30 January 2016

Berserk for berserkir: Introducing Combat Trauma to the
 Compendium of Theories on the Norse Berserker

From Medievalists.net comes this article, an excerpt of a Masters Thesis from the U. of Iceland on the Norse Berserker, a Viking warrior without peer for his ferocity.

The chieftain of the Norse Greenland settlers, Halfdan Ingolfsson, prominently featured in my Axe of Iron series of historical fiction books is known as a berserker.

Norse Berserker, The Viking, Howard La Fay, National Geographic Society, 1972
For those with an interest in this topic of the Norse Berserker I encourage you to click the link at the end of this excerpt to read the full paper on the site of the University of Iceland. It is interesting, well done, and contains material never before seen on the subject. (Ed.)



Berserk for berserkir: Introducing Combat Trauma to the 
Compendium of Theories on the Norse Berserker
By Lily Florence Lowell Geraty
Master’s Thesis, University of Iceland: Háskóli Íslands, 2015

Photo by Jakub T. Jankiewicz / Flickr
Abstract: This thesis attempts to provide a brief overview of major pieces of the English-language scholarship concerning the Norse berserker. It tries to demonstrate consistent flaws in scholarly treatment and the hollow nature of many major theories and attitudes. In doing so, I hope to demonstrate the importance of brining in outside scholarship on the berserker, specifically the work of Jonathan Shay, who’s book Achilles in Vietnam, demonstrated a strong continuity of experience between Achilles in Homer’s Iliad, and the experiences of American soldiers in the Vietnam War. I believe his work can be equally applied to the Norse berserker, and hope to introduce Shay into the conversation.

Introduction: This paper will present a general overview of the existing English-language scholarship surrounding an old Scandinavian puzzle, a the subject of debate for many many years: the berserker. Berserkers appear all over the place in the medieval Scandinavian literature, and are best recognized as the animalistic warriors who would fly into great, murderous rages. Berserkers have been a subject of scholarly discussion for centuries and a few stable lines of thinking have developed and remained fairly well in play, for instance: the idea that the berserker was somehow responding to the effects of an ingested substance, a hallucinogenic mushroom in particular; the idea that they were ritualistic or cultic figures, involved in some sort of warrior band or cult; the change and implementation of the berserker in the sagas as an antagonistic figure; and, of course, a debate over exactly what “berserk” (berserkr/-ir in Old Icelandic) meant in the first place.

In presenting some of the basic English scholarship surrounding this figure, I hope to demonstrate the inadequacy of these previous theories to explain the berserker as a whole, including the appearance of the berserker in other cultures, to make room for another theory on the berserker which has arisen outside the field of Scandinavian studies: combat trauma and battle madness. It is outside the scope of the current project to provide anything more than a survey of the previous scholarly literature and a light introduction to the idea of combat trauma. The berserker is a figure which exists at the crossroads of many complicated and often conflicting ideas, and straying off the path here, no matter how well-intended, will get one very off-track very quickly, and if there were any easy answers on the berserker, we would not be here now. I will also keep primary source citations to a minimum: the sheer number of primary source examples makes any kind of comprehensive inclusion a massive project, and the main focus here is really the theories themselves.

Click here to read this thesis from the University of Iceland

23 January 2016

What five recent archaeological sites reveal about the Viking period

Here are excerpts of five archaeological finds of Viking artifacts including the remains of two burial ships found in Salme, Estonia, that dates from the 8th century.

I have visited the Viking Ship Museum, outside of Roskilde, Denmark and it is well worth the trip. Besides the museum, you can see all the boats and ships built by the shipyard, using old Norse tools and methods - truly fascinating. (Ed.)


Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde, Denmark
What five recent archaeological sites reveal about the Viking period
The famous marauders, explorers, traders, and colonists who transformed northern Europe between AD 750 and 1100 continue to hold our fascination. The Vikings are the subject of major new museum exhibitions now circulating in Europe and a popular dramatic television series airing on The History Channel.

Recent years have revealed many spectacular new finds from the Viking age that expand our understanding of their lives and times. Some of these finds — from England and Estonia, reveal the warrior/raider side of Viking life and the dangers therein. Discoveries from Denmark document the extraordinary quality of their ships and shed light on the nature of political and military organization in the Viking period.

Ridgeway, England. The English did not warmly welcome their Viking visitors. Conflict appears to have been common. There is dramatic evidence for this at several places in southern England, especially at a site called Ridgeway near Weymouth, not far from Dorset. During highway construction in 2009, a mass grave was found containing 54 headless human skeletons and a pile of 51 detached skulls that had been cast into an old quarry from Roman times. The grave is dated to around AD 1000. The bodies were those of young men, most less than 30 years of age, who were executed following a violent encounter. Isotopic evidence indicates these men were not natives and may well have come from Scandinavia. The evidence is consistent with a Viking raiding party—50-some men might constitute the crew of a Viking longship with 25 pairs of oars. Perhaps this was a group of raiders who encountered a superior force. They must have been captured, taken to the old quarry, and slaughtered.

Salme, Estonia. Two buried Viking Age ships were uncovered at Salme, Estonia, between 2008 and 2012. Dated to ca. AD 750, these are the earliest known Viking ships to have crossed the Baltic and the earliest examples of mass ship burials. Buried with the two ships were the skeletal remains of 41 individuals, a variety of weapons and tools, and the bones of a number of animals. The materials appear to document the hasty burial of the two ships and the members of their crews who died violently. The grave-goods – weapons and other objects – were of Scandinavian design, largely unknown in Estonia. Isotopic ratios of strontium and oxygen in the tooth enamel of the deceased, in conjunction with the exotic artifacts, point to the Stockholm region of Sweden as a likely homeland.

Jelling, Denmark. Jelling is a sleepy village in the center of the Jutland peninsula with a well-deserved UNESCO World Heritage rating. A series of Viking Age monuments were placed there more than a thousand years ago including rune stones, two huge burial mounds, the largest-known stone ship setting, and an old church. A three-sided rune stone recounts how King Harald Bluetooth united the kingdom of Denmark, the first mention of the name of the modern nation. Harald also built two large burial mounds at Jelling for his parents. The North Mound sits at the center of the ship-shaped stone setting. The present stone church was originally built around AD 1100 and was likely the first such church in Jutland. There are also the foundations of wooden buildings beneath the stone church, two of which were probably wooden stave churches.

Interest in the Viking monuments has been ongoing for more than 400 years, but the surprises keep coming. Excavations since 2007 revealed an entirely new view, including a massive palisade enclosing a large area around the mounds. The entire palisade would have been ca. 1,440 m (4,800′) in length and enclosed some 12.5 ha (30 acres). The symmetry of the constructions is remarkable.
Jelling Runestones
Image credit:Jelling gr kl Stein by Casiopeia. CC BY-SA 2.0 de via Wikimedia Commons.
The northern burial mound sits directly in the center of this huge timber palisade. The great stone ship setting runs from one end of the palisade to the other. The South Mound lies near the southern side of the palisade, and the largest rune stone at Jelling is exactly halfway between the two mounds. A series of three almost identical buildings were found around the northeast corner of the palisade.
These houses are massive wooden halls with heavy walls of vertical timber and several interior divisions. These large buildings or halls were likely part of a magnate estate at Jelling. Thus this sleepy village was once the royal manor of Viking Denmark.

Vallø Borgring, Denmark. There were four known, almost identical Viking ring fortresses in Denmark before the summer of 2012, including the namesake tourist destination at Trelleborg on the island of Zealand. All built around AD 980, each of these fortresses was about a day’s march apart, between 30 and 40 km. But Danish archaeologists noticed there was a gap on the east coast of Zealand. Careful investigations, laser mapping of the landscape, and some trial trenches at a place near the modern town of Køge, south of Copenhagen, exposed evidence for a circular earthwork 145 m (500’) in diameter, the same size as some of the other known fortresses. In Viking times, this fort — known as Vallø Borgring — was strategically located at the intersection of the old road and a small navigable river. There may well be more Viking Age ring forts to be discovered, further documenting the might and sway of the Viking kingdom.

Roskilde, Denmark. The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, holds the salvaged and reconstructed remains of five ships deliberately scuttled around AD 1070 to block the shipping channel and protect the Viking town. This Museum is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Denmark and has grown substantially over the years. Expansion to a new artificial island was planned and excavation of a channel to create this island began in 1997. Nine new ships were discovered during the digging and eventually removed. One of the ships, the Roskilde 6, is incomplete but estimated to have been 32 m (100′) in length, the longest known Viking warship.
A ship of this size must have been the property of a king or noble. Both the timber and craftsmanship were of the finest quality. The ship would have had 78 rowing positions and a crew of 100 men. The mast would have held a single square sail of perhaps 200 m2 (2,150 ft2). The ship was built around AD 1025 and was finally put on exhibit in 2014 after years of conservation and analysis.

Schematic drawing of the longship type
These new discoveries prod the imagination and inspire archaeologists, historians, and the general public to learn more about this dynamic period in Scandinavia. The end of the Viking period was ultimately brought about by the arrival of Christianity after AD 1000, leading to the onset of the Middle Ages and long centuries of oppression by the church and state. Some in Scandinavia today would prefer to see a return to the old ways; the religious beliefs of the Vikings, as described in various sagas and myths, have been adopted by some modern individuals and groups. The Vikings are gone but certainly not forgotten!

 Douglas Price is Weinstein Professor of European Archaeology Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and honorary Professor in the Department of Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Aarhus, Denmark..

20 January 2016

The Trial of Eirik the Red

I wrote this skit by request for a Viking reenactment group in Colorado, in the summer of 2010. It was well-received at the time, and others have asked permission since to feature it for the use of students, which I happily granted. This is my first and only attempt at play writing; you may also find it posted in its original form under Articles on the Vinland Publishing web site.

The Trial of Eirik the Red  is a copyrighted work of fiction, a product of my imagination. It is loosely based on the Norse sagas, much of the content of which is questionable given that they were written hundreds of years after the events they portray by authors making note of oral history passed down through the generations. 

But, the sagas, like this skit - I hope - are entertaining, and provide a glimpse of lives led so long ago.  

If you know about the banishment of Eirik Thorvaldsson, or Eirik the Red as he is known in contemporary writings, from Iceland in approximately 985AD, you might find my fictional tale of that historic event interesting as well as informative. 

Details of the chain of events that set the stage for the Norse discovery of North America 500-years before Columbus lived, follow the skit. They are intended to be read at the end of the skit to provide the reader with a sense of continuity and closure to this saga. (Ed.)


Artists depiction of the ancient site of the Law Speaker, Thingvellir, Iceland
The Trial of Eirik the Red

Southern Iceland
Spring 985 AD

NARRATOR: (calm, strong voice throughout) I will tell you a Viking tale of murder, revenge, and adventure that began on Iceland in about 985. Later, the story moves to Greenland, and finally to Vinland, the land that would become North America.

During those times arguments between men frequently led to violence because the laws of the land were not clearly defined. Thirty-six jarls, or chieftains, ruled the four major districts of Iceland. When trouble came the district high chieftain called a thing, a lawsuit or assembly of freemen to decide the fate of a lawbreaker. Attended by minor chieftains acting as a council, the high chieftain assumed the position of the law speaker--judge and jury--during the thing and his verdicts were final.

And so it was on Iceland with a man called Eirik Thorvaldsson, who later became known as Eirik the Red. A vile tempered man, Eirik stood accused of killing two men in a fit of rage. One, Filth-Eyjolf, a kinsman of the owner of a neighboring farm, killed two of Eirik’s slaves for causing a rock slide that destroyed a sheep shed. A kinsman of Filth-Eyjolf, Hrafen the Dueler, sought revenge for the killing and Eirik killed him, too.

In a separate matter that led to killings, Eirik loaned a set of his bed boards to a neighbor, Thorgest. Eirik later asked for the return of his boards and Thorgest refused. Fighting resulted from this theft.

There were two main factions, those men supporting Eirik the Red and those men supporting Thorgest. The fighting turned into a blood feud, spreading over the district, finally reaching the point of open warfare when Eirik and his men killed two of Thorgest’s sons and several of his followers.

As the feud spread, the district chieftain intervened and called for a thing at Thorsnes, in the south of Iceland, to settle the matter. The word went out over the district that the fighting was to stop and all landowning freemen were expected to attend.
NARRATOR: The people gathered in the amphitheater of the Thorsnes Thing, among the rocks and grasses along the base of a sheer granite cliff overlooking the sea. A grass-covered knoll dominated one end and scattered birch trees dotted the landscape. A splash of color from the woolen clothing of the people gathered around the base of the knoll brightened the earth tones of the scenery and lent a festive air as the people stood in groups or milled around the wood fires to stay warm. The buzz of many conversations filled the air.

A chill onshore wind, moist with spray from the breakers that crashed onto the rocky shoreline, ruffled the tall grass and the leaves of the birch trees. Low grey clouds obscured the sky and the summit of the volcano Hekla, in the near distance. The law speaker and his council of minor chieftains sat atop the knoll. His eyes played over his charges as the last of the latecomers joined friends and kinsmen.

Prominently arrayed nearby, Eirik the Red, his wife, three sons, daughter, kinsmen, and friends, stood apart from the others. The immediate family had not been involved in the feud, but was present in a support role. Eirik presented a commanding figure, hands fisted on his hips; his red beard blew in the wind as he glared belligerently at his enemies standing nearby.

The law speaker got to his feet. Silence fell over the people as all waited for their high chieftain to speak. He beckoned those having business at the thing to draw near.

Eirik, the accused, and Geirstein and Odd of Jorvi, the first of the accusers, stepped forward.
The law speaker looked at Eirik for a moment before he turned his attention to the other two men.

LAW SPEAKER: (firm voice) “Tell me your part in this matter.”

ACCUSERS: (angry, loud voices) “Eirik killed our kinsmen, Filth-Eyjolf and Hrafen the Dueler at Leikskalar,” Odd said.
“We demand to settle our differences by the einvigi, a duel to the death, each of us in turn.” Geirstein said.

NARRATOR: Eirik made to bluster at them until stopped by the raised hand of the law speaker. The law speaker glanced at the crowd and then fastened his attention on the two accusers.

LAW SPEAKER: (forceful) “There will be no einvigi. A duel to the death will not solve this matter. Now, who witnessed these killings?”

WITNESSES: (shouted from the crowd) “I saw Eirik kill Eyjolf,” a man said. “Aye, I saw him kill Eyjolf without warning and then he had a fight with Hrafen the Dueler and killed him, too,” another man added.

NARRATOR: The law speaker motioned them forward.

LAW SPEAKER: (calm, questioning tone) “Why did Eirik kill, Eyjolf? Tell me what happened to make him kill him.”

WITNESSES: (angry, voice raised) “Eirik’s two thralls caused a rock slide that smashed a sheep shed. Eyjolf got mad and killed both of them. When Eirik heard about it he flew into a rage. He and Eyjolf argued and Eirik killed him.”

NARRATOR: Over the next hour or so, the law speaker also heard from Thorgest and two of his witnesses on the other matter before the thing. Thorgest admitted his part in starting the feud by stealing Eirik’s bed boards. But, he would never forgive Eirik for killing his sons and kinsmen. His anger boiled over, forcing the law speaker to silence him. It seemed the problems were without solution. A pattern of violence was emerging that all pointed in one direction. Things were not going well for Eirik.

LAW SPEAKER: (questioning tone) “Are there other witnesses for the accusers?”

NARRATOR: The law speaker looked out over the silent assembly. When nobody answered his eyes came to rest on Eirik.

LAW SPEAKER: (forceful) “What say you?”

EIRIK: (angry, voice raised) “Aye, I killed both of them, everybody knows that.” Eirik sweeps a hand out over the onlookers. “Eyjolf killed my thralls and I killed him for that. It is my right. He deprived me of my property. Hrafen the Dueler attacked me and I defended myself, killing him in the process. Thorgest is a common thief and I attacked him and his men for stealing from me. I make no apology for any of this. It is my business and mine alone.”

NARRATOR: Eirik glared at his accusers and their witnesses. The law speaker’s expression did not change during Eirik’s final outburst; he looked at him silently for a heartbeat.

LAW SPEAKER: (very forceful tone) “I will decide what is to be done, according to our laws and customs. You, Eirik Thorvaldsson will heed my words.”

NARRATOR: The law speaker’s commanding voice boomed out over the crowd. Eirik gritted his teeth, his famous temper barely held in check as he glared at the law speaker. Eirik heaved a great sigh, knowing full well that he could not afford to anger his chieftain.

LAW SPEAKER: (loud, for all to hear) “Who speaks for Eirik?”

NARRATOR: The law speaker’s eyes swept the crowd.

WITNESSES: (shouted from crowd) “We do!”

NARRATOR: Thorbjorn and a man called Styr stepped forward from the crowd. The law speaker beckoned for them to speak.

WITNESSES: (loud clear voices) “Eirik defended himself when attacked by Thorgest and his followers,” Thorbjorn said. “Aye, we fought with him,” Styr added.

LAW SPEAKER: (questioning tone) “Who started the argument that led to this fighting?”

NARRATOR: The law speaker’s eyes bored into the eyes of the two witnesses.
Both men seemed uncomfortable, each glancing at Eirik for support.

EIRIK: (angrily shouting) “I started the argument. Thorgest stole my property. I wanted him to return my bed boards. He refused.”

NARRATOR: The law speaker nodded thoughtfully, motioning for the two witnesses to continue.

EIRIK: (angry, loud, threatening) “Enough of this; I have not denied the killings. Make your decision.”

NARRATOR: Eirik waved his arms angrily, shouting at the law speaker and glaring defiantly at his accusers and their witnesses. Shouts and angry gestures of defiance swept through the crowd, with each faction loudly voicing their opinions. The order of the Thing fell apart, beginning a slide into chaos.

LAW SPEAKER: (loud, very forceful) “Hold! Quiet all of you!”

NARRATOR: The law speaker shouted above the din, both hands over his head in an attempt to restore order. Gradually the people became silent, their frustration and anger satisfied for the moment. Everybody was on their feet, naturally split into the feuding factions. The law speaker’s hold over his people was the only thing preventing bloodshed. He glanced at Eirik occasionally as he strode back and forth atop the mound, his mind grappling with what he knew he must do. Seeming to come to a decision, he stopped suddenly and gave his full attention to Eirik the Red.

LAW SPEAKER: (forceful) “Eirik Thorvaldsson, you stand accused of killings and outlawry.”

NARRATOR: Again, the deep voice of the law speaker boomed out over the crowd. A kind of animal growl rose from many of the people. The law speaker’s raised hand restored order after a moment. As all fell silent, waiting for the verdict and sentence to be passed down, Leif Eiriksson, the oldest of Eirik’s offspring stepped closer to his mother Thjodhild, and draped an arm over her shoulders protectively. Tears wet her cheeks.

LAW SPEAKER: (loud, forceful) “Eirik, I find you guilty of all charges. You are banished from all of Iceland for three years. No man will interfere while you settle your affairs. Be gone from this island before the new moon or you will be hunted down and killed.”

NARRATOR: Pandemonium ruled for a time, while the law speaker and his council departed the scene. Eventually, the people departed for their scattered farms. Eirik, his family, kinsmen, and followers departed for his farm at Eiriksstadir, for a strategy meeting. At this meeting, it was decided to explore and settle the unknown land sighted by Gunnbjorn Ulfsson as he was storm driven far off course to the northwest of Iceland. Thorvald, Thorstein, and Freydis, Eirik’s offspring, were to remain with their mother on Iceland to find people to join the expedition. Eirik, his son Leif, and a full crew of men, sailed from Iceland on the ebb tide the following morning. They found the ice covered island, later to be known as Greenland, spending the remainder of that first year exploring the rugged coastline and building shelters to stay the winter.

Settlement of Greenland

NARRATOR: (calm, strong voice throughout) The following year, during the summer of 986, Eirik, his son Leif Eiriksson, and other men of his crew, returned to Iceland for their families. Upon his return, Eirik found that his other two sons and daughter had gathered 500-people, 25-ships, and supplies for the first year of settlement. It is said that Eirik called the island Greenland to entice people to follow him there. That is not certain, nor is it known if he actually gave the island its name. Fourteen of the original complement of 25-ships made it to Greenland, the fate of the other 11-ships is unknown, but given the stormy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, they probably rest on the seabed somewhere between Iceland and Greenland.

Greenland is the largest island on Earth and the only portion of the island not covered with an ice sheet, is along the southwestern coast. During the first year, the people settled there on small farms around the head of a long fjord that came to be known as Eiriksfjord. Eirik and his family claimed the best land at the head of the fjord and he called his farm Brattahlid. In the beginning, green grass for livestock forage was abundant. There were even a few thin stands of stunted birch trees and willow bushes until all had been eaten to the ground by the settler’s livestock. Trade with Iceland and Norway commenced and life was good.

In later years, several people moved 400-miles north to another likely fjord that became known as Lysufjord. Eventually, as many as 4000-Viking settlers may have lived on Greenland for some 400-years and then, sometime between the 14th and 15th centuries, all disappeared, never to be seen again.

Sighting of North America

NARRATOR: During that first summer of the Greenland settlements, a seafarer and trader named Bjarni Herjulfsson arrived on Iceland, from Norway, to find that his father, Herjulf had sailed to Greenland with Eirik the Red and his followers. Bjarni immediately put back to sea and set sail for the island. A violent storm blew him far off course and he missed Greenland; however, he sighted unknown land further to the west—North America. Realizing his mistake, Bjarni reversed course and finally found Greenland, reuniting with his father.

Discovery of America

NARRATOR: Leif Eiriksson later became interested in Bjarni’s tale of unknown land to the west of Greenland, bought Bjarni’s ship, and with his original crew, sailed into the western ocean to have a look. On the voyage he landed on two shores, one he called Helluland (flat stone land) and the other he called Markland (forestland). Today we call them Baffin Island and Labrador respectively. Leif and his crew then sailed further south, finally landing on the northeastern tip of another island. We call this island Newfoundland. What Leif and his men called the island we may never know, but the saga writers two centuries later referred to it as Vinland

Leif built a settlement on Newfoundland, consisting of eight buildings, that he called Leifsbudir (Leif’s Booths). This settlement was used for several years for some unknown purpose.
In 1962, the Norwegian explorer, Helge Ingstad and his wife, Anne-Stine Ingstad, an archaeologist, found Leifsbudir and spent the next several years excavating the site. Although the sagas tell us that there are two other settlements in Vinland, Hop and Straumfjord, which have not been found, we have positive identification of Leifsbudir.
So, sometime between 997 and 1002--nobody is certain of the year--Leif Eiriksson, the eldest son of Eirik the Red, became the first man of European descent to land on the North American continent, almost 500-years before Christopher Columbus was born.

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

16 January 2016

BBC Articles on Viking Finds

The following link reveals several interesting articles published by BBC over the years on medieval Viking finds in the UK. (Ed.)


BBC Articles on Viking Finds

From the remains of five Viking ships in Denmark to the excavation of an ancient rubbish dump in Westray, uncover the finds that have revealed an enormous amount about Viking life.

Grave of a Viking warrior

The reconstructed bust of the Viking warrior from the grave above.

09 January 2016

Ruthless Perception of Vikings Returns as Evidence of the Use of Slaves During the Viking Age Comes into Focus Yet Again

I continue to be amazed that seemingly intelligent people, archaeologists as well as the author of this interesting article published in Ancient Origins, are surprised that the medieval Vikings did not ascribe to contemporary mores, specifically as regards the keeping of slaves. Attaching the trappings of modern feel good society to a medieval people such as the Norse is absurd. Why do the work yourself when the spoils of war, prisoners of all stripes, will do all the hard work or be killed? Works for me.

The medieval Vikings were a savage people that existed during a savage period of history. It’s called the Dark Ages for a reason, my learned friends – I guess you are learned. It was a period of approximately 800-years of continuous warfare. That’s one of the reasons why it is referred to as the Dark Ages.

As a student of history you should know that the Dark Ages cover the period from the end of the Roman occupation of the English Isles – about 410AD - to approximately the early portion of the 13th century, or about 1215AD, when the Magna Carta came into being. The Viking Age occurred during this period of upheaval. Do they still teach that in Marxist universities? Well, no matter, I digress, the topic is slavery. 

Slavery is still practiced today in many areas of the world. A big surprise for all you limp wristed do-gooders out there, I imagine, but it is a fact of life. Slavery has always been a part of man's history.

Slaves are useful and have been utilized by all the conquerors in all of the recorded history of mankind, clear back to the Sumeria of 5000-years ago. And, that is only the recorded portion of man's history that we know anything about. There were no doubt lots of slaves before man could write down his history. It's a natural process for the utilization of the human spoils of war.

Another case in point: that is also why 13% of the current US population are Negroes. Our ancestors bought their ancestors from Arab slave traders, ancestors of some of the same people that buy and sell slaves today. Then our ancestors shipped their newly acquired property over here as slaves, to do the work that our ancestors did not want to do. Slavery, you see.

So, that’s why the medieval Vikings used all their prisoners of war as slaves. Why not, they were their property, their chattels by right of conquest. Not to mention the intrinsic value they had, as demonstrated by the picture below. (Ed.)

A Viking offers a slave girl to a Persian merchant. Source: Tom Lovell/National Geographic 
Ruthless Perception of Vikings Returns as Evidence of the Use of Slaves During the Viking Age Comes into FocusYet Again

Over the last few years the perception of Vikings has been ever sliding on the scale from less to more brutish. Things are getting closer to the “ruthless” end of the scale yet again, as researchers are once more examining evidence that slavery was an essential element to life during the Viking age.

“This was a slave economy. [Viking Age] slavery has received hardly any attention in the past 30 years, but now we have opportunities using archaeological tools to change this.” Neil Price, an archaeologist at Sweden’s Uppsala University, told National Geographic.

Price has a research interest in slavery in the Viking Age economy, and recently discussed the topic at a meeting of archaeologists who share his interest in slavery and colonization. Another researcher who has taken an interest in this theme is David Wyatt.

Wyatt, of Cardiff University, spoke of the Viking use of slaves in a lecture during a series of seminars entitled The Dark Ages’ Dirty Secret? Medieval slavery from the British Isles to the Eurasian steppes and the Mediterranean world. These seminars were held in Oxford from April-June this year. Wyatt’s seminar provided a great deal of evidence of the Vikings use of slavery from historical sources, such as Sagas.

However, the idea of thralls (the word for slave in Old Norse) being a part of the Viking lifestyle is not completely new information to archaeologists. As Ancient Origins reported in 2013: “a number of Viking graves have included the remains of slaves as “grave goods.””

The 2013 burial discovered in Flakstad, Norway, contained several bodies of decapitated thralls buried with their masters. The identity of the decapitated individuals as slaves was made by an analysis of the diets of the dead. The individuals without their heads had simpler diets of seafood, and were named as the thralls of those who were buried with their heads intact and diets that contained milk and beef.
Slaves and thralls in the Viking Age.’ (National Museum of Denmark)
Although the topic remains controversial, in 2013, Elise Naumann, an archaeologist at the University of Oslo in Norway, explained that the thralls could have been sacrificed to be placed in the graves of their masters: "We propose that the people buried in double and triple burials might have come from very different strata of society, and that slaves could have been offered as grave gifts in these burials." The sacrifice of thralls as “grave goods” would further demonstrate their importance to the lives and afterlives of Norsemen.

Researchers have not only shown interest in the role of thralls as sacrificial victims, but also the way that they were obtained by the Vikings. Price says that a desire to increase the number of thralls “was a very significant motivator in raiding.”

As the National Museum of Denmark notes: slaves were primarily acquired on Viking expeditions to Eastern Europe and the British Isles. However, this was not the only source for thralls, as “they could also obtain Viking slaves at home, as crimes like murder and thievery were punished with slavery.”

One of the main reasons suggested for the use of thralls by the Vikings was the need for a larger workforce The principal product could have been textile work (especially wool for ship sails). Nevertheless, slave trading was also an important aspect to the Viking economy, and it has been argued that the term slave arose from the heavy targeting of Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe by the Vikings (and other European slave traders.) Major slave trading centers for the Vikings have been identified at Hedeby and Bolghar on the Volga.
‘Trade negotiations in the country of Eastern Slavs.’ (1909) By Sergei Vasilyevich Ivanov. (Public Domain)
Researchers have also suggested that the women abducted during Viking raids were taken as concubines, domestic workers, cooks, and perhaps even as brides. This last proposition arises from a belief that Vikings were a polygamous society – which would have made it more difficult for non-elite men to acquire a bride.

The Annals of Ulster, with entries spanning 431- 1540, provides textual evidence of “a great number of women” being taken captive by “the heathens” (which some scholars suggest refers to Vikings) in Étar (near Dublin, Ireland) in 821 AD. These annals of Medieval Ireland also provide several other examples of the Viking “heathens” attacking, plundering, and abducting people from the area.
Les pirates normands au IXe siècle’ (Norman pirates in the 9th century) by Évariste-Vital Luminais (1894). (Public Domain)
The renewed interest in literary and other material evidence of the Viking use of slaves over in recent years suggests that the perception of Vikings may be changing more heavily towards the ruthless perspective yet again…however, for some scholars it is probable that the view of a gentle Viking never existed, and for others it will not change.

02 January 2016

More on the: Pre-Viking Iron Age settlement will give a glimpse of life in Norway 1,500 years ago

Here's more information on the Pre-Viking archaeological find on Trondheim Fjord, Norway, beneath land occupied by the Ørland Airport. This is an excerpt of the excellent article that Ancient Origins published on Christmas day. 
Fifteen hundred years ago would put the timeline of these artifacts in the mid-6th century, or about two centuries prior to the Viking Age. (Ed.)

A blue glass bead at least 1,500 years old is among the finds archaeologists have made at the Ørland Main Air Station dig. This bead was found in a garbage layer and was probably lost by its owner. (Photo: Åge Hojem, NTNU University Museum)
25 DECEMBER, 2015 - 00:52 MARK MILLER

Archaeologists have discovered a pre-Viking Iron Age settlement dating back around 1,500 years ago on the Trondheim Fjord on Norway’s coast as they excavated the area prior to expanding an airport for jet fighters.

The strategically located site includes three large longhouses arranged in a U shape, one of which had several fire pits possibly used for cooking, keeping warm and for handwork, says a press release from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The longhouses may have been used for community gatherings, to honor the chief of the settlement and possibly to store food.

“This was a very strategic place,” Ingrid Ystgaard, project manager at the Department of Archaeology and Cultural History at NTNU University Museum, said in the press release. “It was a sheltered area along the Norwegian coastal route from southern Norway to the northern coasts. And it was at the mouth of Trondheim Fjord, which was a vital link to Sweden and the inner regions of mid-Norway.”

Ystgaard says the site is unique in Norway because many bones of animals, birds and fish are preserved in the site’s garbage heaps or middens. The soil in the areas is composed of seashells and so is not acidic, unlike much of the soil in Norway. The acid in the soil at other sites breaks down bone and other organic matter so that it is unusual to find bones from before the medieval era. Usually at such old sites archaeologists only find ceramics, beads and metal.

Synne H. Rostad operates a standing sieve to sift out smaller bones and objects from the dirt. (Photo: Åge Hojem, NTNU University Museum)
“Nothing like this has been examined anywhere in Norway before,” Ystgaard said.
The bones are plentiful enough that researchers can compare wild and domestic varieties of that time with those of today.

“The middens have also provided others surprises,” the press release states. “One was a delicate blue glass bead and several amber beads, too, suggesting the former residents liked their bling. Another was the remains of a green drinking glass that was characteristic of imports from the Rhine Valley in Germany. This last is also a testament to how well off the former residents of this area were, Ystgaard said. “’It says something that people had enough wealth to trade for glass.’”
Ystgaard said she and her team expect outside the site are graves and a harbor with boathouses.
“There was a lot of activity here,” Ystgaard said of the site. “Now our job is to find out what happened here, how people lived. We discover new things every day we are out in the field. It’s amazing.”

About 2,000 years ago the Ørland peninsula was recovering from the last Ice Age, and the land was depressed by the weight of the ice. A bay resulted, but the land has since risen and formed dry land today.

The area in yellow on the Trondheim Fjord is under excavation and was the site of a settlement 1,500 years ago. The area in green was dry land then. (Map by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology)
The sheltered bay and fertile fields were a great place for the settlement, says the press release. Archaeologists had suspected Ørland would be a rich archaeological site, but they found the excuse to dig there when the Norwegian Air Force decided to purchase 52 F-35 jets and expand the airport.

Before construction begins on Norwegian soil, the law requires a preliminary archaeological examination of the site and further study if any significant finds are made.

More than 20 archaeologists and workers will dig and study at the site for 40 weeks. The budget for the project is Norwegian Krone 41 million ($4.6 million), but that doesn’t include excavating machines and room and board for workers.

The operators of the big earth-moving machines will remove the top layer of soil and can be very precise. “The excavator operators are incredibly skilled,” Ystgaard said. “You can ask them to remove 2 centimeters of soil and they can do it.”

01 January 2016

1,500-year-old Viking settlement discovered underneath Norwegian airport

Here's an excerpt of a story from the UK Independent on this the first day of 2016.
I am happy to hear that the Norwegians were able to finally begin digging on this site, in spite of their socialist government's efforts to hinder their archaeologists in every way possible. There are bound to be many such sites in Norway, especially in and around Oslo fjord, but with their socialist government's regulations most will never be found. Ah, to wrap yourself in the arms of socialism, like we have here in the US. Sigh! (Ed.)

The site discovered expands across an area roughly the size of 13 football pitches
A delicate blue glass bead found during the dig Age Hojem, NTNU University Museum

A 1,500-year-old Viking settlement has been discovered underneath an airport in Norway.
During expansion work on the Ørland Airport, archaeologists found a plot of ancient land that reportedly to expand across 91,000 square metres - just under the size of 13 football pitches.
Some of the artefacts pulled from the excavation site include jewelry, animal bones and a shard from a green glass goblet.

It is believed the area was inhabited by a fishing community, with a large proportion of the site acting as an Iron Age rubbish tip, known as a midden.
This is the first time materials of this age have been discovered in Norway, with many of the archaeologists believing the remains were in good condition due to the soil in the area having low-acidity.

Historians have long anticipated the area to be rich with ancient artefacts but have previously been unable to excavate it due to government restrictions on archaeological digs. The law require archaeologists to wait for an opportunity to excavate an area to arise before commencing a dig, meaning the government’s plan to purchase 52 F-35 fighter jets and expand Ørland Airport came at exactly the right time

“This as a very strategic place,” Ingrid Ystgaard, the dig’s project manager told Ars Technica.
“It was a sheltered area along the Norwegian coastal route from southern Norway to the northern coasts. And it was at the mouth of Trondheim Fjord, which was a vital link to Sweden and the inner regions of mid-Norway.

“Nothing like this has been examined anywhere in Norway before. Now our job is to find out what happened here, how people lived. We discover new things every day we are out in the field. It’s amazing.”