31 December 2010

Global Warming Is Not Science

Global warming is not science, as stated by Richard Johnson in his letter in Friday’s Grand Junction Sentinel. Climatology, Meteorology, Astronomy, Physics, etc. are some of the sciences associated with climate. Global warming is a theory, a hypothesis of anthropogenic involvement in the climate of this planet and as such it is unproven.

Mr. Johnson might want to check the facts of the matter before making public statements: e.g. “teach what 97% of climate scientists, that average global temperature are rising at unnatural rates, drastically and dangerously changing weather patterns worldwide,” etc. These are apparently Mr. Johnson’s contentions because they have no basis in fact.

The average temperature of the Earth has increased by less than <1°C in the last century. The synergy between the sun and the oceans control the weather on this planet, not Homo sapiens.

Entrepreneurs and scientists are playing the well-meaning, misinformed, easily manipulated, masses of earthlings like the proverbial banjo. Why, you might ask? Because the politics of human-caused global warming offer enormous profit potential. Scientists are lining up with their hands out for the billions of tax dollars that will fund the research programs that will purport to find a solution to save the planet from human-induced mass suicide. You cannot blame the scientists for adopting a self-serving agenda. After all, what use would they be without research dollars to fund their efforts? Let me couch that a different way: we are being fed a lie to further a political agenda and promote research to perhaps find a solution to a natural cycle over which we humans have no control whatsoever.

No, the theory of global warming should not be taught to impressionable children as anything but the political attempt to propagandize the masses, for that is what it is.

J. A. Hunsinger, Vinland Publishing, http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/
©2010 Jerry A. Hunsinger, All Rights Reserved

17 December 2010

Archaeology: The Amazing Vikings

This interesting article on the Vikings was published in 2000 in Time; although dated, its content is relevant today. Details of the Norse settlements on Greenland, the exploration and settlement attempts by Leif Eiriksson on Newfoundland, and contacts with the natives of the land they called Vinland are of particular interest, since my Axe of Iron series covers that topic in a fictional sense. I think you will find the article to be worth your time.


Archaeology: The Amazing Vikings

By Michael D. Lemonick; Andrea Dorfman
Monday, May. 08, 2000

Ravagers, despoilers, pagans, heathens--such epithets pretty well summed up the Vikings for those who lived in the British Isles during medieval times. For hundreds of years after their bloody appearance at the end of the 8th century A.D., these ruthless raiders would periodically sweep in from the sea to kill, plunder and destroy, essentially at will. "From the fury of the Northmen, deliver us, O Lord" was a prayer uttered frequently and fervently at the close of the first millennium. Small wonder that the ancient Anglo-Saxons--and their cultural descendants in England, the U.S. and Canada--think of these seafaring Scandinavians as little more than violent brutes.

But that view is wildly skewed. The Vikings were indeed raiders, but they were also traders whose economic network stretched from today's Iraq all the way to the Canadian Arctic. They were democrats who founded the world's oldest surviving parliament while Britain was still mired in feudalism. They were master metalworkers, fashioning exquisite jewelry from silver, gold and bronze. Above all, they were intrepid explorers whose restless hearts brought them to North America some 500 years before Columbus.

The broad outlines of Viking culture and achievement have been known to experts for decades, but a spate of new scholarship, based largely on archaeological excavations in Europe, Iceland, Greenland and Canada, has begun to fill in the elusive details. And now the rest of us have a chance to share in those discoveries with the opening last week of a wonderfully rich exhibition titled "Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga" at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington.

Timed to commemorate the thousand-year anniversary of Leif Eriksson's arrival in North America, the show examines the Vikings and their Norse descendants from about A.D. 740 to 1450--focusing especially on their westward expansion and on the persistent mysteries of how extensively the Vikings explored North America and why they abandoned their outpost here.

In doing so, the curators have laid to rest a number of popular misconceptions, including one they perpetuate in the show's title. The term Viking (possibly from the Old Norse vik, meaning bay) refers properly only to men who went on raids. All Vikings were Norse, but not all Norse were Vikings--and those who were did their viking only part time. Vikings didn't wear horned helmets (a fiction probably created for 19th century opera). And while rape and pillage were part of the agenda, they were a small part of Norse life.

In fact, this mostly blue-eyed, blond or reddish-haired people who originated in what is now Scandinavia were primarily farmers and herdsmen. They grew grains and vegetables during the short summer but depended mostly on livestock--cattle, goats, sheep and pigs. They weren't Christian until the late 10th century, yet they were not irreligious. Like the ancient Greeks and Romans, they worshiped a pantheon of deities, three of whom--Odin, Thor and Freya--we recall every week, as Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were named after them. (Other Norse words that endure in modern English: berserk and starboard.)

Nor were the Norse any less sophisticated than other Europeans. Their oral literature--epic poems known as Eddas as well as their sagas--was Homeric in drama and scope. During the evenings and throughout the long, dark winters, the Norse amused themselves with such challenging board games as backgammon and chess (though they didn't invent them). By day the women cooked, cleaned, sewed and ironed, using whalebone plaques as boards and running a heavy stone or glass smoother over the seams of garments.

The men supplemented their farm work by smelting iron ore and smithing it into tools and cookware; by shaping soapstone into lamps, bowls and pots; by crafting jewelry; and by carving stone tablets with floral motifs, scenes depicting Norse myths and runic inscriptions (usually to commemorate a notable deed or personage).

Most important, though, they made the finest ships of the age. Thanks to several Viking boats disinterred from burial mounds in Norway, archaeologists know beyond a doubt that the wooden craft were "unbelievable--the best in Europe by far," according to William Fitzhugh, director of the National Museum's Arctic Studies Center and the exhibition's chief curator. Sleek and streamlined, powered by both sails and oars, quick and highly maneuverable, the boats could operate equally well in shallow waterways and on the open seas.

With these magnificent craft, the Norse searched far and wide for goods they couldn't get at home: silk, glass, sword-quality steel, raw silver and silver coins that they could melt down and rework. In return they offered furs, grindstones, Baltic amber, walrus ivory, walrus hides and iron.

At first, the Norse traded locally around the Baltic Sea. But from there, says Fitzhugh, "their network expanded to Europe and Britain, and then up the Russian rivers. They reached Rome, Baghdad, the Caspian Sea, probably Africa too. Buddhist artifacts from northern India have been found in a Swedish Viking grave, as has a charcoal brazier from the Middle East." The Hagia Sophia basilica in Istanbul has a Viking inscription in its floor. A Mycenaean lion in Venice is covered with runes of the Norse alphabet.

Sometime in the late 8th century, however, the Vikings realized there was a much easier way to acquire luxury goods. The monasteries they dealt with in Britain, Ireland and mainland Europe were not only extremely wealthy but also situated on isolated coastlines and poorly defended--sitting ducks for men with agile ships. With the raid on England's Lindisfarne monastery in 793, the reign of Viking terror officially began. Says archaeologist Colleen Batey of the Glasgow Museums: "They had a preference for anything that looked pretty," such as bejeweled books or gold, silver and other precious metals that could be recrafted into jewelry for wives and sweethearts. Many monasteries and trading centers were attacked repeatedly, even annually. In some cases the Vikings extorted protection money, known as danegeld, as the price of peace.

The Vikings didn't just pillage and run; sometimes they came to stay. Dublin became a Viking town; so did Lincoln and York, along with much of the surrounding territory in northern and eastern England. In Scotland, Vikings maintained their language and political links to their homeland well into the 15th century. Says Batey: "The northern regions of Scotland, especially, were essentially a Scandinavian colony up until then." Vikings also created the duchy of Normandy, in what later became France, as well as a dynasty that ruled Kiev, in Ukraine.

Given their hugely profitable forays into Europe, it's not entirely clear why the Vikings chose to strike out across the forbidding Atlantic. One reason might have been a growing population; another might have been political turmoil. The search for such exotic trade goods as furs and walrus ivory might have also been a factor. The timing, in any event, was perfect: during the 9th century, when the expansion began, the climate was unusually warm and stable. Pastures were productive, and the pack ice that often clogged the western North Atlantic was at a minimum.

So westward the Vikings went. Their first stop, in about 860, was the Faeroe Islands, northwest of Scotland. Then, about a decade later, the Norse reached Iceland. Experts believe as many as 12,000 Viking immigrants ultimately settled there, taking their farm animals with them. (Inadvertently, they also brought along mice, dung beetles, lice, human fleas and a host of animal parasites, whose remains, trapped in soil, are helping archaeologists form a detailed picture of early medieval climate and Viking life. Bugs, for example, show what sort of livestock the Norse kept.)

Agriculture was tough in Iceland; it was too cold, for instance, to grow barley for that all important beverage beer. "They tried to grow barley all over Iceland, but it wasn't economical," says archaeologist Thomas McGovern of New York City's Hunter College. Nevertheless, the colony held on, and in 930 Iceland's ruling families founded a general assembly, known as the Althing, at which representatives of the entire population met annually to discuss matters of importance and settle legal disputes. The institution is still in operation today, more than a thousand years later.

In 982 the Althing considered the case of an ill-tempered immigrant named Erik the Red. Erik, the saga says, had arrived in Iceland several years earlier after being expelled from Norway for murder. He settled down on a farm, married a Christian woman named Thjodhild (the Norse were by now starting to convert) and had three sons, Leif, Thorvald and Thorstein, and one daughter, Freydis. It wasn't long, though, before Erik began feuding with a neighbor--something about a cow and some wallboards--and ended up killing again.

The Althing decided to exile him for three years, so Erik sailed west to explore a land he had heard about from sailors who had been blown off course. Making his way around a desolate coast, he came upon magnificent fjords flanked by lush meadows and forests of dwarf willow and birch, with glacier-strewn mountain ranges towering in the distance. This "green land," he decided (in what might have been a clever bit of salesmanship), would be a perfect place to live. In 985 Erik returned triumphantly to Iceland and enlisted a group of followers to help him establish the first Norse outposts on Greenland. Claiming the best plot of land for himself, Erik established his base at Brattahlid, a verdant spot at the neck of a fjord on the island's southwestern tip, across from what is now the modern airport at Narsarsuaq. He carved out a farm and built his wife a tiny church, just 8 ft. wide by 12 ft. long. (According to one legend, she refused to sleep with him until it was completed.)

The remains of this stone-and-turf building were found in 1961. The most spectacular discovery from the Greenland colonies was made in 1990, however, when two Inuit hunters searching for caribou about 55 miles east of Nuuk (the modern capital) noticed several large pieces of wood sticking out of a bluff. Because trees never grew in the area, they reported their discovery to the national museum. The wood turned out to be part of an enormous Norse building, perfectly sealed in permafrost covered by 5 ft. of sand: "definitely one of the best-preserved Norse sites we have," says archaeologist Joel Berglund, vice director of the Greenland National Museum and Archives in Nuuk.

According to Berglund, a leader of the dig at the "Farm Beneath the Sand" from 1991 through 1996, the site was occupied for nearly 300 years, from the mid-11th century to the end of the 13th century. "It went from small to big and then from big to small again," he explains. "They started with a classic longhouse, which later burned down." The place was abandoned for a while and then rebuilt into what became a "centralized farm," a huge, multifunction building with more than 30 rooms housing perhaps 15 or 20 people, plus sheep, goats, cows and horses.

The likeliest reason for this interspecies togetherness was the harsh climate. Observes Berglund: "The temperature today gets as cold as -50[degrees]C [-58 (degrees) F]." Bones recovered from trash middens in the house indicate that the occupants dined mostly on wild caribou and seals, which were plentiful along the coast. (The domesticated animals were apparently raised for their wool and milk, not meat.) Scientists recovered more than 3,000 artifacts in the ruins, including a wooden loom, children's toys and combs. Along with hair, body lice and animal parasites, these items will be invaluable in determining what each room was used for. Researchers also found bones and other remnants from meals, and even a mummified goat. That means, says Berglund, "we'll even be able to tell whether there was enough food and whether the people and animals were healthy."

As Greenland's overlord, Erik the Red took a cut of virtually everyone's profits from the export of furs and ivory. Material success apparently did not keep Erik and his family content, though; they undoubtedly heard of a voyage by a captain named Bjarni Herjolfsson, who had been blown off course while en route to Greenland from Iceland. After drifting for many days, Bjarni spotted a forested land. But instead of investigating this unknown territory, he turned back and reached Greenland.

Intrigued by this tale, Erik's eldest son Leif, sometime between 997 and 1003, decided to sail westward to find the new land. First, say the sagas, the crew came to a forbidding land of rocks and glaciers. Then they sailed on to a wooded bay, where they dropped anchor for a while. Eventually they continued south to a place he called Vinland ("wineland," probably for the wild grapes that grew there). Leif and his party made camp for the winter, then sailed home. Members of his family returned in later years, but Leif never did. Erik died shortly after his son returned, and Leif took over the Greenland colony. Though he retained ownership of the Norse base in North America and received a share of the riches that were brought back, he stopped exploring.

This much had long been known from the Icelandic sagas, but until 1960 there was no proof of Leif's American sojourns. In retrospect, it is astonishing that the evidence took so long to be found. That year Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad and his wife, archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad, went to Newfoundland to explore a place identified on an Icelandic map from the 1670s as "Promontorium Winlandiae," near the small fishing village of L'Anse aux Meadows, in the province's northern reaches. They were certain that it marked the location of an ancient Norse settlement.

Finding the settlement turned out to be absurdly easy. When the Ingstads asked the locals if there were any odd ruins in the area, they were taken to a place known as "the Indian camp." They immediately recognized the grass-covered ridges as Viking-era ruins like those in Iceland and Greenland.

During the next seven years, the Ingstads and an international team of archaeologists exposed the foundations of eight separate buildings. Sitting on a narrow terrace between two bogs, the buildings had sod walls and peaked sod roofs laid over a (now decayed) wooden frame; they were evidently meant to be used year-round. The team also unearthed a Celtic-style bronze pin with a ring-shaped head similar to ones the Norse used to fasten their cloaks, a soapstone spindle whorl, a bit of bone needle, a small whetstone for sharpening scissors and needles, lumps of worked iron and iron boat nails. (All these items helped win over detractors, since the artifacts were clearly not native to America.)

Further excavations in the mid-1970s under the auspices of Parks Canada, the site's custodian, made it plain that this was most likely the place where Leif set up camp. Among the artifacts turned up: loom weights, another spindle whorl, a bone needle, jasper fire starters, pollen, seeds, butternuts and, most important, about 2,000 scraps of worked wood that were subsequently radiocarbon dated to between 980 and 1020--just when Leif visited Vinland.

The configuration of the ruined buildings, the paucity of artifacts and garbage compared with those found at other sites, and the absence of a cemetery, stables and holding pens for animals have convinced Birgitta Linderoth Wallace, the site's official archaeologist, that L'Anse aux Meadows wasn't a permanent settlement and was used for perhaps less than 10 years.

Instead, she believes, it served as a base camp for several exploratory expeditions up and down the coast, perhaps as far south as the Gulf of St. Lawrence. "We know this because of the butternuts," she says. "The closest places they grow are east of Quebec near the Gulf of St. Lawrence or in eastern New Brunswick. They are too heavy for birds to carry, and they can't float. And we know the Norse considered them a delicacy."

The National Museum's Fitzhugh notes that the location of the camp was advantageous for various reasons. "L'Anse aux Meadows is rocky and dangerous," he admits. "There are much better places just a few miles away--but there's a good view. They could watch out for danger, and they could bring their boats in and keep an eye on them." What's more, Fitzhugh says, "they would have built where they could easily be found by other people. That's why they chose the tip of a peninsula. All they had to tell people was, 'Cross the Big Water, turn left and keep the land on your right.'" With fair winds, the voyage would have taken about two weeks; a group of men who tried it in the replica Viking ship Snorri (named after the first European born in America) in 1998 were stuck at sea for three months.

Despite all the natural resources, the Norse never secured a foothold in the New World. Within a decade or so after Leif's landing at L'Anse aux Meadows, they were gone. Wallace, for one, believes that there were simply too few people to keep the camp going and that those stationed there got homesick: "You had a very small community that could barely sustain itself. Recent research has shown it had only 500 people, and we know you need that many at a minimum to start a colony in an uninhabited area. They had barely got started in Greenland when they decided to go to North America. It wasn't practical, and I think they missed their family and friends."

Fitzhugh offers another theory. "I think they recognized that they had found wonderful resources but decided they couldn't defend themselves and were unable to risk their families to stay there," he says. "Imagine 30 Norsemen in a boat on the St. Lawrence meeting a band of Iroquois. They would have been totally freaked out."

As for discovering additional Norse outposts in North America, most experts think the chances are very slim. "These areas were heavily occupied by Native Americans," says archaeologist Patricia Sutherland of the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, "so while there may have been some trade, relations would have been hostile. Maybe someone will find an isolated Norse farm on the coast of Labrador or Baffin Island, but not an outpost."

That's not to say Norse artifacts haven't been discovered south of Newfoundland--but aside from a Norse penny, minted between 1065 and 1080 and found in 1957 at an Indian site near Brooklin, Maine, nearly all of them have turned out to be bogus. The Newport (R.I.) Tower, whose supposed Viking origin was central to Longfellow's epic poem The Skeleton in Armor, was built by an early Governor of Rhode Island. The Kensington Stone, a rune-covered slab unearthed on a Minnesota farm in 1898 that purportedly describes a voyage to Vinland in 1362, is today widely believed to be a modern forgery. So is Yale's Vinland Map, a seemingly antique chart with the marking "Vinilanda Insula" that surfaced in the 1950s bound into a medieval book.

To the north, though, it's a different story. Digs at dozens of ancient Inuit sites in the eastern Canadian Arctic and western Greenland have turned up a wealth of Norse artifacts, indicating that the Europeans and Arctic natives interacted long after Leif Eriksson and his mates left. Says Sutherland: "The contact was more extensive and more complex than we suspected even a couple of months ago."

The Norse referred to the indigenous peoples they encountered in Greenland and the New World as skraeling, a derogatory term meaning wretch or scared weakling, and the sagas make it clear that the Norse considered the natives hostile. But the abundance of Norse items found at Inuit sites--some 80 objects from a single site on Skraeling Island, off the east coast of Ellesmere Island, including a small driftwood carving of a face with European features--suggests that there was a lively trade between the groups (as well as an exchange of Norse goods among the Inuit).

The Vikings held out in their harsh Greenland outposts for several centuries, but by 1450 they were gone. One reason was climate change. Starting about 1350, global temperatures entered a 500-year slump known as the Little Ice Age. Norse hunting techniques and agriculture were inadequate for survival in this long chill, and the Vikings never adapted the Inuit's more effective strategies for the cold.

Another factor was the rapacious overuse of resources. The goats, pigs and sheep brought by the Norse ate or trampled the forests and shrub lands, eventually transforming them into bare ground. Without enough fodder, the farm animals could not survive. The Norse were forced to eat more seal, seabirds and fish--and these too became locally scarce. The depletion of Greenland's meager trees and bushes meant no wood for fuel or for repairing ships.

To make matters worse, demand for the trade goods that Greenlanders exported to Europe plummeted. Not only was African ivory once again available (the supply had been cut off during the Crusades), but the material was falling out of fashion. And Europeans had their own problems: plague, crops failing in the colder conditions and city dwellers rioting in search of food. By the time the last Norse departed Greenland, the colonies had become so marginal that it took several hundred years before some Europeans realized they were gone. The Icelandic colony suffered too, though it managed to hang on.

But the true Vikings--those marauders of monasteries, those fearsome invaders from the north--had long since vanished, except in myth. As Europe's weak feudal fiefs had grown into powerful kingdoms, the Norse raiders had run out of easy victims. In England the victory in 1066 of William the Conqueror--a descendant of Norsemen from Normandy--marked the end of Viking terror.

Indeed, fear of the Vikings had played a pivotal role in reshaping Europe. "They helped develop nations and forced the Europeans to unite and defend themselves," says Fitzhugh. "It was a turning point in European history."

Back in their Scandinavian homeland, the Vikings' descendants also united into kingdoms, ultimately establishing Norway, Sweden and Denmark and pursuing a history no more or less aggressive than that of any other Europeans. The transfer of the Orkney Islands from Danish to Scottish control in 1468, for example, came not as the result of a bloody battle but as part of a royal wedding dowry.

As for the Norse settlements scattered around Britain and Europe, their inhabitants intermarried with the locals and finally disappeared as a distinct people. All that remains of them is their language and genes, spread widely through the Western world. Unlike Columbus, the Vikings may not have established a permanent presence in North America the first time around. But given the millions of Americans who share at least a bit of Viking blood, they are still there--and in considerable force.

11 December 2010

Icelandic DNA study Shows Evidence of First Americans in Europe in 1000 CE

The Genetic Edge Back to Sci-Tech

Icelandic DNA study Shows Evidence of First Americans in Europe in 1000 CE

Martin Barillas November 22nd 2010

Cutting Edge Senior Contributor

Medieval map showing the Old World and American coastline

When Christopher Columbus returned from his first voyage to the Americas, he shanghaied ten to twenty-five of the native peoples he encountered on the Caribbean islands he explored. Of these, only 6 were to be presented to the court of Spain's Catholic monarchs when he returned to the Iberian Peninsula in March 1493. These 6 American natives were presumed to be the first of the New World to set foot in the Old World. Until now.

King Ferndinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille had joined forces to unite Spain as the first modern nation-state, and by bankrolling Columbus they set about on a process of conquest, exchange, and transformation that still resonates today.

And it is now a Spanish researcher - a modern explorer charting a course in human history - who has uncovered evidence that Americans contributed to the European gene pool approximately 500 years before Columbus' decisive voyage of discovery.According to new research, scientists have found the genetic past of an Icelandic family that exhibit descent from Americans who were brought to Europe by Vikings who ranged into the northern reaches of what is now Canada and Greenland. Researchers at Spain’s Center for Scientific Research say that a woman from the Americas probably arrived in Iceland 1,000 years ago, leaving behind genes that are reflected in the DNA of about 80 Icelanders today. The link was first detected in Iceland several years ago. The island nation has one of the most thorough gene-mapping programs in the world, and the largest DNA ever attempted was conducted there in 2009.

Suggestions that the genes encountered by the Spanish researchers may have come directly from Asia were ruled out after samples showed they had been in Iceland since the early 18th century, long before Asian genes began appearing among Icelanders. Researchers showed that the genes they studied can be traced to common ancestors in the south of Iceland, near the Vatnajˆkull glacier, in around 1710. "

As the island was largely isolated from the 10th century onwards, the most probable hypothesis is that these genes correspond to an Amerindian woman who was taken from America by the Vikings some time around the year 1000," Carles Lalueza-Fox, of the Pompeu Fabra University in Spain, said. Researchers will continue to determine when the Amerindian genes first arrived in Iceland. Said Lalueza-Fox, "So far, we have got back to the early 18th century, but it would be interesting to find the same sequence further back in Icelandic history." The study will be published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Norse sagas suggest the Vikings arrived in the Americas centuries before Columbus. Among these would have been the Viking Erik “the Red.” A Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, in the eastern Canadian region of Newfoundland, is thought to date to the 11th century. Other such settlements are found in Greenland, which Viking navigators reached from Iceland. The Vikings called the North American mainland "Vinland."

The unknown American woman was probably abducted from the Americas and then brought to Iceland. Having survived her capture and voyage to a distant place with strangers, the woman bore children there. This would explain the resemblance of many native Icelanders to American aboriginal peoples such as the Inuit. That her arrival is not recorded in Norse sagas did not surprise Lalueza-Fox, who averred that “women did not write history.”

The researchers collaborated with deCode Genetics, a company based in Iceland, which has DNA records of practically everyone living on the island. Their studies show that some 80 individuals, representing four distinct family lines, have American genetic origins.

The DNA lineage, named C1e, is mitochondrial – which means that the genes were introduced by a woman. “Given that they have the same sequence and that is of the Ameridindian type, it is logical to believe that these four ancestors, also come from a single common ancestor,” explained Lalueza-Fox. Since Iceland was isolated since the 11th century, “the most reasonable hypothesis is that these genes correspond to an Amerindian woman who was taken from the Americas by the Vikings around the year 1000 AD.”

Since the woman’s arrival a millenium ago, 40 generations of her descendants have flourished. In each generation, there was at least one girl child. “That woman had daughters and that female lineage has not been interrupted until now.” Otherwise, according to Lalueza-Fox, the DNA mitochondrial material would not have been passed down. The Spanish scientist said that he doubted that the woman’s genetic lineage would have been transmitted to the European mainland. No such lineage has been found to date among families in continental Europe, he said.

The Vikings were not only adept warriors and navigators, but also far-ranging slavers. Viking raids on the British Isles and into the Russian heartland brought gold to their coffers not only from pillage, but also from captives they sold in slave markets as far away as Constantinople. Genetic studies show, for example, significant levels of genetic material from the British Isles among modern Icelanders, descendants of Vikings. While the original male inhabitants of Iceland were mostly of Viking origin, the majority of original female inhabitants hailed from the coasts of Scotland and Ireland.

03 December 2010

Viking Greenland Referenced in Climate Change Article

News Worth Knowing

ANDREW KENNY: Climate change
Published: 2010/11/30 07:31:12 AM

A year after Climategate, the corruption of science persists
IT IS a year since the so-called Climategate e-mails were leaked. Since then, we have had freezing winters in Europe and the US, and revelations of gross misrepresentations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The lasting impression is of massive corruption of science.

Leaked from the Climate Research Unit in England, the e-mails showed the scientists behind the climate scare plotting to: hide, delete and manipulate data; to denigrate scientists presenting different views; to force journals to publish only papers promoting climate alarm; to subvert "peer review" into "pal review"; and make the reports of the IPCC nothing but alarmist propaganda. The corruption spread through governments, universities, scientific societies and journals. You have to look back to the Lysenko episode in the Soviet Union in the 1940s (when a crank persuaded the Soviet establishment that agriculture did not follow Darwinian evolution) to find such perversion of science.

The worst nonsense after the scandal was this: "Well, some climate scientists committed a few minor transgressions but the basic science is sound." In fact, the basic science is nonexistent.

There is no evidence that mankind is changing the climate in a dangerous way. The slight warming of the p ast 150 years is no different from previous natural warming periods, such as the worldwide medieval warm period from about 900 to 1200AD. Global warming and cooling are closely correlated to variations in the sun, especially in its emission of charged particles. Carbon dioxide (CO² ), a harmless, natural gas upon which green plants depend, is a feeble greenhouse gas. Its only significant absorption band (15 micron) is saturated, so adding more to the atmosphere has a small and diminishing effect.

Over the p ast half- billion years (the span of multicelled life), CO² levels have averaged more than 2000ppm (parts per million) but with wild fluctuations, from more than 6000ppm to less than 500ppm. This has had no noticeable effect on global temperatures, which have remained remarkably constant for long periods, pointing to a stable global climate system, without which higher life might not be possible. This stability probably comes from low clouds, which increase when temperatures rise and have a powerful cooling effect by reflecting away sunlight.

In the 19th c entury, CO² levels were about 280ppm, extraordinarily low, putting stress on green plants. Man, by burning fossil fuels and through deforestation, has pushed the levels up to 390ppm. On present trends, they will be more than 500ppm by the end of the century. This will have only one major effect: better crops and forests, and more biodiversity. The effect on the climate will be insignificant. Talk of a temperature rise of 2°C is not valid.

But rising CO² has spawned the new millennial religion of man-made climate change. It has the usual religious themes of sin, damnation and redemption. The sin is naughty industrial man emitting CO² . Damnation is soaring temperatures, rising seas, floods and droughts. Redemption is forsaking fossil fuels and building wind turbines. The priesthood has special exemptions. The faithful see nothing wrong with US environmental activist Al Gore, who tells us to reduce carbon emissions, consuming vast amounts of fossil-generated electricity in his mansion and flying first class around the world.

The ideological reasons for climate alarm are the usual religious ones too: a desire to show how sinful man is, and to control human behaviour. The alarmists yearn to forbid ordinary people from using fossil energy.

What is new is the staggering amount of money involved. It is estimated that the US government alone, in the p ast two decades, has given 79b n to fund climate alarm. This dwarfs any money oil companies might have given to research. The sinister effect of this political funding is to drive science towards a desired result rather than truth: you will get your funding only if you show that mankind is causing dangerous climate change. The more alarm, the more funding.

Harold Lewis, emeritus professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recently resigned from the American Physical Society (APS) after 67 years. In his resignation letter, he wrote about "… the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the Climategate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organises the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion."

He refers to The Hockey Stick Illusion by AW Montford, which is essential reading for understanding the climate scam. The book is about a key part of the scam: denial of the medieval warm period. If you go to www.co2climatescience.org, you will see more than 900 scientific studies confirming the medieval warm period. So does historical record: during this period, the Vikings colonised Greenland and grew crops where it is now too cold for them. The alarmists hate it because it showed the world warmer a thousand years ago while CO² was lower. So they used quackery to deny it.

The "hockey stick" graph, first published in Nature magazine in 1998 and then shown six times in the IPCC’s 2001 report and brandished around the world, showed temperatures in the northern hemisphere steady from 1000 to 1900AD (the handle of a hockey stick) and then rising to unprecedented heights in the 20th century (the blade). No medieval warm period! This nonsense was accepted with blind, unquestioning faith by the IPCC and much of the scientific establishment. They liked the result; they didn’t care about the method.

The hockey stick theory was eventually demolished by Steve McIntyre, an expert statistician, who managed to get hold of the data on which it was based and found outrageously wrong statistical methods, deliberate use of data known to be wrong, and other manipulations. (After this exposure, the perpetrators of the hockey stick started a website called "realclimate".)

The Climategate e-mails are there for all the honest world to see. You will see a small number of names — Jones, Mann, Bradley, Hughes, Briffa, Schneider, Santer, etc — conspiring among themselves to silence critics and promote climate alarm, which they have done with great success.

The climate alarmists are unable to counter the scientific arguments of the climate rationalists. So they resort to vilification. Anyone who questions man-made global warming is: a stooge of the oil companies; just like those who deny the Nazi Holocaust or deny that cigarette smoking causes cancer — or just like those who deny that Americans landed on the moon.

In May, I attended a superb climatescience conference in Chicago. Most of the speakers were the world’s leading scientists, all of whom showed convincingly that climate changes are natural. But some were politicians. One, Harrison Schmitt, gave a passionate attack on the pseudoscience of man-made climate change. He had been a US senator. He had also been a crew member of Apollo 17 — among the crew who were the last humans to walk on the moon.

Kenny is a consulting engineer with degrees in physics and mechanical engineering.

27 November 2010

More on American Indian Sailed to Europe With Vikings?

The deluge of scientific articles and papers associated with the startling discovery of modern Icelanders with North American Indian DNA has taken on a life of its own. As the story continues to unfold you will see that my contention—the premise of my novels on the assimilation of the Viking Greenland populace with pre-historical Canadian and American Indians—will be proven correct.

More on American Indian Sailed to Europe With Vikings?

November, 24 2010

National Geographic News

Centuries before Columbus, a Viking Indian child may have been born in Iceland.

Five hundred years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, a Native American woman may have voyaged to Europe with Vikings, according to a provocative new DNA study.

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.

The idea that a Native American woman sailed from North America to Iceland during that period of settlement and exploration provides the best explanation for the Icelanders' variant, the research team says.

"We know that Vikings sailed to the Americas," said Agnar Helgason of deCODE Genetics and the University of Iceland, who co-wrote the study with his student Sigrídur Ebenesersdóttir and colleagues. "So all you have to do is assume & that they met some people and ended up taking at least one female back with them.

"Although it's maybe interesting and surprising, it's not all that incredible," Helgason added. "The alternative explanations to me are less likely"- for example the idea that the genetic trait might exist independently, undiscovered, in a few Europeans.

The study authors themselves admit the case is far from closed. But University of Illinois geneticist Ripan Malhi- an expert in ethnic DNA differences who wasn't part of the project- agreed that the report holds "strong genetic evidence for pre-Columbian contact of people in Iceland with Native Americans."

Dating the DNA Signature

Through genealogical research, the study team concluded that the Icelanders who carry the Native American variation are all from four specific lineages, descended from four women born in the early 1700s.

Those four lineages, in turn, likely descended from a single woman with Native American DNA who must have been born no later than 1700, according to study co-author Ebenesersdóttir.

The genealogical records for the four lineages are incomplete before about 1700, but history and genetics suggest the Native American DNA arrived on the European island centuries before then, study co-author Helgason said.

He pointed out that Iceland was very isolated from the outside world in the centuries leading up to 1700, so it's unlikely that a Native American got to the island during that period.

As further evidence, he noted that- though the Icelanders share a distinct version of the variation- at least one lineage's variation has mutated in a way that would likely have taken centuries to occur, the researchers say.

This unique signature suggests that, in Helgason's words, the Native American DNA arrived in Iceland at least "several hundred years" before 1700.

DNA Evidence Fragmented

Despite the evidence, for now it's nearly impossible to prove a direct, thousand-year-old genetic link between Native Americans and Icelanders.

For starters, no living Native American group carries the exact genetic variation found in the Icelandic families.

But of the many known scattered versions that are related to the Icelandic variant, 95 percent are found in Native Americans. Some East Asians, whose ancestors are thought to have been the first Americans, carry a similar genetic pattern, though.

The Inuit, often called Eskimos, carry no version of the variant- a crucial detail, given that Greenland has a native Inuit population.

Helgason speculates that the precise Icelandic variation may have come from a Native American people that died out after the arrival of Europeans.

It's possible, he added, that the DNA variation actually came from mainland Europe, which had infrequent contact with Iceland in the centuries preceding 1700. But this would depend on a European, past or present, carrying the variation, which so far has never been found.

History Not Much Help?

Complicating matters, the historical record contains no evidence that Icelandic Vikings might have taken a Native American woman back home to their European island, scholars say.

"It makes no sense to me," said archaeologist and historian Hans Gulløv of the Greenland Research Centre in Copenhagen.

For one thing, experts say, nothing in excavations or the Icelandic sagas- thought to be rooted in fact but not entirely reliable- suggests a personal alliance of the kind reported in the new study, published online November 10 in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

The Saga of Erik the Red does tell of four Skraeling boys- the Norse term for the American Indians- who were captured by an Icelandic expedition and taken back to Greenland, said Birgitta Wallace, an emeritus archaeologist for Parks Canada who has written extensively about the Norse.

But Icelanders spent little time in North America, and their relations with the people they found living there seem to have been mostly hostile, she said. The stories "talk in not very flattering terms about [Native Americans'] looks," Wallace said.

One saga, she added, tells of explorers "who found some sleeping natives- and they just killed them."

Time to Rewrite Viking History?

"What we have is a big mystery," study co-author Helgason admitted.

It won't be solved, he said, until the DNA pattern's origins are nailed down, perhaps through the study of ancient DNA- for example, if an ancient Native American bone is found with DNA closely matching the Icelandic variant.

But at least one skeptic suggests it's a mystery worth pursuing.

"I have no historical sources telling me" that Vikings took Native Americans home, said Gulløv, the historian. But often when new data is uncovered, he added, "we have to write history anew."

19 November 2010

First American in Europe was native woman kidnapped by Vikings

I have contended for years that the Greenland Vikings did not disappear, as was thought, rather they assimilated with the natives of the land they called Vinland. It is the premise of my novels on the Greenland Vikings. The following article indicates that scientists are beginning to take a look at that possibility with mitochondrial DNA found in the current residents of Iceland. Check out my website for my Axe of Iron series on the medieval Greenland Vikings and their adventures among the natives of Vinland.
Friday, Nov 19 2010

First American in Europe 'was native woman kidnapped by Vikings and hauled back to Iceland 1,000 years ago'

By Niall Firth

Daily Mail

Last updated at 7:47 PM on 17th November 2010

A native woman kidnapped by the Vikings may have been the first American to arrive in Europe around 1,000 years ago, according to a startling new study.

The discovery of a gene found in just 80 Icelanders links them with early Americans who may have been brought back to Iceland by Viking raiders.

The discovery means that the female slave was in Europe five centuries before Christopher Columbus first paraded American Indians through the streets in Spain after his epic voyage of discovery in 1492.

The genes that the woman left behind have now been discovered in the DNA of just our distinct family lines.

Replicas of Viking sod houses at L'Anse Aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland. The area holds the earliest evidence of Viking raiders arriving in the Americas

Any early suggestion that the genes were from Asia were ruled out after it was worked out that they had been present in Iceland since at least the 18th century – long before Asian genes appeared in Icelanders.

The team found that the genes they studied can be traced to common ancestors in the south of Iceland, near the Vatnajˆkull glacier, in around 1710.

It has long been thought that Viking raiders arrived in the Americas centuries before Columbus ever arrived in the Caribbean.

Norse epic sagas such as ‘Erik the Red’, talk of early Scandinavian settlers discovering lush new lands, with a temperate climate and abundant crops – now believed to be parts of northern Canada.

A Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, in the eastern Canadian region of Newfoundland, is thought to date to the 11th century. Other such settlements are found in Greenland, which Viking navigators reached from Iceland.

Because Iceland was isolated from the rest of the world from the 11th century onwards scientists speculate that the woman must have been taken from the Americas sometime around the year 1000. Viking raiders kidnapped local women on their plundering trips to Europe and the Americas.

The DNA lineage, named C1e, is mitochondrial – which means that the genes were introduced by a woman.

The unknown American woman was probably abducted from the Americas and then brought to Iceland after surviving the sea voyage back. She then bore children in her new home but nothing was ever written of her existence or fate.

The study will be published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Iceland is a renowned centre for gene research and the new study was led by DeCode Genetics - a world-leading genome research lab on the island which has DNA records of almost everyone living on the island.

Carles Lalueza-Fox, who co-authored the paper, told MailOnline: ‘In my view, the most plausible hypothesis is that these four Icelandic families derived from an Amerindian woman brought there at pre-Columbian times.

‘There are alternatives to this that we cannot totally reject. To have a definite proof, we should found a pre-Columbian Icelandic remain that could be genetically analysed and show the same Amerindian lineage.’

One of the alternatives is that a post 1400s American female, like Pocohontas, the character that inspired the Disney film, found her way from mainland Europe to Iceland. But scientists believe this to be unlikely because of how isolated Iceland was at the time.

Since the woman’s arrival a millennium ago, 40 generations of her descendants have lived in Iceland. In each generation, there was at least one girl child.

She also had daughters and the female lineage has not been interrupted yet as the mitochondrial gene has been passed through the generations.

The research team do not believe the lineage passed to the European mainland

The Vikings were fearsome warriors and highly skilled navigators. Viking raiders in Britain took not just gold and other precious good but also slaves that they could sell elsewhere around the world.

For example, while the original male inhabitants of Iceland were mostly of Viking origin, the majority of original female inhabitants came from the coasts of Scotland and Ireland.

Historical evidence suggests that people in Scandinavia and the British Isles arrived in Iceland around the year 870. The analysis of the Y sex chromosome, which passes from father to son, shows that 80% of Icelandic lineages comes from Scandinavia, compared to 20% in Scotland and Ireland.

Mitochondrial DNA, inherited through the maternal line, shows a 37 per cent from Scandinavia and 63% of the British Isles.

‘This difference has only one explanation: that the Vikings were in the habit of plundering the women of the British Isles. It is logical that they would do the same in America,’ said Lalueza-Fox.

Book Posting on Teach Our Children Website

Confrontation: An Axe of Iron Novel is featured on the Teach Our Children website. The info includes a synopsis, link to this blog, link to website, and book ordering links.

Happy Thanksgiving!

12 November 2010

Long lost Viking gateway found near Schleswig

August 28, 2010

The Local

Archaeologists have found a legendary 1,200 year old gateway to the massive wall the Vikings built to defend themselves against their rivals the Saxons, according to a Friday media report.

Records of such a gateway existed, but archaeologists were due Friday to announce they had found the actual site, news magazine Der Spiegel reported. The team described the find as a "sensation."
The discovery, near the town of Schleswig in Germany's far north near the Danish border, reinforces the view that the Vikings were more than plunderers and pillagers, and that they also built and traded. The gate was the only opening in the Danevirke the 30-kilometre long wall that the feared men of the north built across the Cimbrian peninsula to separate their kingdom from what is now Germany.

The famous Nordic plunderers, who raided cities from Ireland to Spain were also prolific stone builders. The Danevirke is considered the largest archaeological site in northern Europe. A team of archaeologists have excavated a three-metre thick section of the stone wall from the eighth century in the Haddeby district near Schleswig. Many of the stones are fist-sized but others are veritable boulders weighing 50 kilogrammes or more. "The Vikings have gathered millions of stones," archaeologist Astrid Tummuscheit told the magazine.
The scientist said they had found a single, a five-metre-wide door in the wall. According to chronicles, horses and wagons once poured through this gateway. It included a customs house with bawdy taverns and brothels.

For hundreds of years archaeologists had dreamed of finding this door between Denmark and the kingdom of Charlemagne, the Frankish king who built an empire that stretched across much of western and central Europe in the second half of the eighth century. The existence of the fortifications were vaguely known. But archaeologists were prevented from digging at the site where they believed the gate stood because an old guesthouse, the Café Truberg, stood there. "The Café Truberg blocked everything," said state archeological head Claus von Carnap-Bornheim told Der Spiegel. When the guesthouse went broke, the Danish shipping magnate Arnold Mærsk swooped, buying the decrepit property. The German energy firm EON Hanse paid for the demolition of the guesthouse. Then the archaeologists moved in and quickly discovered the legendary door.

The Danes are equally excited by the discovery. Queen Margrethe II visited the excavation site along with Prince Frederik.

The Vikings were fighting at the time with neighbouring Slavs and Saxons for supremacy in the region. "This was the Kosovo of the early Middle Ages," Carnap-Bornheim told Der Spiegel. Ultimately the Danes triumphed. Records show that in year 808 a King Göttrik decided "to protect his empire from Saxony with a wall."

06 November 2010

The Vikings' burning question: some decent graveside theatre

From The Times

October 26, 2008

Magnus Linklater

The average Viking lived a life in which spirituality and thoughts of immortality played a far more important part than the rape and pillage more usually associated with his violent race, according to new research. A study of thousands of excavated Viking graves suggests that rituals were performed at the graveside in which stories about life and death were presented as theatre, with live performances designed to help the passage of the deceased from this world into the next.

Neil Price, Chair of Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen, who will be presenting his findings at a lecture at the university tonight, believes that these rituals may have been the early beginnings of the Norse sagas, which told stories about men and gods in the pagan world. He said that close study of the graves and the artefacts they contained, as well as contemporary accounts of Viking funerals, presented a far more complex picture of their lives than the simple myth of the Viking raider.

Detailed analysis of the burials revealed a remarkable variety of objects found alongside the bodies - from everyday items to great longships, wagons and sledges, together with animals of many different species and even human sacrifices.

Professor Price said: “Close analysis of Viking burials not only gives us an insight into the workings of their minds, but most importantly how slim they perceived the boundaries to be between life and death, and between humans and animals.”

He said that the burial rituals suggested the Vikings had no defined religion, but instead made up a set of spiritual beliefs, which were then acted out at the graveside. These became a form of theatre that predates the sagas and may have contained the origins of Norse mythology - the inspiration for Wagner's operas.

Professor Price said: “There seem to have been something like stage directions dictating how these rituals were to be enacted. Eyewitness accounts suggest that there were as many as ten days of ritual, with enormous time and effort put into the performances.”

The artefacts buried with the dead varied enormously. “No two graves were the same,” he said. Some bore evidence of a military career, with whole ships containing the corpse left open. Other graves were found to have had animal remains - one had no fewer than 20 decapitated horses - and occasionally there were human remains as well. Some Vikings were buried with their wives and families, others were laid to rest in more simple single graves.

Professor Price said: “What emerges from these studies is that these were an immensely sophisticated people, with a complex set of beliefs, and a strong interest in poetry. It was an utterly different world from ours. They were aggressively pagan, and strongly anti-Christian, perhaps as a reaction to the Christian missionaries. But there is great richness in this non-Christian world.”

Most of the existing records on Norse mythology date from the 11th to 18th centuries, having gone through more than two centuries of oral tradition that is thought to carry the seeds of Germanic legends such as the Valkyrie, the Niebelungen and Siegfried. Hundreds of place names in Scandinavia are named after the gods.

“The research focused on the examination of excavated material and Old Norse texts, combined with eyewitness descriptions of Viking burial ceremonies found in contemporary literature,” said Professor Price. “The study demonstrated the significant role that storytelling and dramatisation played in the Viking disposal of the dead. It seems clear that public enactments took place on these occasions, intended to provide the deceased with a poetic passage into the next life.

“The work suggests that Vikings used these funeral stories as a way of connecting the world of the living and the worlds of the dead. It is likely that these dramas, which were created and acted out using objects that were placed with the body in the grave or on the cremation pyre, form the beginnings of what we know today as Norse mythology.”

31 October 2010

Scientist lives as Inuit for a year to save disappearing language

August 14, 2010

CNN News

A British anthropologist is setting out on a year long stay with a small community in Greenland in an ambitious attempt to document its dying language and traditions.

Stephen Pax Leonard will live with the Inughuit in north-west Greenland, the world's most northernmost people, and record their conversations and story-telling traditions to try and preserve their language.

The Inughuit, who speak Inuktun, a "pure" Inuit dialect, are under increasing political and climactic pressure to move south, says Leonard.

"They have around 10 to 15 years left in their present location, then climate change and politics will force them to move south and they will be assimilated into a different culture, into a broader community, and their way of life will be lost," Leonard told CNN.

Leonard, who flies out to Copenhagen on Sunday before heading to Greenland, says there are about 1,000 speakers of Inuktun, an undocumented language.

Although most Inughuit are trilingual, also speaking Danish and Greenlandic, their primary language is still Inuktun.

"There is no doubt that this is a major linguistic challenge... they speak a very pure form of Inuit, partly because of their geographic isolation. Their entire culture is based on a story-telling culture."

Leonard, an anthropological linguist at Cambridge University, England, is under no doubt about the physical and cultural hurdles that face him. The average temperature is minus 25 degrees Celsius, although it can fall to minus 40 degrees Celsius in the winter.

Inughuit, which is the name of the northern Inuits, are hunter-gatherers; they do not have a cash economy and the men can spend weeks away from home hunting for walruses, seals and other mammals. They still use dog sleds in the winter and kayaks in the summer.

Hivshu, an Inughuit who now lives in Sweden, helped Leonard establish contacts with his former community in Greenland.

He has written about the Inughuit way of life on his website: "Even before I went to school I began assisting my father when he was out hunting, summer or winter, no difference. That was the way I heard the stories about my ancestors and their songs told and sung by the old people as it was a tradition to tell the stories and sing the traditional drum songs of Inuit to all of us during the hunting."

Leonard says he is determined to become a part of their community and plans to hunt with the men if he is allowed.

He is taking solid-state audio recorders that should work in the freezing conditions and plans to produce an "ethnography of speaking" that he hopes will be a permanent record that shows how their language and culture are interconnected.

20 October 2010

The Assimilation of The Greenland Norse With Native Peoples

The following is a repeat of an article I wrote two years ago. Given the renewed interest in Arctic exploration for signs of medieval Greenland Viking presence I thought it appropriate to show it to those of you who are new to all of this.
The Assimilation of The Greenland Norse With Native Peoples

26 JUNE 2008

As I have mentioned in other writings, sooner or later some group of scientists will undertake to sample the mtDNA of certain native peoples of southeastern Canada, including the Cree of the Ungava Peninsula of Quebec, and the northeastern United States for Norse genetic markers.

Such a study is the only way to finally put to rest the 1000-year old mystery of what happened to the Greenland Norse settlers.

This effort should concentrate on a cross section of pure blooded members of the Cree, Ojibwa, and Iroquois Indian tribes. I submit that Norse genetic markers will be found in these Indians as they have been found in the male Inuit(Y-chromosome) of Greenland, although none have been found in female Inuit. The Greenland Norse, Niels Linnerup and Søren Nørby (Laboratory of Biological Anthropology, University of Denmark, Copenhagen, 2002) 107

This work will no doubt continue and extend into other areas of the Canadian Arctic.

Given the tremendous distances involved, the high cost of travel in the Arctic, primitive conditions, and the shortness of the summer season, it seems plausible that DNA studies will prove to be cheaper than archaeological excavations.

14 October 2010

Marauding Vikings Ale Packs a Real Punch

Marauding Vikings Ale Packs a Real Punch

September 26, 2010

Belfast Telegraph

A team of archaeologists has recreated the heather ale drunk by marauding Vikings to boost their ferocity in battle.
Galway archaeologists Billy Quinn and Nigel Malcolm and businessman Declan Moore have been involved in their "great experiment" for the past three years, sampling Bronze Age brews and unearthing Ireland's ancient recipes and beer-making traditions.

The intrepid trio have just brewed their first heather ale using a recipe believed to date back to the 8th century AD.

'Bheoir Lochlannachis' is made from heather and barley; and instead of hops, which only became common in brewing in the 9th century, the herb bog myrtle is used to add flavour and preserve the potion.

Some sources believe the word 'ale' comes directly from the Viking word 'aul', and, according to legend, Norse invaders downed substantial quantities of the heather brew to whip up their battle frenzy.

The trio brewed the Scandinavian ale with barley from the Oslo Hotel Microbrewery in Salthill. The heather was gathered at Maumeen Lake in Connemara.

"We're using a recipe that was recorded in the 'Ulster Journal of Archaeology' in 1859," explained Mr Moore, MD of the Moore Group, an environmental consultancy firm. "It dates back, we would estimate, to the early Christian and Viking period."

Unlike the Moore Group's previous beer experiment, which involved using a prehistoric cooking pit heated by stones, the Viking beer was heated in a large pot and is now fermenting.

When the brew is ready, the team plans a private beer-tasting party next month. "We're going to produce around 150 litres and by the time that's filtered and sieved, there'll be 100 litres -- plenty to go around," said Mr Moore, while Mr Malcolm, general manager of Moore Group, said the finished product was eagerly anticipated.

This is not the trio's first foray into bygone brewing techniques. In 2007, the team produced a Bronze Age brew using a prehistoric cooking pit, which overturned the belief that brewing was only practised here from the 6th century onwards.

08 October 2010

New images may yield Viking ships

Views and News from Norway

October 5, 2010

Archaeologists think they have found two more Viking ships buried in Vestfold County south of Oslo. The biggest may be 25 meters long, larger than any found so far.


Road construction near the old Viking trading center at Kaupang has led to the discovery of two large ship silhouettes on ground radar pictures. The pictures have been made possible through a venture involving the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (Norsk institutt for kulturminneforskning, NIKU) and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology.

They portray some "exciting" images with the help of high tech methods including satellites, laser scanning, magnetometers and georadar, according to NIKU officials. The methods can avoid or minimize destructive excavations by allowing archaeologists to register what the Norwegians call kulturminner (cultural antiquities) under the surface with a high degree of precision.

The images of Viking ships, along with several burial mounds, could be the biggest discoveries of their kind for more than a century, and some call them potentially "sensational" while officials urge restraint.

Even though the data so far is startling, the head of the Directorate for Cultural Heritage in Norway, Jørn Holme, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that people should not expect too much at this stage. "What we have discovered so far are the imprints of ships and iron nails," Holme told NRK. "However we are fairly certain that we will not find an intact Viking ship. It probably has disintegrated since the properties of the local soil are not good enough."

The imprints of the ships were found by means of georadar, a scanning technology that produces three-dimensional images of objects and structures below ground. "This technology is a breakthrough in the world of archaeology," say Holme told NRK.

Georadar works well in loose soil, but is less able to penetrate the clay that is needed to preserve wood and other organic objects, says Holme.

Both Norway's famed Oseberg and Gokstad ships were buried in such favourable clay conditions. The two discoveries, which are considered to be the best preserved Viking ships in the world, were discovered under several tons of stone, tightly packed with clay.

Even if archaeologists are not expecting finds on the scale of the Gokstad and Oseberg sites, there is good reason to believe that other cultural artifacts will be found in the ground. "There might be a burial in the ship, but one cannot expect the organic material to have survived," Holme said. "We can hope to find gold, silver, iron, pottery and glass."

05 October 2010

A boat for Skjoldungelandet

This article appeared in the latest Viking Ship Museum newsletter, 3 October 2010

A boat for Skjoldungelandet

Did you miss the construction of the Sea Stallion? Now’s your chance to get close to the construction of a Viking ship in full scale.

Kraka Fyr - a reconstruction of Skuldelev 6. The construction of another copy of the beautiful boat from the Sognefjord in western Norway is beginning now.

The keel has been laid for what will become the reconstruction of Skuldelev 6, the small fishing and cargo vessel from Sognefjord in western Norway. The Viking Ship Museum’s boatyard is building the boat in cooperation with the National Park Project, Skjoldungelandet. The boat will be used to present and explain the historic landscape around Roskilde Fjord.

“The new construction will provide a unique opportunity to experience, or re-experience, the reconstruction of a Viking ship in full scale,” says museum curator Louise Kæmpe Henriksen from the Department of Outreach, which was responsible for the exhibition displayed in the shipyard in connection with the construction. “It’s been 6 years since the Viking Ship Museum launched the Sea Stallion from Glendalough after a 4-year construction process. But the work is not completed, even though all 5 ship finds now have sailing reconstructions. The new construction will allow for other interpretations of the original ship, and will invite the visitors to the museum to follow the boat builders’ work up close.”

Another reconstruction

The Viking Ship Museum’s boat collection already includes a reconstruction of Skuldelev 6. In 1998, the museum’s boatyard launched Kraka Fyr, which has sailed with guests at the museum since then. There is also an active guild linked to Kraka Fyr. The guild sails the boat frequently throughout the season from May to September and a great deal of experience has already been obtained with this type of boat.

When the original boat was built around the year 1030, it was as a relatively low-sided fishing boat with six so-called strakes, which formed the sides of the boat. At a later stage in the life of the boat, it was converted from a fishing vessel to a cargo vessel by adding a 7th strake. In this way they achieved a more spacious and seaworthy vessel.

The new reconstruction shall be built with the original six strakes.

A new hypothesis

The construction will provide the museum’s boat builders with the opportunity to test new interpretations of the original wreck. Skuldelev 6’s stem was not preserved when it was excavated and the current reconstruction was therefore built with a so-called stepped stem, as in Skuldelev 3 (Roar Ege). “The new construction’s stem will resemble the stems from the second ship from Sognefjord, Skuldelev 1,” explains the head of the boat yard, Søren Nielsen. “This sea-going cargo ship had a lower stem and a radically different design than the stepped stem, and we are therefore offering a different suggestion about how the original boat might have looked when it sailed into the western fjords of Norway 1000 years ago.” Read more...

By: Preben Rather Sørensen

03/10 - 2010

03 October 2010

A Viking Mystery

September 24, 2010


Beneath Oxford University, archaeologists have uncovered a medieval city that altered the course of English history

Before construction could begin on new student housing at one of Oxford University's 38 colleges, St. John's, archaeologists were summoned to investigate the site in January 2008. After just a few hours of digging, one archaeologist discovered the remains of a 4,000-year-old religious complex- an earthwork enclosure, or henge, built by late Neolithic tribesmen, probably for a sun-worshiping cult. About 400 feet in diameter, the temple was one of the largest of Britain's prehistoric henges, of which more than 100 have been found.

Later, the archaeologists found pits full of broken pottery and food debris suggesting that people had used the henge as a medieval garbage dump millennia after it had been dug. Excited, they began searching for items that might reveal details of daily life in the Middle Ages. Instead they found bones. Human bones.

"At first we thought it was just the remains of one individual," says Sean Wallis of Thames Valley Archaeological Services, the company that did the excavating. "Then, to our surprise, we realized that corpses had been dumped one on top of another. Wherever we dug, there were more of them. Not only did we have a 4,000-year-old prehistoric temple, but now a mass grave as well."

After one month of digging at the grave site and two years of lab tests, the researchers concluded that between 34 and 38 individuals were buried in the grave, all of them victims of violence. Some 20 skeletons bore punctures in their vertebrae and pelvic bones, and 27 skulls were broken or cracked, indicating traumatic head injury. To judge from markings on the ribs, at least a dozen had been stabbed in the back. One individual had been decapitated; attempts were made on five others.

Radiocarbon analysis of the bones convinced the archaeologists that the remains date from A.D. 960 to 1020- the period in which the Anglo-Saxon monarchy peaked in power. Originally from Germany, Anglo-Saxons had invaded England almost six centuries earlier, after the Roman Empire had fallen into disarray. They established their own kingdoms and converted to Christianity. After decades of conflict, England enjoyed a degree of stability in the tenth century under the rule of King Edgar the Peaceful.

But "peaceful" is a relative term. Public executions were common. British archaeologists have discovered some 20 "execution cemeteries" across the country- testifying to a harsh penal code that claimed the lives of up to 3 percent of the male population. One such site in East Yorkshire contains the remains of six decapitated individuals.

The Oxford grave, however, didn't fit the profile of an execution cemetery, which typically contains remains of people put to death over many centuries- not all at once, as at Oxford. And execution victims tended to be various ages and body types. By contrast, the bodies buried at Oxford were those of vigorous males of fighting age, most between 16 and 35 years old. Most were unusually large; an examination of the muscle-attachment areas of their bones revealed extremely robust physiques. Some victims had suffered serious burns to their heads, backs, pelvic regions and arms.

The most telling clue would emerge from a lab analysis, in which scientists measured atomic variations within the skeletal bone collagen. The tests indicated that the men ate, on average, more fish and shellfish than did Anglo-Saxons.

The mounting evidence increasingly pointed to an astonishing conclusion: this was a mass grave of Viking warriors.

In the late eighth century a.d., the Vikings- a Scandinavian people from Denmark, Norway and Sweden- began a 300-year campaign of pillaging and piracy throughout Europe. Some scholars say that political changes (especially the emergence of fewer yet more powerful rulers) forced local Viking chieftains to seek new sources of revenue through foreign conquests. Others point to advances in shipbuilding that enabled longer voyages- allowing the Vikings to establish trade networks extending as far as the Mediterranean. But when an economic recession hit Europe in the ninth century, Scandinavian seamen increasingly turned from trading to pillaging.

Most historians believe that England suffered more from the Vikings than other European countries. In the first recorded attack, in A.D. 793, Vikings raided an undefended monastic community at Lindisfarne in the northeast. Alcuin of York, an Anglo-Saxon scholar, recorded the onslaught: "We and our fathers have now lived in this fair land for nearly three hundred and fifty years, and never before has such a terror been seen in Britain as we have now suffered at the hands of a pagan people. Such a voyage was not thought possible. The church of St. Cuthbert is spattered with the blood of the priests of God."

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a contemporary historical account, records that the Vikings waged some 50 battles and destroyed or ravaged scores of settlements. Dublin, one of the largest Viking cities in the British Isles, became a major European slave-trading center, where, historians estimate, tens of thousands of kidnapped Irishmen, Scotsmen, Anglo-Saxons and others were bought and sold.

"In many respects the Vikings were the medieval equivalent of organized crime," says Simon Keynes, a professor of Anglo-Saxon history at Cambridge University. "They engaged in extortion on a massive scale, using the threat of violence to extract vast quantities of silver from England and some other vulnerable western European states."

"Certainly the Vikings did all these things, but so did everyone else," says Dagfinn Skre, a professor of archaeology at the University of Oslo. "Although admittedly, the Vikings did it on a grander scale."

Martin Carver, an emeritus professor of archaeology at the University of York, characterizes the antagonism between the Anglo-Saxons and the Scandinavians as part of a wider clash of ideologies. Between the sixth and ninth centuries, Vikings in Scandinavia preferred to be organized "in loose confederations, favoring enterprise," says Carver. But other parts of Europe, such as Britain, yearned for a more orderly, centralized government- and looked to the Roman Empire as a model.

Only one Anglo-Saxon kingdom- Wessex, ruled by Alfred the Great- is known to have withstood the Viking invasion. Alfred and his son, Edward, built up an army and navy and constructed a network of fortifications; then Edward and his successors wrested back control of those areas the Vikings had taken over, thus paving the way for English unification.

After decades of peace, Vikings again raided England, in A.D. 980. At the time, the Anglo-Saxon ruler was King Aethelred the Unraed (literally "the ill-advised"). As his name suggests, popular history has portrayed him as a mediocre successor to Alfred the Great and Edgar the Peaceful. The 12th-century historian William of Malmesbury wrote that Aethelred "occupied rather than governed" the kingdom. "The career of his life was said to have been cruel in the beginning, wretched in the middle and disgraceful in the end."

To avert war, Aethelred paid the Vikings some 26,000 pounds in silver between A.D. 991 and 994. In the years that followed, the king employed many of them as mercenaries to discourage other Vikings from attacking England.

But, in A.D. 997, some of the mercenaries turned on their royal employer and attacked the Anglo-Saxon southern counties. In early A.D. 1002, Aethelred again tried to buy off the Vikings- this time with 24,000 pounds in silver.

The geopolitical situation changed in England's favor only when Aethelred made an alliance with Normandy and sealed the deal by marrying the Duke of Normandy's sister in A.D. 1002. Possibly emboldened by the support of a powerful ally, Aethelred decided to take pre-emptive action before the Danes again broke the truce.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Aethelred was "informed" that Danish mercenaries intended to "beguile him out of his life." (It is unknown whether an informer learned of an actual plot, or if Aethelred and his council fabricated the threat.) Aethelred then set in motion one of the most heinous acts of mass murder in English history, committed on St. Brice's Day, November 13, 1002. As he himself recounted in a charter written two years later, "a decree was sent out by me, with the counsel of my leading men and magnates, to the effect that all the Danes who had sprung up in this island, sprouting like cockle [weeds] amongst the wheat, were to be destroyed by a most just extermination."

Prior to 2008, the only known inhabitants of the St. John's College garden had been the songbirds and squirrels that darted across the neatly cropped lawn and hid in an ancient beech tree. Generations of dons and students had strolled across that greenery, unsuspecting of what lay beneath.

The lab data indicating that the men buried there for 1,000 years had eaten lots of seafood, plus the burn markings and other evidence, convinced the archaeologists that the grave probably held victims of the St. Brice's Day massacre. Aethelred himself recounted exactly how the residents of Oxford killed the Danes in a local church: "Striving to escape death, [the Danes] entered [a] sanctuary of Christ, having broken by force the doors and bolts, and resolved to make a refuge and defence for themselves therein against the people of the town and the suburbs; but when all the people in pursuit strove, forced by necessity, to drive them out, and could not, they set fire to the [building's] timbers and burnt [it] down."

Wallis, the archaeologist in charge at Oxford, surmises that the townspeople loaded the corpses onto a cart and drove out through the north gate of the city, past land that today encompasses the Oxford colleges of Balliol and most of St. John's, then threw the Vikings into the prehistoric henge- the largest ditch nearest the city's northern exit.

A year after this discovery, another team of investigators, from the company Oxford Archaeology, were looking for evidence of prehistoric activity at a site 90 miles to the southwest in the English county of Dorset, near Weymouth, when they discovered a second mass grave. This one held the skeletons of 54 well-built, fighting-age males, all of whom had been decapitated with sharp weapons, most likely swords. Lab tests of the teeth suggested the men were Scandinavians. The ratio between various types of oxygen atoms in the skeletons' tooth enamel indicates the victims came from a cold region (one man from inside the Arctic Circle). Radiocarbon dating placed the victims' deaths between A.D. 910 and 1030; historical records of Viking activities in England narrow that to between A.D. 980 and 1009. The corpses had been unceremoniously dumped in a chalk and flint quarry that had been dug hundreds of years earlier, possibly during Roman times. Although no historical account of the massacre exists, the archaeologists believe the Vikings were apprehended and brought to the site to be executed.

The discovery of the two mass graves may resolve a question that has long vexed historians. In the centuries following the St. Brice's Day massacre, many chroniclers believed that the Danish community in England (a substantial percentage of the population) was targeted for mass murder, akin to a pogrom. Certainly there was undisguised hatred for the Scandinavians, who were described by contemporary writers as "a most vile people," "a filthy pestilence" and "the hated ones." But more recently, the massacre has been seen more as a police action against only those who posed a military threat to the government. The discovery of the two mass graves supports this view, since victims were found where the rebellious mercenaries would have been stationed: close to royal administrative centers (usually towns or important royal estates) on or near England's south coast and in the Thames Valley. By contrast, no such graves have been found in the region of eastern England once known as the Danelaw, which was populated by descendants of Scandinavian settlers. "I would estimate that out of a total population of around two million in England, perhaps half were of Scandinavian or partly Scandinavian origin- most of whom were loyal subjects," says Ian Howard, a historian writing a biography of Aethelred. "I think it inherently unlikely that the king ever intended to kill them all, as it would obviously have been impossible to do so."

Far from being just a ghoulish footnote to medieval history, Aethelred's massacre of the Danes likely reinforced Danish determination to attack England and set in motion a chain of events that would change the course of England's future. In A.D. 1003, the year after the massacres, King Svein of Denmark launched his own assault against a much wider swath of Anglo-Saxon England. This renewed aggression continued off and on for more than a decade, inspiring a level of terror the Anglo-Saxons had not faced since the first Viking invasions a century and a half earlier. An Anglo-Danish text, the Encomium Emmae Reginae, written around A.D. 1041 or 1042, described the Danish war fleet of 1016: "What adversary could gaze upon the lions, terrible in the glitter of their gold...all these on the ships, and not feel dread and fear in the face of a king with so great a fighting force?"

Both circumstantial and historical evidence suggests that revenge was at least part of the motivation for Svein's invasions. There were almost certainly blood ties between Aethelred's victims and Danish nobility. According to medieval chronicler William of Malmesbury, Svein's sister (or, possibly, half sister) Gunnhild was a victim of the St. Brice's Day massacre (although her body has never been found). Neither her gender nor her royal blood saved her, probably because she was the wife of Pallig, one of the turncoat mercenaries. Wrote William of Malmesbury: "[She was] beheaded with the other Danes, though she declared plainly that the shedding of her blood would cost all England dear."

Gunnhild's words proved prophetic. The Danes ultimately conquered England, in A.D. 1016, and Canute, the son of Svein, was crowned the nation's king in London's St. Paul's Cathedral in January 1017. Twenty-five years later, the Anglo-Saxons would regain the crown, but only for a generation. The Scandinavians, who had refused to renounce the throne, embarked on yet another onslaught against England in September 1066- less than a fortnight before William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, launched his own invasion of the country.

Although the English pushed back the Scandinavian invaders, the effort so weakened the Anglo-Saxons that they were defeated by William at the Battle of Hastings, also in 1066. The Norman Conquest consolidated the unification of England, as the new rulers introduced a more centralized, hierarchal government. The Anglo-Saxons would rise again, their culture and language merging with that of their oppressors to produce a new nation- the predecessor of modern England, and eventually an empire that would span half the globe.

David Keys is The Independent's archaeology correspondent.

24 September 2010

Long Sought Viking Settlement Found

Author's Note: here is more news on the exciting medieval Viking archaeological site recently unearthed in northern Ireland 70-kilometers north of present day Dublin, near the town of Annagassan, County Lough, just off the Irish Sea coast.
September 23, 2010

Science Now

The Vikings, the famed Scandinavian warriors, started raiding Ireland in 795 and plundered it for decades, before establishing two Irish outposts, according to the Annals of Ulster, a 15th century account of medieval Ireland.

One outpost, Dúbh Linn, became Dublin, the other, Linn Duchaill, was lost in time. Perhaps until now. A team of archaeologists announced on Friday that it has found the lost Viking settlement near the village of Annagassan, 70 kilometers north of Dublin. "We are unbelievably delighted," said archaeologist and team leader, Mark Clinton, an independent archaeological consultant.

The Annagassan locals have long believed they lived near an ancient Viking town or fort. The stories of Viking raids were told to local children by schoolteachers, and there were also occasional finds that underscored this story. For example, a few years ago, a set of handcuffs once used to shackle Viking slaves was found by a farmer ploughing land. The modern search for Linn Duchaill began 5 years ago when a local filmmaker named Ruth Cassidy, a member of the Annagassan and District Historical Society, enlisted the help of Clinton, a family friend, to find the lost Viking town. They searched through 2005, 2006, and 2007 and were on the point of despair when they came across a flat area- ideal for lifting boats out of the water for shipbuilding and repairs- a couple of kilometers up the River Glyde. They managed to secure funding to pay for a geophysicist, John Nicholls, to survey the site. Nicholls found a series of defensive ditches about 4 meters deep, running in lines. The pattern of ditches does not seem compatible with the typical Irish structure of the period, a ring fort, and no evidence of a Norman settlement, such as moat or castle remains, was found. That left just one other option: Vikings.

Despite this evidence, the researchers struggled to secure funding for excavation work. But the local Louth County Museum eventually offered funds to excavate at three locations. The team found 200 objects in 3 weeks, convincing them that they had found a major Viking shipbuilding town. There is evidence of impressive engineering, with an artificial island constructed out of the landscape to offer protection from attacks by the indigenous Irish. There is evidence of carpentry, smelting, and ship repair, with ship rivets dotted around the site. These features alone would make the site significant as few Viking longphorts- or shipbuilding towns- have been excavated. The team also found hacked coins, which Clinton says were a typical "calling card" of the Vikings, but there is also a total absence of pottery- the Vikings used wooden bowls. There are "high status" early Christian objects, too, probably stolen from the Irish.

Other Viking experts are cautiously optimistic that the long-lost Viking outpost has been found but emphasize the settlement needs to be solidly dated before the case is closed. "If the settlement found can be identified as Linn Duchaill, its value for linking archaeology to the written sources is very important," says Peter Pentz, an archaeologist at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. "In addition, it appears that the site is almost untouched by later activity, unlike those of Dublin- some longphorts developed into urban settlements- and thus it might provide important knowledge of this particular type of settlement."

"It's really, really exciting," adds Christina Lee of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, an expert in Viking studies of Ireland and Britain. "I'm looking forward to hearing about the finds and the dating of the finds. It's a really important step in thinking about the westward expansion of the Vikings, and the importance that Ireland had for the Viking world is something that hasn't been recognized. Ireland in the Viking age is of strategic importance."

One lingering question is why Linn Duchaill was abandoned while Dublin thrived. One theory is that because Dublin has better 24-hour access to the sea, it meant that the Vikings there could take to their ships and head out when they were under attack. At Linn Duchaill, tidal fluctuations would cut off access for several hours a day.

21 September 2010

Home of Ice Giants thaws, shows pre Viking hunts

September 15, 2010


Climate change is exposing reindeer hunting gear used by the Vikings' ancestors faster than archaeologists can collect it from ice thawing in northern Europe's highest mountains.

"It's like a time machine...the ice has not been this small for many, many centuries," said Lars Piloe, a Danish scientist heading a team of "snow patch archaeologists" on newly bare ground 1,850 meters (6,070 ft) above sea level in mid-Norway.

Specialized hunting sticks, bows and arrows and even a 3,400-year-old leather shoe have been among finds since 2006 from a melt in the Jotunheimen mountains, the home of the "Ice Giants" of Norse mythology.

As water streams off the Juvfonna ice field, Piloe and two other archaeologists -- working in a science opening up due to climate change -- collect "scare sticks" they reckon were set up 1,500 years ago in rows to drive reindeer toward archers.

But time is short as the Ice Giants' stronghold shrinks.

"Our main focus is the rescue part," Piloe said on newly exposed rocks by the ice. "There are many ice patches. We can only cover a few...We know we are losing artefacts everywhere."

Freed from an ancient freeze, wood rots in a few years. And rarer feathers used on arrows, wool or leather crumble to dust in days unless taken to a laboratory and stored in a freezer.

Jotunheimen is unusual because so many finds are turning up at the same time -- 600 artefacts at Juvfonna alone.

Other finds have been made in glaciers or permafrost from Alaska to Siberia. Italy's iceman "Otzi," killed by an arrow wound 5,000 years ago, was found in an Alpine glacier in 1991. "Ice Mummies" have been discovered in the Andes.


Patrick Hunt, of Stanford University in California who is trying to discover where Carthaginian general Hannibal invaded Italy in 218 BC with an army and elephants, said there was an "alarming rate" of thaw in the Alps.

"This is the first summer since 1994 when we began our Alpine field excavations above 8,000 ft that we have not been inundated by even one day of rain, sleet and snow flurries," he said.

"I expect we will see more 'ice patch archaeology discoveries'," he said. Hannibal found snow on the Alpine pass he crossed in autumn, according to ancient writers.

Glaciers are in retreat from the Andes to the Alps, as a likely side-effect of global warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases, the U.N. panel of climate experts says.

The panel's credibility has suffered since its 2007 report exaggerated a thaw by saying Himalayan glaciers might vanish by 2035. It has stuck to its main conclusion that it is "very likely" that human activities are to blame for global warming.

"Over the past 150 years we have had a worldwide trend of glacial retreat," said Michael Zemp, director of the Swiss-based World Glacier Monitoring Service. While many factors were at play, he said "the main driver is global warming."

In Norway, "some ice fields are at their minimum for at least 3,000 years," said Rune Strand Oedegaard, a glacier and permafrost expert from Norway's Gjoevik University College.

The front edge of Jovfunna has retreated about 18 meters (60 ft) over the past year, exposing a band of artefacts probably from the Iron Age 1,500 years ago, according to radiocarbon dating. Others may be from Viking times 1,000 years ago.

Juvfonna, about 1 km across on the flank of Norway's highest peak, Galdhoepiggen, at 2,469 meters, also went through a less drastic shrinking period in the 1930s, Oedegaard said.


Inside the Juvfonna ice, experts have carved a cave to expose layers of ice dating back 6,000 years. Some dark patches turned out to be ancient reindeer droppings -- giving off a pungent smell when thawed out.

Ice fields like Juvfonna differ from glaciers in that they do not slide much downhill. That means artefacts may be where they were left, giving an insight into hunting techniques.

On Juvfonna, most finds are "scare sticks" about a meter long. Each has a separate, flapping piece of wood some 30 cm long that was originally tied at the top. The connecting thread is rarely found since it disintegrates within days of exposure.

"It's a strange feeling to be tying a string around this stick just as someone else did maybe 1,500 years ago," said Elling Utvik Wammer, a archaeologist on Piloe's team knotting a tag to a stick before storing it in a box for later study.

All the finds are also logged with a GPS satellite marker before being taken to the lab for examination.

The archaeologists reckon they were set up about two meters apart to drive reindeer toward hunters. In summer, reindeer often go onto snow patches to escape parasitic flies.

Such a hunt would require 15 to 20 people, Piloe said, indicating that Norway had an organized society around the start of the Dark Ages, 1,500 years ago. Hunters probably needed to get within 20 meters of a reindeer to use an iron-tipped arrow.

"You can nearly feel the hunter here," Piloe said, standing by a makeshift wall of rocks exposed in recent weeks and probably built by an ancient archer as a hideaway.