26 December 2015

Massive Viking Hoard Unearthed by Treasure Hunter Publicly Revealed for First Time

From Ancient Origins, this excerpt of their article on another Viking hoard of silver and silver coins found in Great Britain by a metal detectorist. This one is worth approximately $947,000.00; not a bad find. (Ed.)


Featured image: Credit: The British Museum

11 DECEMBER, 2015 - 00:54 MARK MILLER

Massive Viking Hoard Unearthed byTreasure Hunter Publicly Revealed for First Time
An impressive Viking and Saxon hoard of silver and gold riches that was discovered by an amateur treasure hunter in October is being publicly revealed for the first time at the British Museum. The treasure trove is believed to have been buried during ninth-century AD war and upheaval in southern England.

The Watlington Hoard, as it is known, consists of more than 200 pieces including chopped up gold, silver arm rings, silver ingots and coins minted by King Alfred the Great of Wessex and King Ceolwulf II of Mercia. The coins alone, 180 of them, are worth up to £2,500 (US$3,788) apiece, for an approximate total of £450,000 (US $947,000).

James Mather, a retired advertising manager, found the hoard while equipped with a metal detector on a farm near Watlington, and will get to share the value of it with the landowner.

Whoever the original owner of the hoard was, he probably buried it in the late 870s, when the Anglo-Saxons began to push the Vikings north of the Thames into East Anglia. Prior to 878, the Vikings had been increasing raids from Denmark. The Anglo Saxons began to re-establish their rule over southern England and won a decisive battle at Edington in 878. Experts have speculated that a Viking fleeing the Anglo Saxons after this battle buried it on his way north, on the ancient road from East Anglia to Wiltshire and Dorset.

A silver coin depicting Alfred the Great (public domain)

On one side of the coins is shown an emperor’s head, and on the other are Kings Alfred and Ceowulf II seated side by side. They became allies to defeat the Vikings, though their realms had been traditional enemies.

Later, Alfred annexed Mercia and called Ceowulf a fool and a Viking puppet.

The BBC reports that the British Museum’s curator of early medieval coins, Gareth Williams, said: “This is not just another big shiny hoard. They give a more complex political picture of a period which has been deliberately misrepresented by the victor.”

This time in English history is poorly understood, he said, and the coins give insight into the coalition of Alfred’s West Saxons and Ceowulf’s East Anglians. The alliance broke up acrimoniously, and Ceowulf disappeared from history except in a list of kings that says he ruled for five years and a document recording Alfred’s insults.

For more than 20 years, Mr. Mather’s hobby has been metal detecting. Last October he had spent a long day finding nothing important when he finally came across what he thought was a silver Viking ingot like one he had seen at the British Museum. He dug a hole and saw the big clump of coins. He filled in the hole and then called the local representative of the portable antiquities scheme to record the discovery. He told the BBC he went back to the field several times over the weekend to check on the find and make sure it was unmolested.

The next week David Williams, the finds official, excavated the earth and lifted a block of clay that held the hoard, placed it on an oven tray and took it to London in a suitcase.

A museum conservator, Pippa Pearce, said that some of the coins are so thin they can’t be handled by the edges.

The treasure has been reported, per British law. The British Museum and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford are in negotiations to purchase the hoard, and it is on display along with a 2010 find of more than 52,000 Roman coins found in jars at Frome, Somerset.

So far in 2015 113,784 portable antiquities have been reported, including 1,008 treasure discoveries.

Coins from the Frome hoard of more than 52,000 Roman coins are on display along with the Watlington hoard at the British Museum. (British Museum photo)

By: Mark Miller

Read more: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/massive-viking-hoard-unearthed-treasure-hunter-publicly-revealed-first-time-020653#ixzz3vS6PJ3i1

23 December 2015

Evidence of Viking Outpost Found in Canada

This article from Arqueología Medieval again calls attention to the work being done by Dr. Patricia Sutherland at the Tanfield Valley site on Baffin Island, Canadian Arctic.

Dr. Sutherland has struggled for years to gain acceptance by her colleagues for this tremendous addition to Norse archaeology in North America. This latest information may have done that for her. I certainly hope so, because as I have stated in other posts here, she certainly deserves recognition from her peers for her important work. (Ed.)

22/10/15 .- http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news

Evidence of Viking Outpost Found in Canada
Sharpeners may be smoking guns in quest for New World's second Viking site.

For the past 50 years—since the discovery of a thousand-year-old Viking way station in Newfoundland—archaeologists and amateur historians have combed North America's east coast searching for traces of Viking visitors. It has been a long, fruitless quest, littered with bizarre claims and embarrassing failures. But at a conference in Canada earlier this month, archaeologist Patricia Sutherland announced new evidence that points strongly to the discovery of the second Viking outpost ever discovered in the Americas.

(Read the new National Geographic magazine feature "Vikings and Native Americans: Face-to-Face.")

While digging in the ruins of a centuries-old building on Baffin Island (map), far above the Arctic Circle, a team led by Sutherland, adjunct professor of archaeology at Memorial University in Newfoundland and a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, found some very intriguing whetstones. Wear grooves in the blade-sharpening tools bear traces of copper alloys such as bronze—materials known to have been made by Viking metalsmiths but unknown among the Arctic's native inhabitants.

Taken together with her earlier discoveries, Sutherland's new findings further strengthen the case for a Viking camp on Baffin Island. "While her evidence was compelling before, I find it convincing now," said James Tuck, professor emeritus of archaeology, also at Memorial University.

Archaeologists have long known that Viking seafarers set sail for the New World around A.D. 1000. A popular Icelandic saga tells of the exploits of Leif Eriksson, a Viking chieftain from Greenland who sailed westward to seek his fortune. According to the saga, Eriksson stopped long enough on Baffin Island to walk the coast—named Helluland, an Old Norse word meaning "stone-slab land"—before heading south to a place he called Vinland.

In the 1960s two Norwegian researchers, Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad, discovered and excavated the Viking base camp at L'Anse aux Meadows (map) on the northern tip of Newfoundland—the first confirmed Viking outpost in the Americas. Dated to between 989 and 1020, the camp boasted three Viking halls, as well as an assortment of huts for weaving, ironworking, and ship repair.

(Related: "American Indian Sailed to Europe With Vikings?")

Viking Yarn

As reported in the November issue of National Geographic magazine, Sutherland first caught wind of another possible Viking way station in 1999, when she spotted two unusual pieces of cord that had been excavated from a Baffin Island site by an earlier archaeologist and stored at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec.

Sutherland noticed that the strands bore little resemblance to the animal sinew Arctic hunters twisted into cordage. The cords turned out to be expertly woven Viking yarn, identical in technique to yarn produced by Viking women living in Greenland in the 14th century.

The discovery prompted Sutherland to scour other museum collections for more Viking artifacts from Baffin Island and other sites. She found more pieces of Viking yarn and a small trove of previously overlooked Viking gear, from wooden tally sticks for recording trade transactions to dozens of Viking whetstones. (Also see "Viking Weapon Recycling Site Found in England.")

The artifacts came from four sites, ranging from northern Baffin Island to northern Labrador, a distance of a thousand miles (1,600 kilometers). Indigenous Arctic hunters known as the Dorset people had camped at each of the sites, raising the possibility that they had made friendly contact with the Vikings.

Intrigued, Sutherland decided to reopen excavations at the most promising site, a place known as Tanfield Valley on the southeast coast of Baffin Island. In the 1960s U.S. archaeologist Moreau Maxwell had excavated parts of a stone-and-sod building there, describing it as "very difficult to interpret." Sutherland suspected that Viking seafarers had built the structure.

Clues Etched in Bronze, Brass, and Iron

Since 2001 Sutherland's team has been exploring Tanfield Valley and carefully excavating surviving parts of the mysterious ruins. They have discovered a wide range of evidence pointing to the presence of Viking seafarers: pelt fragments from Old World rats; a whalebone shovel similar to those used by Viking settlers in Greenland to cut sod; large stones that appear to have been cut and shaped by someone familiar with European stone masonry; and more Viking yarn and whetstones. And the stone ruins bear a striking resemblance to some Viking buildings in Greenland.

Still, some Arctic researchers remained skeptical. Most of the radiocarbon dates obtained by earlier archaeologists had suggested that Tanfield Valley was inhabited long before Vikings arrived in the New World. But as Sutherland points out, the complex site shows evidence of several occupations, and one of the radiocarbon dates indicates that the valley was occupied in the 14th century, when Viking settlers were farming along the coast of nearby Greenland.

In search of other clues to help solve the mystery, Sutherland turned to the Geological Survey of Canada. Using a technique known as energy dispersive spectroscopy, the team examined the wear grooves on more than 20 whetstones from Tanfield Valley and other sites. Sutherland and her colleagues detected microscopic streaks of bronze, brass, and smelted iron—clear evidence of European metallurgy, which she presented October 7 at a meeting of the Council for Northeast Historical Archaeology in St. John's, Canada.

(Related: "Vikings' Barbaric Bad Rap Beginning to Fade.")

Norse-Native American Trade Network?

Sutherland speculates that parties of Viking seafarers travelled to the Canadian Arctic to search for valuable resources. In northern Europe at the time, medieval nobles prized walrus ivory, soft Arctic furs, and other northern luxuries—and Dorset hunters and trappers could readily stockpile such products. Helluland's waters teemed with walruses, and its coasts abounded in Arctic foxes and other small fur-bearing animals. To barter for such goods, Viking traders likely offered bits of iron and pieces of wood that could be carved into figurines and other goods, Sutherland says.

If Sutherland is correct, the lines of evidence she has uncovered may point to a previously unknown chapter in New World history in which Viking seafarers and Native American hunters were partners together in a transatlantic trade network. "I think things were a lot more complex in this part of the world than most people assumed," Sutherland said. James Tuck agreed. "It's pretty convincing that there was a much larger Norse presence in the Canadian Arctic than any of us thought."

21 December 2015

1,000 year old silver treasure hoard discovered in Denmark

This article proves once again that all you need to find Viking artifacts in Scandinavia is the time to look, tenacity, and a good metal detector. (Ed.)



Over 550 silver items have been discovered on the Danish island of Omø. The hoard is believed to date from around the reign of Sweyn Forkbeard (986–1014) and includes coins and pieces of jewellery.

Coins discovered on the Danish island of Omø – Photo: Tobias Bondesson / Museum Vestsjællandd
The discovery was made by Robert Hemming Poulsen, an amateur archaeologist. He was on the island working to lay fibre optic cables when a local farmer mentioned having found as a boy a twisted silver ring in his fields. Poulsen agreed to check out the field with his metal detecting equipment and soon discovered some coins and silver items.

Local authorities were called in, and on October 24-25 Poulsen returned to the site with three more metal detectorists to make a thorough search. During that weekend they found hundreds of more items, including rare coins dating back between the years 975-980, which were minted by King Harald Bluetooth. Other coins that were discovered come from further afield, including England, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic and even Arabic dirhams.

A coin from King Harald Bluetooth, about 975 to 980″. Photographed just as it came out of the earth. Photo: Tobias Bondesson / Museum Vestsjælland
Also found were small pieces of silver jewellery – parts of bracelets and rings. No evidence was found that a building once existed where the treasure was discovered, and it is believed that centuries of farming had probably disturbed the items.

The treasure is now on display at Museum Vestsjælland. Curator Hugo Hvid Sørensen explained to the Copenhagen Post that “A treasure like this is found once every 10-15 years. It contains many items and is extremely well kept because it has been buried in sandy earth.”

Robert Hemming Poulsen at the site of his discovery. Photo courtesy Museum Vestsjælland

18 December 2015

Ancient Vikings Settled Greenland for the Ivory

This interesting article was published in the left-wing environmental periodical, Hakai Magazine. Like most such articles, it takes things out of context rather than reporting events in chronological order – as they happened, if you will.

The Norse knew that Greenland existed when they settled it from Iceland in the 9th century. Eirik the Red and his sons gave it the once over the year before settlement, but their knowledge of the flora and fauna must have been cursory at best. The particulars, such as abundant walrus, must have come later.

Thomas McGovern, one of Arctic archaeology's stalwarts, surmises that the chief reason for the Greenland settlement's existence was walrus ivory.

He is wrong about that, but being an archaeologist he must posit about something to maintain his grants and employment. Finding fault with past opinion seems in vogue for the discipline, giving contemporary archaeologists almost unlimited fodder with which to disagree, or posit.

As I stated previously, Erik the Red founded the Norse Greenland settlements because he knew of the island's existence beforehand. He had been banished from Iceland for murder.So he gathered up a following of kinsmen and other like-minded folks and launched a settlement expedition of 25-ships. These people populated the two known Greenland Norse settlements because they sought a new home, free of the strife of Iceland at the time, with a chance to live on their own land, something unavailable on Iceland or the homeland for most.

Pastoral farms were established for their livestock. Greenland is not conducive to the growing of any cereal crops because of the short growing season, except perhaps barley in small amounts, so their agricultural focus would have been their livestock. These people and their descendants lived on Greenland for almost 500-years. During those centuries vast herds of walrus were discovered in the far north of Greenland itself, and across the Greenland Sea on present day Baffin and Ellesmere Islands. The men capitalized on this resource to feed Iceland’s and the homeland’s thirst for ivory, not to mention the hides and meat that were also much sought after by all peoples in the northern climes. The finest rope obtainable at the time was made of twisted walrus hide strips.

So, the initial reason for settlement was not walrus ivory, it was primarily livestock farming. The ivory came along subsequent to the establishment of the farms.

But, like everything that happened centuries ago, nobody, including Dr. Thomas McGovern really knows what motivated the Norse to do anything, anywhere. That fact does not stop them from giving we, the unwashed masses, their opinion. We all do that, huh? The article is interesting, but the findings presented are pure conjecture, nothing more.(Ed.)


New archaeological research hints at a new reason for Vikings’ Greenland occupation.

Published July 28, 2015

After Erik the Red killed his enemies in Iceland, he found himself banished and sailing westward. Around 985 AD, Erik settled his family on an unexplored island, and, in what is widely regarded as the first act of real estate branding, named the place “Greenland,” hoping to attract other Vikings with the implicit promise of rich farmland. But as archaeologists are now learning, Erik may have been better off naming the place “Walrusland.”

Scholars have long thought that Erik’s branding deception worked, and that Vikings flocked to Greenland to set up farms—even though the growing season is short and raising livestock difficult. Archaeologist Thomas McGovern and colleagues, however, are testing a new idea: that Vikings settled Greenland to provide European markets with luxury trade goods such as furs, eiderdown, hides, and walrus tusk ivory.

As new research suggests, it does appear that walrus hunting, not farming, was the main source of prosperity for many of the Vikings—an estimated 3,000 at peak population—who chose to eke out a living on the farthest fringe of European culture.

A replica Viking casket made of gilded bronze and ivory. Photo by Werner Forman/Corbis
Throughout the first millennium AD, European economics went through an important change as new trade networks across Europe and Asia opened markets for goods of all kinds. And in the first few centuries after Erik the Red’s westward voyage, the number of ivory artifacts in medieval Europe blossomed.

The Middle Age ivory trade was incredibly lucrative, but it was not easy money. One historical source describes a 15-day row in a six-oared boat from the nearest Viking settlement to the walrus colonies in Disko Bay, on Greenland’s west coast. Even in summer, the men would have risked hypothermia. With the hunt complete, the hunters would reverse the journey, now with up to 160 severed walrus heads piled in the boat. (Tusk extraction, it seems, was easier once the head had rotted for a few weeks.)

Still, the risks had a sizable reward. A document from 1327 AD, analyzed by Christian Keller of Oslo University, showed that a load of walrus ivory equivalent to 520 tusks was enough to pay six years’ worth of Greenland’s taxes to their ruler, the king of Norway. That much walrus ivory had the same value as 780 cows or 60 tonnes of fish.

During the Viking ivory trade’s boom years, Europe’s economy was based on luxury goods, with elites and nobles trading high-prestige gifts, says McGovern. But then, in the High Medieval period (about 1200 to 1400 AD), things gradually changed. The European economy transitioned from one based around luxury goods to something more akin to a modern economy, where bulk goods like wool and fish are sold for profit.

“The Greenlanders were left stuck in the old economy, they were left producing for the prestige goods market,” says McGovern. As European markets for bulk goods expanded and fashions moved away from ivory decorations, the incentive to visit Greenland may have disappeared.

The remains of a Viking settlement in Greenland. Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/Corbis
This was borne out in the 1300s when the number of Greenland ivory artifacts in Europe declined. Adding to ivory’s fall from fashion, in the mid-1300s Greenland’s economic connection to Europe was damaged when Norway was ravaged by the Black Death, leaving few people able to make the long voyage.

By around 1350 AD, the settlement closest to Disko Bay was abandoned. By the mid-1400s, Europeans deserted the rest of Greenland as well. Despite Erik the Red’s deceptions, Greenland was never very good for farming. But with European economics changing around them, so too went its appeal for Greenland’s Viking walrus hunters.

12 December 2015

Viking-Era Ring Unearthed in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland contines to be a treasure trove of medieval Viking artifacts, as evidenced by this Viking arm ring found in a farm field by a man removing rocks. (Ed.)

SEPTEMBER 12, 2013 By Barbara Maranzani

David Taylor holds the 10th century Viking arm ring he discovered last year.

This week, a court in Northern Ireland announced its ruling that the 2012 discovery of a metal bracelet was in fact a rare artifact--a Viking arm ring from the 10th century.
The artifact was discovered in April 2012 while David Taylor and his brother-in-law Andrew Coulter were removing stones from a field on Coulter’s farm in the village of Kircubbin in Northern Ireland’s Country Down. After spotting the dirt-encrusted object lying on one of the rocks, Taylor pocketed it, mistakenly thinking it might be a piece of machinery of some value.

His wife, however, wasn’t convinced and suggested he simply throw it in the garbage. Instead, Taylor contacted a local museum, which informed that he hadn’t found a piece of machinery, but something much more significant.

For the Vikings, arm rings such as the one discovered by Dave Taylor were not merely ornamental. They were often used to cement bonds of loyalty between a lord and his warriors in a society where men lived and died by their honor. They were often bestowed upon young adult males to symbolize their coming of age. In addition, some groups used the rings—which were made of precious metals—as a form of, easily transportable (and protectable) currency, in a time before coins or paper money.

Earlier this year, an inquest was convened in Belfast Coroners Court, which holds jurisdiction over the discovery under the United Kingdom’s antiquity laws. At the inquest, experts testified that the ring was 90 percent silver (but also included traces of copper and gold) and likely dated to between 950 and 1100 A.D. They also told the court that the arm ring didn’t originate in Ireland but in Scotland, most likely in the Orkney Islands or Shetland, which were under Viking control at that time.

Almost as rare as the ring itself is the fact that it was the only Viking artifact discovered at the Kircubbin site. Items such as these have almost always been found as part of a larger pile of treasures, such as a 1998 find of Viking jewelry and silver pieces valued at more than $1 million or the discovery of the Silverdale Hoard in 2011, a collection of over 200 pieces believed to be one of the largest Viking treasure troves ever found in the United Kingdom. That coupled with its likely Scottish origins led experts to speculate that the ring may have passed from Scottish or  

Viking control to Irish hands through trade, theft or as a spoil of war. The location of Andrew Coulter’s farm near the remains of a medieval church provided additional clues about the ring’s possible history. In an era with little in the way of home protection technology, it was common practice to bury valuables near sacred, and presumably secure, lands such as those owned by churches.

The ring has been sent to the UK’s Treasure Valuation Committee, comprised of antiquity experts from the British Museum and elsewhere, for further study. In addition to learning more about the ring’s history, the committee hopes to determine its monetary value. If Taylor chooses to sell the ring, (with Northern Ireland’s Ulster Museum a likely destination) he will be legally required to split any proceeds with his brother-in-law, on whose land it was discovered.