Category Archives: NORSE/VIKINGS

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.

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.

Cooking Gear Found In Graves Of Viking Men And Women

Cooking Gear Found In Graves Of Viking Men And Women

Scientists often imagine that men’s and women’s roles during the Viking Age were clearly differentiated, archaeologist Marianne Moen says. “The illustrations show women making food and holding children, while men were active, in battle,” she says. But maybe this wasn’t the way things were. The illustration is from “Vikinger i vest” (Vikings in the West), published in 2009.

“I think we need to move away from distinguishing between men’s and women’s roles during the Viking times,” she said. Moen has completed her Ph.D. on Viking Age gender roles at the University of Oslo. Her research shows that upper-class men and women generally were buried with the same types of items — including cooking gear.

She examined the contents of 218 Viking graves in Vestfold, a county on the southwest side of Oslo Fjord, and sorted the artifacts she found according to type. Many of the graves were richly equipped with everything from cups and plates to horses and other livestock.

In fact, these ancient Viking women were not only housewives.

Not just housewives

Archaeologists often assume that Viking women were responsible for the house and home, while men were merchants and warriors. However, tools and items associated with housekeeping were fairly equally distributed between men and women in the Vestfold graves.

“The key is a good example. It is often considered to be the symbol of a housewife,” Moen said. Nonetheless, almost as many men’s graves had keys as women’s graves.

“It might be time to change the story a bit,” she said.

Men were just as likely to be buried with cooking equipment as women. Ten graves containing cookware were men’s graves, while eight were women’s. Moen likes that fact. It means that men also made food, she thinks. “My interpretation is that cooking equipment indicates hospitality. This was very important during Viking times,” she said, although others interpret it differently.

Cookware doesn’t mean that men cooked

The Gokstad Ship, the large ship displayed at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, was part of a man’s grave and also contained a large array of cooking equipment. “These finds were often excused as being because men needed to make their own food on long voyages,” Moen says.

Not everyone agrees with Moen’s interpretation. Just because men chose to bring cookware into the afterlife doesn’t necessarily mean that they did the cooking in their own home, says archaeologist Frans-Arne Stylegar.

Stylegar was previously the county conservator for Vest-Agder, the southernmost county in Norway. He currently works with cultural preservation and urban planning at the consulting firm Multiconsult.

“It is difficult to translate the persona who is idealized in burial customs into actual historical reality. It’s almost a philosophical question,” he says. Moen also thinks there is a stark difference between life and death when it comes to gender roles. But she also thinks that the items that people were buried with have some relation to what real life was like during those times.

A soapstone vessel from the Viking Age, found at Kaupang in Vestfold. Soapstone was used to make cookware, among other items.

She reminds us that tools and equipment aren’t just something that Vikings were buried with. These items were also found in houses, although without the ability to determine who used them.

Farmers and upper-class citizens

Stylegar thinks that Moen’s Ph.D. thesis was well done and that she makes a convincing case that there wasn’t much difference between the way upper-class Viking men and women were buried. He has studied several Viking graves in Vestfold previously and isn’t very surprised by this conclusion. “I’ve gotten this impression previously, but she shows it very clearly,” he said.

However, from his own work in Vestfold, he had the impression that farmers were much more concerned with marking gender in their graves than the upper-class citizens, although he points out that this was not the focus of his research.

There are still a few clear differences between genders for the elite. Men generally have weapons in their graves, while women have jewellery and textile tools, as Moen’s work shows.

Both genders have jewellery

Viking men and women still had more similarities than differences in their graves, Moen said. More than 40 percent of the male graves contained jewellery such as brooches and beads. The men also have what seem to be toiletries in their graves, including tweezers and razors likely used for personal grooming.

Interpreting the past through a modern lens

Moen wonders where the idea that there was clear gender differentiation in the past comes from. Other researchers have pointed out that many of the items retrieved from graves in the early 1900s were interpreted based on the cultural perspectives of those times, in the same way, that Moen now sees the artifacts from her modern perspective.

She calls herself a gender archaeologist, and wants to challenge other archaeologists’ interpretations of Viking culture.  But entrenched perceptions among experts can be difficult to change, she says.

“I encounter quite a bit of skepticism. There are quite a few researchers who are very set in their opinion on gender when it comes to work-related roles,” Moen said. She thinks part of the reason for this is that it is much easier to relate to a version of history that is in keeping with our modern expectations, “a version of history where men and women have specific roles in society,” she said.

“In general, in Viking Age studies, artifacts found in graves are interpreted as being connected to the person buried in the grave. This shouldn’t change for cases where artifacts don’t meet modern expectations of what a man or woman would have in their grave,” Moen said.

Hoard of Viking coins worth at least £500,000 found during police raids

Hoard of Viking coins worth at least £500,000 found during police raids

A hoard of Viking coins has been confiscated by police investigating an illegal trade in historic treasures that could rewrite British history.

The collection of coins and a silver ingot, dating back to King Alfred the Great’s reign of the 9th century, were retrieved at households in Durham County and Lancashire by police.

Believed to be worth at least £500,000, a leading expert has told the MailOnline they could ‘add significantly to our understanding of the political history of England in the AD 870s’ as they reveal a previously unknown alliance between King Alfred and his contemporary Ceolwulf II, King of Mercia.

Ceolwulf of Mercia was believed by historians to be simply a puppet of the Vikings  – a minor nobleman rather than a proper King.  But the recently discovered coins show the two rulers standing side by side, as allies suggesting a different story. 

While Alfred became known as a national hero who defeated the Vikings, Ceolwulf was written off as insignificant and disappeared without a trace, with experts now suggesting the Mercia King was later ‘airbrushed out of history’ by Alfred. If confirmed, the discovery could reshape our view of how England was united and those who made it happen.

Police, who have now handed over the haul to the British Museum, have arrested a number of people on suspicion of dealing in culturally tainted objects and the complex police operation – codenamed Operation Fantail – is said by Durham Police to be in its early stages. They refused to give further detail on the arrests.

The Coin show images of Alfred the Great 
Rare Kings of Mercia Offa, Light Coinage portrait 
 Shows King Alfred and Ceolwulf standing side-by-side, demonstrating their alliance .
Believed to be worth at least £500,000, a leading expert has told the MailOnline they could ‘add significantly to our understanding of the political history of England in the AD 870s’ .

Detective Inspector Lee Gosling, Senior Investigating Officer for Operation Fantail at Durham Constabulary, said: ‘We believe the material recovered comes from a hoard of immense historical significance relating to the Vikings and we are delighted to have been able to hand it over to the British Museum.’

The British Museum believe the coins were in circulation at the time of King Alfred when he won a number of major battles in AD 878 that led to the defeat on the Vikings.    Dr. Gareth Williams, the curator of Early Medieval Coins and Viking Collections at the British Museum, called the latest find ‘nationally important’. 

He said: ‘This is the period in which Alfred the Great was fighting the Vikings, but which also led to the creation of a unified kingdom of England under Alfred and his successors.  ‘The hoard contains coins both of Alfred and of his contemporary Ceolwulf II, King of Mercia.

‘The coins I have seen so far add significantly to our understanding of the political history of England in the AD 870s.  Around the time the hoard was buried, probably in AD 879, Ceolwulf mysteriously disappeared, and Alfred then took over Ceolwulf’s kingdom as well as his own.’ 

Dr Williams added: ‘I think that the coins show that Ceolwulf II was in an alliance with Alfred of Wessex, and not a puppet of the Vikings as suggested in sources written at Alfred’s court a few years later, by which time Ceolwulf had disappeared without trace from history and Alfred had taken over his kingdom. 

‘Sources from Alfred’s court, writing more than fifteen years later, describe as ‘a foolish king’s thegn’, who was only made king by the Vikings. ‘However, the coins show a working relationship with Alfred which the sources ‘forgot’ to mention, and his name suggests that he may well have been a legitimate descendant of earlier kings of Mercia.

‘Some of the coins show the name of Ceolwulf and the images on their back show two emperors standing side by side, and was almost certainly a deliberate choice to symbolize their alliance.’  This isn’t a completely new idea, but until recently coins of this period were too rare to prove the idea. 

‘The discovery of this hoard strengthens the case that Ceolwulf and Alfred were allies and that Alfred’s spin-doctors later re-wrote history to suit the political situation of the time.’  The iconic figure of King Alfred is widely believed to be the man who saved England from the Vikings and is currently being portrayed by David Dawson in the BBC epic The Last Kingdom. 

He spent several years fighting the Vikings, who were wreaking devastation in England, and won several decisive victories. Alfred ruled from 871 to 899 was instrumental in setting the foundations for England known nowadays without whom the English may have even spoken another language.

His defeat of the Vikings earned him the name Alfred the Great.  But in recent years, his role has been called into question by a number of archaeological finds.

More than 200 pieces of Viking silver including coins, ingots, and jewellery were discovered buried in a field in Oxfordshire in 2015 which Shedd fresh light on King Alfred and the little-known ally, Ceolwulf II.

A spokesperson for Durham Police has said the investigation is ongoing and a number of people have been arrested on suspicion of dealing in ‘culturally tainted objects’.  

The Irish Have Much More Viking DNA Than Previously Thought, Genetic Study Reveals

The Irish Have Much More Viking DNA Than Previously Thought, Genetic Study Reveals

An Irish Viking. The concept has become more real and more captivating. Anyone who’s read even a bit about the history of the Vikings knows that their DNA is likely to be found in people living in the British Isles today.

New research shows that the Irish definitely have their fair share of Viking heritage–in fact, the Irish are more genetically diverse than most people may assume.

The Irish have Viking and Norman ancestry in similar proportions to the English. A comprehensive DNA map of the Irish has for the first time revealed lasting contributions from British, Scandinavian, and French invasions.

“By comparing 1,000 Irish genomes with over 6,000 genomes from Britain and mainland Europe, genetic clusters within the west of Ireland, in particular, were discovered for the first time, leading the researchers to investigate if invasions from the Vikings and Normans to the east may have influenced genetics in that part of the country,” according to Irish Central.

Map of Ireland in 950 showing Viking influence and Viking territory (in green)

Because of extensive Irish immigration to the United States and other countries, these findings have ramifications. There are 80 million people in the world who claim Irish heritage.

 “This subtle genetic structure within such a small country has implications for medical genetic association studies,” said Trinity College Dublin geneticist Dr. Ross Byrne. In fact a number of American slang words have roots coming from the Irish:

Researchers found 23 distinct genetic clusters, separated by geography by comparing mutations from almost 1,000 Irish genomes with over 6,000 from Britain and mainland Europe.

“These are most distinct in western Ireland, but less pronounced in the east, where historical migrations have erased the genetic variations,” said the Irish Mirror.

Ireland in 1300 showing lands held by native Irish (green) and lands held by Normans (pale)

The researchers studied genes from Europe and calculated the timing of the historical migrations of the Norse-Vikings and the Anglo-Normans to Ireland, yielding dates consistent with historical records.

The Vikings invaded Ireland for the first time in the 8th century, raiding a monastery on Rathlin Island on the northeast coast. The Viking warriors were large in numbers and well armed.

They moved inland along river-ways, attacking the monastic settlements they came across. They also took captives to trade as slaves.

Ireland in 1450 showing lands held by native Irish (green), the Anglo-Irish (blue) and the English king (dark grey)

The Vikings in Ireland built wintering camps, known as longphorts (derived from the Irish words boat & fort), a ship port. This meant they could settle on the island longer. They used their longphorts as a base allowing them to perform further in-land raids.

Although longphorts were mainly built to only last one winter, some of them became major settlements, such as the one in Dublin, Dyflinn, founded in 841 AD.  Excavations during the 1970’s discovered more than 100 homes from this early period and thousands of daily household objects in Dublin.

The Viking conquest in Ireland would continue for more than 200 years, until the arrival of the Anglo-Normans. In the late 12th century, the Norman lords who had already subjugated England came to Ireland to take large plots of land. In the 16th century, under Elizabeth I, many more English Protestant families arrived, often displacing the native Catholics.

It’s believed that the first group of Vikings to invade Ireland were from Scandinavia. They had also settled in Scotland and would later become known as Gallowglass, an elite mercenary warrior group. From the mid-13th to the early 17th centuries they fought for hire in Ireland itself. Their name is an Anglicization of the Gaelic word gallóglach (roughly pronounced GAHL-o-glukh), which translates as “foreign warrior.”

Gallowglass are descendants of not only Vikings but of Scots native to the western Highlands and Hebrides. As Scottish historian Fergus Cannan notes, the Gallowglass “lived for the war.…His sole function was to fight, and his only contribution to society was destruction.”

Anglo-Saxons were WORSE than the Vikings and carried out ‘ethnic cleansing’

Anglo-Saxons were WORSE than the Vikings and carried out ‘ethnic cleansing’

According to a Danish academic who thinks disgruntled English monks spread ‘ false news ‘ about his ancestors, tales of vicious Vikings may be significantly exaggerated.

The earlier Anglo-Saxons carried out ‘ethnic cleansing’ against native Britons, while the Vikings ushered in Scandinavian multi-cultural society, he claims.

Traces of Viking influence on the language can be found in modern English, for example, the use of ‘bairn’ to refer to a child in the North.

However, the Anglo-Saxons worked hard to wipe out all trace of the earlier Celtic language in the same way American English replaced Native American dialects.

Tales of vicious Vikings may be greatly exaggerated according to a Danish academic who believes disgruntled English monks spread ‘fake news’ about his ancestors. The earlier Anglo-Saxons carried out ‘ethnic cleansing’ against native Britons, while the Vikings ushered in Scandinavian multi-cultural society, he claims
Traces of Viking influence on the language can be found in modern English, for example the use of ‘bairn’ to refer to a child in the North. However, the Anglo-Saxons worked hard to wipe out all trace of the aearlier Celtic language in the same way American English replaced Native American dialects

The claims are made by Mads Ravn, head of research at Vejle Museums in Denmark in an in-depth article for ScienceNordic. Dr. Ravn traces the beginnings of scholarly hyperbole over Viking raids to 793 AD.

In that year a Northumbrian monk named Alcuin described a raid on Lindisfarne, a holy island off the northeast coast of England.

He wrote: ‘The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.’

Despite this reputation for ferocity, Dr. Ravn believes it is undeserved. Writing in ScienceNordic, he said: ‘The reported plundering and ethnic cleansing are probably overrated. 

‘The Vikings simply had worse “press coverage” by frustrated English monks, who bemoaned their attacks.’ Dr. Ravn claims modern studies of DNA, archaeology, and linguistics depict a more complicated Viking history. 

‘They indicate that the Vikings were not the worst invaders to land on English shores at that time. That title goes to the Anglo-Saxons, 400 years earlier,’ he added.

The Sutton Hoo helmet is a decorated Anglo-Saxon helmet which was discovered during the 1939 excavation of the Sutton Hoo ship-burial. This image shows a recreation made in the 1970s
This image shows a British Museum recreation of the Sutton Hoo helmet

The Anglo-Saxons were a people who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th Century AD. 

They were made up of Germanic tribes who emigrated from continental Europe, as well as indigenous Britons who adopted their cultural practices. The Anglo-Saxons were fierce warriors, and tribes often battled one another for territory.

The Anglo Saxons were a people who inhabited Great Britain from the 5th Century AD until 1066 when they were conquered by the Normans. This map shows where they invaded from

Dr. Mavn says their reign, which he compares to apartheid against the celts, was far more brutal than that of the Vikings. Evidence of this can be found in their attempts to eradicate the languages they encountered. 

‘In the 5th and 6th centuries, old English wiped out the earlier Celtic language in a similar way that modern English eradicated the language of the Native Americans in the US in the 19th and 20th centuries,’ he added.

‘The Vikings’ impact was significantly less. Linguists do see some influence from the old Norse of the Vikings in old English. But it doesn’t come close to the eradication of Celtic by the Anglo-Saxons.’ 

DNA studies also suggest that the Anglo-Saxons came over in large numbers and contribute a large part of the genetic inheritance of British people. The Vikings, however, settled in smaller numbers and likely married with Anglo-Saxons, rather than replacing them.

They also left their own mark on the language, with the word ‘bairn’ from the Old Norse barn, meaning child, still used widely in the North of England. 

Other similarities include ’armhole’, from the Danish armhole, for armpit and ‘hagworm’ from the Danish hugorm, meaning adder, which can be found in Old English.