11 January 2020

The First Vikings

Archaeology magazine alluded to this 2013 article with their article of "Possible Viking-Era Grave Discovered in Estonia," published on Tuesday, December 10, 2019. Since the 2013 article contains all the data of discovery, I include it alone. (Ed.)


(Courtesy Liina Maldre, University of Tallinn)

The carefully stacked remains of 33 men were buried in the ship that brought them from Scandinavia to an Estonian island more than a century before the Vikings are thought to have been able to sail across such distances.

The First Vikings

Two remarkable ships may show that the Viking storm was brewing long before their assault on England and the continent


July/August 2013

(Courtesy Liina Maldre, University of Tallinn)

The carefully stacked remains of 33 men were buried in the ship that brought them from Scandinavia to an Estonian island more than a century before the Vikings are thought to have been able to sail across such distances.

According to historians, the Viking Age began on June 8, A.D. 793, at an island monastery off the coast of northern England. A contemporary chronicle recorded the moment with a brief entry: “The ravages of heathen men miserably destroyed God’s church on Lindisfarne, with plunder and slaughter.” The “heathen men” were Vikings, fierce warriors who sailed from Scandinavia and bore down on their prey in Europe and beyond in sleek, fast-sailing ships. In the centuries that followed, the Vikings’ vessels carried them deep into Russia and as far south as Constantinople, Sicily, and possibly even North Africa. They organized flotillas capable of carrying warriors across vast distances, and terrorized the English, Irish, and French coasts with lightning-fast raids. Exploratory voyages to the west took them all the way to North America.

The Vikings’ explosion across Europe and Asia and into the Americas was the result of the right combination of tools, technology, adventurousness, and ferocity. They came to be known as an unstoppable force capable of raiding and trading on four continents, yet our understanding of what led up to that June day on Lindisfarne is surprisingly shaky. A recent discovery on a remote Baltic island is beginning to change that. Two ships filled with slain warriors uncovered on the Estonian island of Saaremaa may help archaeologists and historians understand how the Vikings’ warships evolved from short-range, rowed craft to sailing ships; where the first warriors came from; and how their battle tactics developed. “We all agree these burials are Scandinavian in origin,” says Marge Konsa, an archaeologist at the University of Tartu. “This is our first taste of the Viking era.”

Between them, the two boats contain the remains of dozens of men. Seven lay haphazardly in the smaller of the two boats, which was found first. Nearby, in the larger vessel, 33 men were buried in a neat pile, stacked like wood, together with their weapons and animals. The site seems to be a hastily arranged mass grave, the final resting place for Scandinavian warriors killed in an ill-fated raid on Saaremaa, or perhaps waylaid on a remote beach by rivals. The archaeologists believe the men died in a battle some time between 700 and 750, perhaps almost as much as a century before the Viking Age officially began. This was an era scholars call the Vendel period, a transitional time not previously known for far-reaching voyages—or even for sails. The two boats themselves bear witness to the tremendous technological transformations in the eighth-century Baltic.

In 2008, workers digging trenches for electrical cables in the tiny island town of Salme uncovered human bones and a variety of odd objects that they unceremoniously piled next to their trench. Local authorities at first assumed the remains belonged to a luckless WWII soldier, until Konsa arrived and recognized a spearhead and carved-bone gaming pieces among the artifacts, clear signs the remains belonged to someone from a much earlier conflict. Together with a small team, Konsa dug a little deeper and soon found traces of a boat’s hull. Nearly all of the craft’s timber had rotted away, leaving behind only discolorations in the soil. But 275 of the iron rivets holding the boat together remained in place, allowing the researchers to reconstruct the outlines of the 38-foot-long craft.

Soon Konsa realized she had found something unique for this place and period. “This isn’t a fishing boat, it’s a war boat,” Konsa says. “It’s quite fast and narrow, and also quite light.” Based on radiocarbon dating of tiny fragments of boat timbers, Konsa estimates the vessel was built between 650 and 700, and perhaps repaired and patched for decades before making its final voyage. It had no sail, and would have been rowed for short stretches along the Baltic coast, or between islands to make the journey from Scandinavia to the seafarers’ hunting grounds farther east. From bones found inside the boat, Konsa pieced together the remains of the seven men, all between the ages of 18 and 45. She also found knives, whetstones, and a bone comb among the remains. The craft was a remarkable find—the first such boat ever recovered in Estonia, complete with the bodies of its slain crew.


05 January 2020

Mysterious double Viking boat burial discovered

From FoxNews, more on the archaeological discovery in Norway. (Ed.)

Mysterious double Viking boat burial discovered

A mysterious double Viking boat burial has been discovered in Norway, intriguing experts.

An artist's illustration of the older grave, which dates to the 8th century A.D. (Illustration: Arkikon)

Last month archaeologists excavating a site at Vinjeroa in central Norway uncovered the boat grave of a woman who died in the second half of the 9th century. Shell-shaped gilded bronze brooches and a crucifix-shaped brooch fashioned from an Irish harness fitting were found in the grave, along with a pearl necklace, two pairs of scissors, part of a spindle and a cow’s skull, according to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Archaeologists, however, were surprised to find that, instead of digging a new grave for the woman, she and her boat were placed inside a larger boat grave from 100 years earlier. The larger boat, which measures between 29.5 feet and 32.8 feet long, contains the remains of a man who was buried with his weapons.

While most of the wood from the boats has rotted away, their rivets were still in position, so archaeologists were able to identify the double boat burial. The man had been buried with a spear, a shield and a shingle-edged sword.

30 December 2019

It escapes me why anyone would concern themselves, 1000-years or so after the event – when some hungry Norseman killed the last Icelandic walrus on earth – but, here we have an article on just that concern.

Norsemen killed or produced everything they ate, there were no grocery stores to go shopping in for food. So, did they kill lots of animals? You bet, and so would you if you were hungry. Oh, and they even ate their dogs when necessary, and probably each other - only when necessary, of course.

Whoever was able to kill the last walrus on Iceland, I say well-done, I am certain the fat and meat fed your family for quite some time. (Ed.)


Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia

Ancient DNA says the extinct Icelandic walruses were a genetically distinct population.

KIONA N. SMITH - 11/4/2019, 7:24 AM

There are no walruses in Iceland, but, at one time, there were hundreds. The timing of the walruses' disappearance suggests that the population's loss may be one of the earliest known examples of humans driving a marine species to local extinction.

The ghost of walruses past
Walruses used to be a major feature of life in Iceland. Several settlements and landmarks along Iceland’s coast still bear names that refer to walruses, and a few of the medieval Sagas (the stories of the island’s early settler families) even mention them. The Saga of Hrafin Sveinbjarnarson, written down sometime in the late 1100s, tells the story of a chieftain who killed a walrus and brought its tusks and skull to Canterbury Cathedral in England. But the walruses themselves have been reduced to only a few ancient bones and tusks.

Did the walruses disappear before or after the Norse arrived? In other words, did the Norse kill off Iceland’s walruses, or did the population die of natural causes? Because Iceland has no living walruses today, historians have debated whether the place names referred to places where walruses were living when people arrived or just places where settlers found the skulls and tusks of long-dead animals. The walrus tusks that Hrafin Sveinbjarnarson delivered to England could have been part of a thriving Icelandic walrus population, but it could also have been only a lost wanderer from more distant shores.

To learn more about Iceland’s pinniped past, evolutionary genomicist Xenia Keighley of the University of Copenhagen and her colleagues radiocarbon dated and sequenced DNA from 34 samples of bones and tusks from walruses in the Icelandic Museum of Natural History. The DNA studies also showed that Iceland’s long-lost walruses were a distinct branch of the walrus family. The oldest walrus remains in the museum, dating to 5502-5332 BC, were related to the ancestors of today’s Atlantic walrus population. More recent samples, though, belonged to a separate mitochondrial branch of the walrus family tree, genetically distinct from every group that’s known in the North Atlantic—including the older Icelandic walruses.

“I would suspect that the most recent clade represent a colonization event that replaced the lineage represented by the old sample, rather than the old sample being a direct ancestor to the more recent clade,” co-author Morten Olsen, also an evolutionary genomicist at the University of Copenhagen, told Ars.

Radiocarbon dates of the bones, combined with the walruses’ genomes, provided an estimate of the size of their breeding population, which suggested that walruses had lived on Iceland’s coasts for around 7,500 years. Although their numbers had been small—perhaps around 1,000 walruses at any one time—their foothold on the island had been pretty stable until around 1213-1330 AD, well after Norse settlement began in 870 AD.

21 December 2019

Mysterious 'Battle Axe Culture' reveals its secrets thanks to DNA discovery

FoxNews produces again for us by reporting these discoveries of what archaeology has termed the Battle Axe Culture of Scandinavia.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all, even the left wing morons of America. (Ed.)


The skeleton of a male individual associated with the Neolithic Age Battle Axe culture on exhibition in Linköping, Sweden. (Jonas Karlsson, Östergötlands museum)

An international team of researchers is shedding new light on the mysterious ancient “Battle Axe Culture” of Scandinavia.

Experts studied bones recovered from a burial site discovered in 1953 during the construction of a traffic circle in Linkoping in southern Sweden. The Battle Axe Culture is named after the battle axe that was buried with the remains of a man, a woman and a child. A dog was also buried at the Linkoping burial site.

A study on the research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The Battle Axe Culture dates back around 5,000 years and is said to resemble another ancient group of people, the European Corded Ware Culture, named for the cord-like designs on its pottery.

 Using genomic sequencing, the Linkoping bones were compared to the remains of other prehistoric individuals from what are now Sweden, Estonia and Poland. The Scandinavian Battle Axe Culture was found to share a common genetic ancestry with the European Corded Ware Culture.

"This suggests that the introduction of this new cultural manifestation was associated with movements of people,” said Torsten Günther, a population geneticist at Sweden’s Uppsala University, and co-author of the study, in the statement. “These groups have a history which we ultimately can trace back to the Pontic Steppe north of the Black Sea."

Experts from Stockholm University and Sweden's Ostrgotlands Museum also participated in the research. “The collaboration of archaeologists with geneticists allows us to understand more about these people as individuals as well as where their ancestors came from," said the study’s lead author, Helena Malmström, an archaeogeneticist at Uppsala University, in the statement.

Scandinavia continues to reveal new aspects of its rich history. Two Viking boat graves were also recently uncovered in Sweden in what archaeologists are describing as a “sensational” discovery. In another project, an incredible Swedish grave containing the skeleton of a Viking warrior, long thought to be male, was recently confirmed as female. Last year, a Viking “Thor’s hammer” was discovered in Iceland and archaeologists in Norway used ground-penetrating radar technology to reveal an extremely rare Viking longship.

14 December 2019

Mysterious 1,000-year-old Viking ship discovered on Norwegian island

Fox News brings us this article on a recent archaeological discovery. The outline of a Viking ship buried in a grave mound can be clearly seen in this geo-radar photo. Discovered on the Norwegian island of Edøya - north central Norwegian coast - it has not been excavated yet, perhaps next summer, but the ship should contain something that will be of interest to all. (Ed.)
The buried Viking ship at Edøy. (NIKU)

Archaeologists in Norway have used radar technology to discover a 1,000-year-old buried Viking ship.

Researchers have spotted a 43-foot keel just beneath the topsoil of a burial mound on the island of Edøy in western Norway. The fore and aft sterns, however, appear to have been destroyed by plowing, and the ship is thought to have once been up 56 feet long.

The discovery was made by experts from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), using high-resolution georadar developed by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI ArchPro).

In a statement, Knut Paasche, Ph.D., head of the department of digital archaeology at NIKU, explained that only three well-preserved Viking ship burials are known in Norway, all of which were excavated a long time ago. The ship will be of great historical significance, he added.

The ship is from the Merovingian or Viking period and more than 1,000 years old, according to Paasche.

However, it is not yet known whether human remains and Viking artifacts are located within the buried ship, although they have been found at other ship burials.

“The survey [at Edøy] has been purely non-intrusive,” a spokesman for NIKU told Fox News. “Our equipment is getting better, so we can be pretty sure of what we have here. On top of that, the island itself is smack in the middle of Merovingian and Viking activity more than a thousand year[s] ago. The locals were really happy with the find - but not really surprised.”


30 November 2019

Battle-Scarred Viking Shield-Maiden

There are so many flights of fantasy in this Live Science article that I won't bother to point them out, do it yourself.

Not only is the article a stretch insofar as credibility of results is concerned, the experts not only think she is a Viking warrior, now they think she may have been a general, although Vikings did not have generals.

But hey, it sounds good when you are all holding hands and singing Kumhaya. (Ed.)


First unearthed in 1900, this 1,000-year-old Viking shield-maiden was apparently cut down in her prime. 

This facial reconstruction of a Viking woman's skull shows a deep head wound, possibly sustained during battle.
(Image: © National Geographic)
When the sword came down upon her head, the blade cut her to the bone. Scientists studying the Viking woman's fractured skull 1,000 years later still aren't sure whether the blow actually killed her — however, the trove of weapons buried with her make it clear that she died a warrior nonetheless.

That Viking, who lived and died around the year 900, was first excavated from a farm in Solør, Norway, in 1900. Her head rested on a shield, a bridled horse skeleton lay curled at her feet, and her body was boxed in by a sword, spear, battle-ax and arrows. When a quick analysis revealed the skeleton to be female, it was immediately interpreted as the first physical example of a shield-maiden — a mythical female warrior only referenced in medieval texts before then. 

Now, for the first time, researchers at the University of Dundee in Scotland have used facial reconstruction technology to re-create that maiden's appearance — including the wound that may have ended her career.

23 November 2019

Huge Hoard of Viking Sword Parts Found in Estonia

The author did a rather poor job of reporting what has been found in Estonia, so I'll try to fill in the blanks. The "fragments" as he calls them are obviously castings for a part of at least the three pieces that make up the pommel of any sword. The hole through the parts seen in the lower two photos is to accommodate the tang of the sword blade.

The photo portrays what looks like two pommel ends that cap the top of the sword pommel. Presumably there were also crossbars which form the bottom of the pommel to protect the hand of the user from his sword blade also among the "fragments," but that is not stated in the article, so draw your own conclusions.

It is further stated that these "fragments" are funerary in nature, which is a real stretch given the amount of effort required to cast them as well the expenditure of valuable metals whether the metals were steel or bronze. From the slight  greenish tinge of the castings I would say the metal used was bronze.

What we have here is an article by an author, and statements made by "experts" who know little or nothing about swords. What they found in Estonia would seem to be a site where sword pommel parts were produced for the Norse weapons industry. (Ed.)


2 OCTOBER, 2019 - 18:17 ED WHELAN
Huge Hoard of Viking Sword Parts Found in Estonia

Some of the hilts bear Viking era designs. ( Estonia Dept for the Protection of Antiquities / ERR)
Archaeologists have uncovered the fragments of about a hundred swords that once belonged to Viking warriors . They were unearthed in the Baltic country of Estonia. The experts believe that the fragments were once part of weapons used as grave markers or funerary monuments for warriors.

The fragments were uncovered in two separate although neighboring locations, near the coast in Northern Estonia. ERR reports that Mauri Kiudsoo, an archaeologist and archivist from Tallinn University, stated that the “two sites were located just 80 meters apart”. “The fragments were found in the territory of the ancient Estonian county of Ravala, late last autumn” according to ERR. This is not far from the capital of Tallinn.
Viking-era burial monument

In the two finds were found several dozen fragments from swords and also a collection of spearheads. Researchers have established that the artifacts were of a type used by the Vikings. Archaeology.org reports that they have been dated to “the middle of the tenth century AD”. Some sword hilts were recovered, and they have Viking era design motifs.