viking Coins Discovered On The Island Of Saaremaa, Estonia

On the island of Saaremaa, weeks after a big shipment, which includes a 1,700-year-old gold bracelet, came to light, there was another archaeological discovery.

According to the Heritage Protection Board (Muinsuskaitseamet) and the Saaremaa Museum, the recent find dates from the Viking era contains a large number of silver coins. The ERR’s online news in Estonian reports.

As with the earlier treasure trove, the latest find was the work of a metal detector hobbyist, who, in line with Estonian law, informed the authorities.

Some of the silver coins and other finds dating from Viking-era Saaremaa.

“We are grateful for the licensed hobby detector, who reported the findings to the Heritage Protection Board, which can now preserve some of the crucial histories of Saaremaa,” Saaremaa Museum stated on its social media page.

Archaeologist and Tallinn University Archeology Research Collection nusimatics curator Mauri Kiudsoo said that the find was highly significant for in understanding of Saaremaa’s Viking-era history, as well as running against the trend of hobbyists not handing over finds to the state on Saaremaa itself.

Archaeologist and Tallinn University Archeology Research Collection nusimatics curator Mauri Kiudsoo said that the find was highly significant for in understanding of Saaremaa’s Viking-era history, as well as running against the trend of hobbyists not handing over finds to the state on Saaremaa itself.

Two separate hoards were found. One of these dating to the second half of the 10th century contained silver coins that came via the Viking trade route which crossed the Baltic from the present-day Swedish island of Gotland to Saaremaa’s southern coast, and then on to Lääne County and on to present-day Tallinn.

These were likely to have been buried during upheaval or conflict in the region, as was the case with the other hoard from the Lümanda-Kihelkonna area. 

Both point to destruction and upheaval in particular parts of Saaremaa in the second quarter of the 11th century, according to the article.

Kiudsoo added very few coin hoards from the same era that have been found elsewhere in Estonia.

In September, metal detector hobbyist Jegor Klimov found a substantially-sized gold bracelet, amber brooches, locally-made luxury amber brooches, silver, and silver-plated brooches and a Scandinavian silver-plated belt, at a 1,700-year-old sacrificial site.

The find similarly filled in knowledge gaps on the iron age on Saaremaa, as the more recent find has done for the later Viking era.

A new Viking site could rewrite the story of the ‘Great Heathen Army’

A new Viking site could rewrite the story of the ‘Great Heathen Army’

 Ongoing excavations at the English parish of Foremark could finally uncover where the thousands of Vikings that made up the Great Army spent the winter of 873-874 CE.
Ongoing excavations at the English parish of Foremark could finally uncover where the thousands of Vikings that made up the Great Army spent the winter of 873-874 CE.

Some 40 years ago, archaeologists excavating the grounds of the English village of Repton stumbled upon a gruesome discovery: a mass grave containing the bodies of more than 250 men, women, and children, many bearing the scars of battle on their bones.

The find lined up with English historical records describing Repton as the location where the “Great Heathen Army” of Vikings hunkered down for the winter of 873-874 CE. It seemed the invaders who had once terrorized the country’s medieval Anglo-Saxon residents had finally been found.

There was just one problem. The only candidate for a fortified winter encampment at Repton was an earthwork enclosure spanning just a handful of acres—far too little to accommodate the thousands of militant Vikings believed to have comprised the Great Army.

Now, a team of researchers from the University of Bristol might have uncovered the solution to Repton’s clown car conundrum: a long-lost partner camp in the nearby village of Foremark, which boasts acreage aplenty. Excavations at Foremark are ongoing, but if the findings pan out, they could help resolve a long-standing debate in Viking history.

“Based on what others had dug up at Repton before, some people [suggested] the Great Army wasn’t as big as everyone thought,” says Mary Beaudry, an archaeologist at Boston University who was not involved in the excavation. “But with this work at Foremark…it could have been much bigger than anyone thought. It opens up an entirely new picture.”

Formal excavations at Foremark, a sleepy hamlet just two miles east of Repton, have only recently begun in earnest. But long before the arrival of a team led by Cat Jarman, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol, a group of metal detectorists had unveiled hints of a Viking presence in Foremark.

One of these detectorists, Rob Davis, had already spent more than a decade amassing a trove of trinkets when he reached out to Jarman in November of 2017. Though his collection was by no means comprehensive, Jarman says, it already held what might be the “smoking gun” of a Great Army encampment: a handful of trademark lead gaming pieces—a common relic of Viking encampments strewn throughout Europe.

“In a way, these are the most important artifacts,” Jarman says. “They’re only associated with the Great Army. They’re not pretty or valuable, but they’re specific.”

Joining the gaming pieces were several Islamic dirham coins and trading weights—clear indicators of the Vikings’ global connections. These artifacts, in particular, Jarman says, should serve as reminders that the Vikings were more than the one-dimensional plunderers and pillagers of popular culture. In fact, there’s evidence that Vikings actually started out as merchants, and kept up some of these bartering practices even after taking up arms, trading in local and foreign markets alike.

“There was obviously a violent side to the Vikings,” says team member Mark Horton, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol. “But they were also bringing all sorts of things missing from Anglo-Saxon England at the time. They were the first medieval globalizing forces.”

In the years since Jarman and her colleagues have begun their own research at Foremark. The team hasn’t yet begun excavations at what they believe is the location of Foremark’s main camp, which is privately owned. But the researchers have already hit pay dirt in a neighboring plot of land—in the form of a large, valuable iron plowshare that dates back to the late 9th century. It’s not yet clear who the plowshare belonged to: It could have been hauled in by globe-trotting Scandinavians or abandoned by the unfortunate Anglo-Saxons whose homes they invaded. Either way, this particular find is “pretty amazing,” Horton says.

Many of the artifacts, including those in the metal detectorist’s collection, have yet to be dated more precisely than a ballpark century, however. As such, there’s not yet a guarantee of simultaneous occupation with Repton. But given Foremark’s proximity to Repton, Jarman and others are optimistic that the pieces of the overwintering puzzle could finally be falling into place.

“The findings at Foremark fit into our expectations,” says Doug Bolender, an anthropologist at the University of Massachusetts Boston who was not involved in the work. “In lots of ways, this could allow us to put aside a whole series of caveats and asterisks of the interpretation of the material at Repton…it’s exciting to have a potential site.”

In many ways, Foremark might have been an obvious candidate for a Viking take over. Situated comfortably on the River Trent, the site would have been ideal for everything from docking boats to growing crops. It also carried the appeal of open land: Though the team hasn’t yet determined the exact boundaries of the Foremark camp, the site could have covered as many as 90 acres, vastly outstripping the known enclosures at Repton.

That amount of space could have accommodated the thousands estimated to be in the Great Army—or more. “The whole thing is a massive Viking landscape,” Horton says. “The sheer scale of what we’re finding could indicate that we’re talking about tens of thousands [of people].”

A Viking gaming piece uncovered at Foremark. These tiny trinkets entertained bored Viking warriors at their winter encampments, and have been found all across Europe.

As excavations continue, Jarman is now toying with one last theory: that Foremark was so nice, the Vikings settled it twice.

Not long after leaving their station at Repton, the Great Army began to fragment. After a few final cataclysmic clashes with growing Anglo-Saxon forces, the remaining Vikings scattered. Over time, the two sworn enemies found peace and, eventually, began to integrate, braiding their disparate cultures together. Scandinavian words wove their way into English; Norse gods mingled into local lore.

Along the way, Jarman says, a few Viking veterans might have returned to a familiar haunt at an “old fortification”—perhaps, not by coincidence, the meaning of the root word for “Foremark.”

Even Foremark’s surroundings bear the echoes of encore. The names of nearby villages like Ingleby and Bretby contain similarities to old Norse words. And less than a mile away lies Heath Wood, the region’s only large-scale Viking cremation cemetery—an impractical investment for a single winter’s camp. “You don’t get those names, or a cemetery like that, unless you have a Scandinavian population putting down roots,” Jarman says.

“I think these Viking armies are the people who become the Scandinavian settlers,” she says. “They’ve been invisible in the archaeological record for a long time…but these armies eventually settled into the landscape. This might be how we find that missing link.”

American Indian Sailed to Europe With Vikings?

Did Native American travel with the Vikings and arrive in Iceland centuries before Columbus set sail?

Analyzing a type of DNA passed only from mother to child, scientists found more than 80 living Icelanders with a genetic variation similar to one found mostly in Native Americans.

This signature probably entered Icelandic bloodlines around A.D. 1000, when the first Viking-American Indian child was born, the study authors theorize.

Historical accounts and archaeological evidence show that Icelandic Vikings reached Greenland just before 1000 and quickly pushed on to what is now Canada. Icelanders even established a village in Newfoundland, though it lasted only a decade or so

But what is not known for certain is how a family of Icelanders came to have a genetic makeup which includes a surprising marker dating to 1000 A.D. — one which is found mostly in Native Americans.

In 2010, it was reported that the first Native Americans arrived on the continent of Europe sometime around the 11th century. The study, led by deCODE Genetics, a world-leading genome research lab in Iceland, discovered a unique gene that was present in only four distinct family lines.

The DNA lineage, which was named C1e, is mitochondrial, meaning that the genes were introduced by and passed down through a female.

Based on the evidence of the DNA, it has been suggested that a Native American, (voluntarily or involuntarily) accompanied the Vikings when they returned back to Iceland.

The woman survived the voyage across the sea, and subsequently had children in her new home. As of today, there are 80 Icelanders who have a distinct gene passed down by this woman.

Nevertheless, there is another explanation for the presence of the C1e in these 80 Icelanders. It is possible that the Native American genes appeared in Iceland after the discovery of the New World by Columbus.

It has been suggested that a Native American woman might have been brought back to mainland Europe by European explorers, who then found her way to Iceland.

Researchers believe that this scenario is unlikely, however, given the fact that Iceland was pretty isolated at that point of time.

Nevertheless, the only way to effectively eliminate this possibility is for scientists to find the remains of a pre-Columbian Icelander whose genes can be analyzed and shown to contain the C1e lineage.

Another problem facing the researchers is that the C1e genes might not have come from Native Americans but from some other part of the world.

For instance, no living Native American group has the exact DNA lineage as the one found in the 80 Icelanders. However, it may be that the Native American people who carried that lineage eventually went extinct.

One suggestion, which was proposed early in the research, was that the genes came from Asia. This was eventually ruled out, as the researchers managed to work out that the C1e lineage had been present in Iceland as early as the 18th century. This was long before the appearance of Asian genes in Icelanders.

If the discovery does prove ultimately that the Vikings took a Native American woman back to Iceland, then history would indeed have to be rewritten.

Although encounters with the Native Americans, known as Skraelings (or foreigners), were recorded by the Viking sagas, there is no mention whatsoever about the Vikings bringing a Native American woman home to Iceland with them.

Furthermore, the available archaeological record does not show any presence of a Native American woman in Iceland.

The more digging is done into the history of the Vikings, the more our perceptions are changing as to how they lived, traveled, and traded.

Hopefully, more light will be shed on this mystery over time, and the goings-on of the historic world can be unequivocally established, giving us a clearer understanding of our ancient past

Mysterious Viking Sword Made With Technology From the Future?

Mysterious Viking Sword Made With Technology From the Future?

The Vikings were among the fiercest warriors of all time, and a select few carried the ultimate weapon: a sword nearly 1,000 years ahead of its time.

A mystery sword made by the Vikings and engraved with the word Ulfberht has stumped archaeologists.

The sword is forged in such a way that it looks to have been made by technologies that weren’t available until 800 years after the Viking era.

Around 170 of the swords have been found, all of which date from between 800AD to 1000AD, but the technology that would have forged them is from the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s and 1900s.

A television program has looked into the mystery in more detail called, ‘Secrets of the Viking Sword’. Its researchers say that to forge the iron which the swords are made of, the ore needs to be heated to around 3000 degrees (F).

The Vikings were among the fiercest warriors of all time, and a select few carried the ultimate weapon: a sword nearly 1,000 years ahead of its time.

It then liquefies and the impurities are removed. It is then mixed with carbon to strengthen the iron.

However medieval technologies, which are what the Vikings would have been using, would not have been able to heat any metal or substance that high a temperature.

In those days, the impurities would have been removed by hammering them out of the iron.

In contradiction to this, the Ulfberht contains almost no impurities at all and it has thrice the amount of carbon in it than any other metals that are known to have existed at the time. The metal the swords are made of is known as crucible steel.

Fashioned using a process unknown to the Vikings’ rivals, the Ulfberht sword was a revolutionary high-tech blade as well as a work of art.

Furnaces that could heat metals and substances to extremely high temperatures what not invented until the industrial revolution when the tools for the heating iron to these temperatures were also developed.

A blacksmith has consulted with the television program’s researchers and has said that to make a sword like the Ulfberht Is highly complex and difficult.

The blacksmith is the only person who has the skills and tools available to try to reproduce the metal of the Ulfberht.

He believes that whoever made the sword during the Viking era would have surely been thought to possess magic powers since the metal was and still is so special and unique.

Produced between 800 to 1000 AD, the Ulfberht offered unique advantages as a weapon. Its combination of strength, lightness.

The sword bends but doesn’t break, it stays razor-sharp and is very lightweight, and so to soldiers, it would have been thought of as almost supernatural.

The blacksmith spent many days working to try to recreate the Ulfberht using medieval technology and finally did produce a similar metal with great skill and hard work. It’s rumoured that his hard work has inspired many others to become a blacksmith and produce a sword of similar quality. Of course, nowadays, it’s easy for someone to get ahold of the best beginner blacksmith kit, whereas in previous years it may not have been that easy.

Researchers now believe it is possible that the knowledge to make the swords originated in the Middle East and that trade routes between there and Europe would have spread the knowledge and technologies.

When those trade routes eventually closed, due to lack of use, so too did the Ulfberht ceased to continue being made.

Viking Chess piece bought for less than $10 sells for over $1.3M

Viking Chess piece bought for less than $10 sells for over $1.3M

A 900-year-old Viking chess piece purchased for $6 in the 1960s recently sold at auction for $1.3 million.

The Lewis Chessmen are intricate chess pieces in the form of Norse warriors that were carved from walrus ivory in the 12th century. A large hoard of the chess pieces, totaling 93 objects making up some four chess sets, was discovered in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

The elaborately carved pieces soon became featured attractions at museums. Of the 93 pieces, 82 are now in the British Museum in London and 11 are in the collection of the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Five of the pieces, however, were missing. In June 2019, Sotheby’s announced it had authenticated a missing piece, the equivalent of a rook, and would sell it in with an estimated value of $1 million.

The missing piece had been bought in 1964 by an antique dealer in Edinburgh and passed down through this family. For some time, the Chessman was kept in a drawer at the home of the antiques dealer’s daughter.

Lewis Chessmen set

According to The Guardian, a family member said it had been stored away in their grandfather’s house, with everyone unaware of its importance

“When my grandfather died my mother inherited the chess piece,” said a family spokesperson. “My mother was very fond of the chessman as she admired its intricacy and quirkiness.

She believed that it was special and thought perhaps it could even have had some magical significance. For many years it resided in a drawer in her home where it had been carefully wrapped in a small bag. From time to time, she would remove the chess piece from the drawer in order to appreciate its uniqueness.”

Lewis Chessmen Queen. 
Lewis chessmen Queen (back view).

Alexander Kader, the Sotheby’s expert who eventually examined the piece for the family, told The Guardian that his jaw dropped when he saw it, and he knew immediately what it was. “I said: ‘Oh my goodness, it’s one of the Lewis chessmen.’ ”

Lewis chessmen Bishop.

He added: “They brought it in for an assessment. That happens every day. Our doors are open for free valuations. We get called down to the counter and have no idea what we are going to see. More often than not, it’s not worth very much.”

Lewis chessmen King.

The 3.5-inch warder is a bearded figure with a sword in his right hand and shield at his left side.

Experts believe that this Viking chess piece along with the rest of the Lewis chessmen hail from Trondheim, Norway, which specialized in carved gaming pieces in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The Isle of Lewis was Norwegian territory until 1266, and one theory is that the chess set was buried there after a shipwreck.

Lewis was on a thriving trade route between Norway and Ireland and another theory is that they were hidden for safekeeping by a traveling merchant.

They became arguably Scotland’s best known archaeological find when they were found buried in the beach of Uig Bay in 1831, said The Guardian. :How they were discovered is still disputed, with one account claiming they were uncovered by a grazing cow.”

The Lewis Chessmen are “steeped in folklore, legend and the rich tradition of story-telling,” Sotheby’s said in a press release, adding that they are “an important symbol of European civilization.”

Alexander Kader said in a statement, “It has been such a privilege to bring this piece of history to auction and it has been amazing having him on view at Sotheby’s over the last week—he has been a huge hit. When you hold this characterful warder in your hand or see him in the room, he has real presence.”

Since their discovery in the 19th century, a Viking chess piece and the Lewis chessmen has become an important symbol of European civilization, often inspiring portrayals in pop culture, such as the life-size chess game in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.