25 August 2011

Oxford Viking massacre revealed by skeleton find

"A furorae Normanorum libera Nos, Dominae!" No wonder King Ethelred the Unready ordered these Viking warriors killed, he was scared to death of them.



August 13, 2011

Evidence of a brutal massacre of Vikings in Oxford 1100 years ago has been uncovered by archaeologists.

At least 35 skeletons, all males aged 16 to 25 were discovered in 2008 at St John's College, Oxford.

Analysis of wound marks on the bones now suggests they had been subjected to violence.

Archaeologists analysing the find believe it dates from 1002 AD when King Ethelred the Unready ordered a massacre of all Danes (Vikings) in England.

The surprise discovery of the skeletons was made by Thames Valley Archaeological Services under the quadrangle at St John's College at the University of Oxford, before building work started on the site.

The bodies had not received any type of formal burial and they had been dumped in a mass grave on the site of a 4,000-year-old Neolithic henge monument.

Ceri Falys, an osteologist (a scientist who studies the structure of bones) from Thames Valley Archaeological Services, has been examining the bones since they were excavated. She has found a host of gruesome injuries on each of the individuals.

It was obvious at the time of excavation that many of the skulls had been fractured or crushed, but after piecing these skulls back together, she found that many of them were covered in blade and puncture wounds mostly to the back of the head.

One of the victims had puncture wounds to his pelvis that seem to have come from behind him and from the side, as well as substantial blade wounds to his skull, suggesting that he had been attacked from all sides by at least two different people.

These injuries were almost certainly fatal in each case, slicing through flesh and arteries right to the bone.

"Usually when people have been involved in hand to hand combat or are attacked you get evidence of this on the bones," Ceri Falys explained.

"You get cut marks on the forearms as they raise their arms to defend themselves, but we have minimal evidence of this on these skeletons, it seems that whoever was attacking them, it is likely that they were just trying to run away."'

It is possible that the Oxford skeletons were victims of an event called the St Brice's Day Massacre, recorded in a number of historical sources.

In AD1002, the Saxon king Ethelred the Unready recorded in a charter that he ordered "a most just extermination" of all the Danes in England.

He made the decision after he was told of a Danish plot to assassinate him.

The charter also recorded how on that day, the Danes in Oxford fled to St Fridewides church expecting to find refuge, but instead were pursued by the townspeople, who then set the church on fire.

Radiocarbon dating of the bones indicated that the bodies were dumped between AD960 and AD1020. This is compelling evidence for the association with St Brice's Day, explained archaeologist Sean Wallis, who directed the dig.

"We found evidence of charring on some of the bones, but not in the soil surrounding them.

"This ties in nicely with the documentary sources that the bodies may have been partially burnt prior to burial," he said.

Isotope analysis of the bones has shown that the men were eating a diet that was high in seafood.

This is an unusual find considering that they lived in inland Britain and perhaps a further indication that they may have been first or second generation Vikings.

A similar mass grave was found last year by Oxford Archaeology during work to build the Weymouth relief road.

It was radiocarbon dated to a similar period and again containing only young male victims, indicating that Anglo Saxon violence towards Vikings at the time may have been nationwide.

19 August 2011

Salme Yields Evidence of Oldest Sailing Ship in Baltic Sea

More data on the Viking ship discovered by archaeologists on an island off western Estonia. I disagree with the article's keel supposition as stated, for it an opinion unsupported by our collective present-day knowledge of these magnificent vessels.
NOTE: No Viking ship has ever been found with a keel; the reason being that a keeled sailing ship could not be run up on a beach, a common practice for them, nor could it be transported overland, another common practice. As far as is known, all Viking ocean-going vessels had a large steerboard affixed on the outside of the hull, on the starboard (a term no doubt derived from steerboard) aft quarter and extending well below the longitudinal axis of the hull. This steerboard performed the same function as the contemporary keel and could be secured up out of the water, allowing the crew to beach the ship.

August 11, 2011
Estonian Public Broadcasting

The ancient ship burial site in Salme on the island of Saaremaa still has some surprises in store.

The archeological excavations in Salme, soon to be completed, have yielded evidence that the ship that had been buried with 35 warriors and nobles had a keel, which in turn leads to the conclusion that it used sails. This represents the earliest known use of sails on a vessel in the Baltic Sea region, reported ETV.

"One piece of new information that we have been anticipating since winter was still to be found - namely, confirmation of whether it was a sailing ship or not. Now we have evidence that it used sails," said archeologist Jüri Peets of Tallinn University.

Peets called this discovery the cherry on top of the cake that was the nearly two-year-long archeological dig. "It is thought that sails were first introduced in the North Sea and Baltic Sea region at about 700 A.D., which is the conventional date. Our ship dates from the year 750. The ship from the year 700 was from the North Sea region, near Norway. However, here in the Baltic Sea region, this is without a doubt the oldest sailing ship that has been found," said Peets.

In addition to the discovery of the keel, the irregular rows of strong rivets found on the bottom of the vessel also prove that the ship used sails.

Maritime archaeologist Vello Mäss confirmed that the Salme ship was without a doubt a warship that used sails. Although sails had been long in use in the Mediterranean Sea region, it was the Norwegians who first started using them in the North Sea region. Mäss also suggested that perhaps two separate war parties on two different ships had met in Salme centuries ago. Such hypotheses concerning the Salme ship burial site are sure to keep the scientists busy for years to come.

10 August 2011

30 Viking graves found in Setesdal

Views and News from Norway

August 3, 2011

Thirty graves believed to originate from the Viking period have been discovered in the valley of Setesdal, southern Norway. The major discovery earlier this summer was made in connection with a road project in the area.

Newspaper Aftenposten reports that the burial area, near the settlement of Langeid, was first found in June as part of archaeological surveys connected to work on state highway 9, a road that winds through the scenic valley.

The graves lay side-by-side in deep, rectangular pits around 1.5 to 2.5 meters long. Most of the graves are believed to have been made between 900 and some point in the 1000's, although some of the graves could predate the Vikings by centuries.

A preliminary study last year had already found traces of archaeological interest in the region, including cooking pits and signs of early agricultural cultivation that suggest a settlement was built nearby. Early estimates believe this settlement may long predate the graves, and could go as far back as 600 BC.

As the graves have been found among moraine (accumulations of unconsolidated glacial debris characterized by stones and sand), researchers have found that much of the organic matter has been eroded away. Some remains have been found outside of the graves in the same area, but require further analysis before it can be determined whether they are animal or human. One grave found so far has postholes in all four corners, indicating that a structure with a roof was built over the grave at some point. Such a burial arrangement is usually reserved for those with higher status.

In terms of artifacts found on the site, field leader Camilla C. Wenn of the Museum of Cultural History, Oslo, told Aftenposten, "we have taken out a series of remains from the 10 graves that have been opened so far." Finds from these graves reported by Wenn include "three simple iron axes, of which one is dated from the period 850 to 950," as well as "a few knives and sickles, a pair of scales made with a copper alloy, five to six weighing instruments," "several spinning wheels," "two lovely 50 to 60 centimeter long sharpening stones, flint and some detached glass beads." Many of the metal objects found are poorly preserved, with some iron finds so badly corroded that it is difficult to tell what they are without the use of x-ray equipment at the Museum of Cultural History.

Because of the long time periods potentially covered by the graves and the other archaeological finds around them, researchers have lengthened their investigative period until August 19. "It is not unthinkable that we will manage to find further surprises," Wenn concluded.

05 August 2011

Things I’ve Learned About Writing/Publishing

The road to publication has been a nightmare because of the time and money wasted while I learned the business. I wish I could say that there is lots of help out there for the newbie’s, but actually, the reverse is true. You are prey swimming in the shark’s pool—take heed. Believe nobody, and get everything in writing, research, research, and research. Even then, you will have picked the worst time in the world’s economy to enter the business.

Dealing with agents is the most disheartening undertaking for a writer. Agents act like the writer exists because of agents, when in fact it is the other way around. I wasted a year trying to find an agent from among those professing to have an interest in my area of my genre only to find that there are not any in existence. So no, I have no need for an agent. Having said all of that, though, clearing the air so to speak, I do have a few suggestions if you are interested.

Do your homework on the submission guidelines for any query. All literary agents will have their own guidelines; adhere to them absolutely. Do not ever send a manuscript unless it is requested. Hire professional editors to edit everything that another person will read, especially the final draft of your manuscript. An English teacher is not an editor and you cannot edit your own work, so hire someone. Your professionalism will determine whether you ever make the grade. A shabby cover letter on your submission packet will guarantee its demise. Agents and publishers are busy people and they have no time to waste on people who do not follow the submission guidelines.

Okay, it is time to consider your mission—to get published. I will assume that your manuscript is a first draft. Before you can send out query letters telling the world of the birth of the great American novel, your work needs editing. I do not mean having a friend, an English teacher, your boss, or any other layman read your manuscript, no, I mean that you must engage the services of a professional editor. Thus begins the process of polishing your manuscript until it is the best it can be. This process can involve numerous corrections and rewrites. The time and expense involved varies with the quality of the work. One hundred thousand words will cost in the neighborhood of $2000.00, or more, by the time you get it right.

Believe it or not, writing your book is only the beginning. With a final draft of your manuscript in hand, it is time to query. Famous people query with a proposal before writing the book. I will assume that you are not yet famous. As an author, you cannot deal directly with one of the large publishing houses, so your next challenge is to interest a literary agent in your work. If you find a literary agent, your relationship will be contractual. Do nothing with anyone without a contract. Fully understand your part of the contract before signing or hire an attorney versed in literary contracts to help you understand. There are numerous listings of literary agents on the Internet. Research each agent for their submission guidelines, select those receptive to your genre, be certain that they are accepting submissions, submit only what they require, and never send an unsolicited manuscript, they will not read it. Your literary agent will handle your contractual relationship with a publisher; they are your agent acting in your behalf.

If you are fortunate enough to become a published author through the literary agent/publisher/reader sequence of progression, congratulations, you have hit the big time. Your publisher will handle all the details of composition/format, cover design, printing/binding, fulfillment/marketing, and warehouse/distribution, leaving you free to crank out books. You will have little or no input regarding any of the production aspects of your book, nor will you retain any rights other than copyright. The publisher will own the ISBN and all future negotiations for anything concerning that work will be through, or with the permission of, the publisher.

Okay, you have spent a year submitting to literary agents without results. If you have not completely lost interest in publishing your work, you are left with publishing it yourself, e.g. self-publishing or becoming an independent publisher. A self-published author has hired a publishing company to publish a book, surrendering all rights save copyright—this last is negotiable in some instances. An independent publisher has formed a small company and gone through the process from copyright to a finished book ready for the market. That author owns all rights to the book because often the author and the publishing company are one and the same. Books are produced and marketed by an independent publisher working closely with a large full service book production facility such as BookMasters, Ashland, OH, where everything is done in house.

Regardless of the method used to publish your work yourself, you will be responsible for promotion and marketing. In working with an organization such as BookMasters, you will already have a leg up as they handle some of the initial marketing through their own marketing department. Getting the word out before and after the publication date is vital to your sales success. You must have a website and/or a blog that calls attention to your book and ultimately leads a visitor to your order page. If you do not want to handle book sales from your garage, then your website order page will link your customers to your distributor or other points of sale that you have set up. In this way, someone else will take care of the myriad details of the warehousing/distribution of your work.

Solicit professional book reviewers. Do not send them a book until you have queried them first. Be the consummate professional insofar as your contacts with reviewers. Always include a cover letter with your book that includes a short synopsis and your expectations as the author. Reviews are important and they can restore your bruised and battered ego when you read what someone else has to say about your work. Their reviews look good on your website and provide potential customers for your next book a sales closer as they read your book cover’s ad copy.

I have found that conventional print and display advertising on websites is only minimally successful. The mission here is to get your name and that of your book out to as many sites on the Internet as possible. Hire professional people to do this for you, e.g. Theodocia McLean, promotionalservices@booksinsync.com/. Additionally, Amazon is one of the most effective and important book sales tools out there. When you have your book listed with them be sure that you also use their ‘Look Inside the Book’ program. Ditto for Google Book Search. Going through the submission process with Internet book promotion and sales sites is time consuming, but the rewards outweigh this expenditure.

Local booksellers such as Barnes and Noble and Borders do everything possible to arrange and facilitate book-signing events for local authors. So, be certain you contact the individual store’s book manager to set one up for you. They provide a display table and chairs, posters, and a newspaper announcement of the event, and it is all free. In addition, they will order a supply of your books to stock your book-signing. Not a bad deal, I think.

If you do not have letterhead stationery, design some, including the envelope. Remember, you are trying to sell a product, be professional in all of your contacts. Edit religiously, use spell check. Everything that you write is a reflection on you personally, so do it right the first time because the one chance is usually all you will get. And oh, good luck to you.

J. A. Hunsinger, Vinland Publishing, http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/
©2011 Jerry A. Hunsinger, All Rights Reserved