30 December 2019

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

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

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


Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia

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

KIONA N. SMITH - 11/4/2019, 7:24 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 December 2019

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 December 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


30 November 2019

Battle-Scarred Viking Shield-Maiden

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

23 November 2019

Huge Hoard of Viking Sword Parts Found in Estonia

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


17 November 2019

Found: An Elaborate Viking Graveyard at the End of a Fjord

From Atlas Obscura comes this article on another great find that is important to our understanding of things medieval.

This time it is a Viking Age graveyard discovered at the end of a Norwegian fjord that contained several grave mounds from which archaeologists have dug a plethora of valuable artifacts for further study.

Finally, in an attempt to put to rest the commonly held contemporary belief that these medieval people buried their important dead in boats and ships, the statement is made that such practices never happened. No such ship or boat burials have ever been found in Scandinavia according to the lead archaeologist onsite.

Personally, I wouldn’t make such a broad statement. Although there have been few such finds, they do exist. What about the Gokstad, Oseberg, and Tune ships, to name a few off the top of my head? These ships and what they contained still amaze those who have studied them.

Perhaps the lead archaeologist skipped classes on the day those ship burials were discussed. (Ed.) 


The Viking graveyard, with the modern town of Vinjeøra and Vinje Fjord in the background.

They buried people, boats, and even a house.

OCTOBER 1, 2019

NORWAY IS RIFE WITH FJORDS—DEEP, canyon-like inlets carved by glaciers that add some 10,000 miles to the country’s convoluted coastline—and at one time those fjords were rife with Vikings. Vikings settled many of these sheltered waterways, and some of those places evolved into modern towns and cities such as Eidfjord, Stavanger, and Trondheim, once the capital of the Viking world. Since many Vikings lived along fjords, it stands to reason many of them died there, too. Now, about 50 miles west of Trondheim, at the end of the Vinje Fjord, archaeologists have found a large Viking cemetery with the remains of at least 20 burial mounds, among them one special one—what was once a mound covering a house containing a burial. So much for the old vision of a Viking funeral ship set ablaze and sent out to sea.

“We have no evidence for waterborne Viking funeral pyres in Scandinavia. I honestly do not know where this conception derives from, and it should be regarded as a modern myth,” says Raymoud Sauvage of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the lead archaeologist on the site. “Normal burial practice was that people were buried on land, in burial mounds.”

The graveyard is in the modern town of Vinjeøra, abutting a Viking-era farm, and it also boasts several boat burials, in which the deceased were interred inside wooden vessels. (Perhaps these land-based boat burials and separate evidence of land-based funeral pyres had something to do with the old Viking funeral myth.) The site was identified during surveys in advance of the expansion of a local highway. The mounds themselves, and the grave in the house, had long been sheared off by centuries of farming and plowing, but the remains of a ditch around the house make it clear that there was once a mound on top of it.

09 November 2019

1,100-year-old Viking treasure reveals its secrets

Here's some of the latest information from Fox News, on what researchers have gleaned from the spectacular Viking treasure hoard from Scotland. (Ed.)


Runic inscriptions on a silver arm-ring from the "Galloway Hoard" have been deciphered. (National Museums Scotland)
Published October 2

Experts are unlocking the secrets of a mysterious Viking treasure trove that was discovered in Scotland.

The “Galloway Hoard” was found by a man using a metal detector in 2014. It was acquired by National Museums Scotland in 2017, which describes the trove as “the richest collection of rare and unique Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland.”

The hoard was buried 1,100 years ago and consists of more than 100 gold and silver items.

Runic inscriptions on a number of silver arm rings have now been deciphered by David Parsons of the University of Wales. “Five of the silver arm-rings have runic inscriptions scratched into them which may have functioned as labels identifying distinct portions of the hoard, perhaps recording the names of the people who owned and buried them,” he said in a statement emailed to Fox News. “While several of the texts are abbreviated and uncertain, one is splendidly clear: it reads Ecgbeorht, Egbert, a common and thoroughly Anglo-Saxon man’s name.”

The discovery sheds new light on the mysterious treasure trove. “The Galloway ‘Viking’ Hoard may have been deposited by a people who, to judge by name and choice of script, may have considered themselves part of the English-speaking world,” Parsons added. “It is even possible that these were locals.”

03 November 2019

An Abnormal Viking Mausoleum Shows Ship Burials Weren’t for Everyone!

Ancient Origins came through again to keep us informed about what is happening in the world of medieval Viking archaeology with this interesting article about an important find facilitated by aerial photography. (Ed.)


26 SEPTEMBER, 2019 - 19:35 ED WHELAN

An Abnormal Viking Mausoleum Shows Ship Burials Weren’t for Everyone!

Archaeologists have found a Viking burial house in central Norway. It was located in an area which is revealing many archaeological treasures, including a Roman-era bronze cauldron. The mausoleum is helping researchers better understand Viking burial practices and their evolution.

Archaeologists, from NTNU Science Museum, made the significant find near the central Norwegian city of Trondheim. They are working on two sites in the area. This work is being completed prior to “the construction of the new E6 highway south of Trondheim,” according to Phys.org.

The mausoleum, or burial house, was found during work at Vinjeøra, which is an area where Viking farms and burial mounds have been identified in previous surveys.

From above, the imprint of the house and ditch are clearly visible. ( Raymond Sauvage, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet ) Aerial Photography
Local archaeologists have long known that there was a Viking-era settlement in the area, but it was hard to investigate because intensive agriculture down the years destroyed many of the remains.

Experts from NTNU decided to use aerial photography to examine the site.
In one of the aerial shots, they found something unusual in a burial mound. They saw the outline of a ditch that was rectangular in shape. The experts determined that “this is an imprint of a building, and not a boat or a ship that was typical of burials” (from the Viking era), reports Life in Norway.


20 October 2019

House of the Dead Unearthed in Norway

Here's an excerpt of an interesting article from Sputnik International on possible Viking burial
practices. (Ed.)


House of the Dead Unearthed in Norway Could Provide Deeper Insights Into Viking Age, Researchers Say

© Sputnik / Kirill Kallinikov
House of the Dead Unearthed in Norway

© Sputnik / Kirill Kallinikov

Little is known about the few Viking-Era mortuaries known as houses of the dead. One suggestion is that they had some symbolic value, similar to that of ship burials, where the boat is regarded to symbolise the journey to the realm of death.

Excavations of the burial ground at one of the large medieval farms at Vinjeøra in Hemne municipality in Trøndelag in connection with the construction of the E39 road have unearthed a rare find, a Viking-Age mortuary.

The building appears to have been five metres long and three and a half metres wide. According to archaeologists, they featured poles or posts in four corners, and a planked roof. Bar some bricks, the walls and the ceiling are long gone.

“This is a very rare and interesting find”, Raymond Sauvage, archaeologist at NTNU Science Museum told national broadcaster NRK.

They made the find during excavations connected with the development of the new E39 at Vinjeøra.

Vinjeøra used to be a Viking-era settlement. Its fields contain the remains of up to seven burial mounds, largely invisible to the naked eye due to years of farming. From the air, though, traces of the burial mounds are seen. One of them has the contours of a house.

“We know that people were buried in boats. Now we understand that some also got a house with them in the grave,” Sauvage said.


11 October 2019

Vikings Relaxed by Skating on Bones and Hunting on Skis

Here's an excerpt that might provide a good aside for you this week from an article featured in AtlasObscura about the Vikings skating and skiing. (Ed.)

Vikings Relaxed by Skating on Bones and Hunting on Skis

The infamous plunderers didn’t actually wear horned helmets, but they did wear ice skates made of bone. CHELSEA BECK

To chill like a marauding Norseman, drop your sword and take up these ancient winter sports.
AUGUST 22, 2019

This week, we’re remembering historic leisure activities—ways that people kicked back, chilled out, and expressed themselves throughout the centuries. Previously: Ancient hominids painted, the swole women of Sparta wrestled, danced, and drank, and ancient Mesoamericans kicked back and hooked up in steam baths.

A LEGENDARY VIKING EXECUTION WAS called the blood eagle. In these ritualized killings, unlucky victims were prostrated before their ribs were cut out with a sword. Then their lungs were spread out through the opening and fanned out across their backs, like wings. It was a little gruesome, to say the least.

But there was more to Vikings than just their mythic bloodlust. These coastal marauders, who terrorized Northern Europe from the 8th to 11th centuries, also had a chill side. When they weren’t in longhouses playing their “hnefatafl” board games and downing flagons of ale, Vikings took to the iced-over fjords and snow-covered slopes of Scandinavia, where they raced and shred the gnar.

Vikings didn’t invent skiing or ice skating. Skis were originally dreamed up in central Asia during the Stone Age, and later appropriated by the Sámi people of northern Scandinavia. As for skates, the earliest ones date back 4,000 years. By the time the Vikings took up these winter sports, skis and skates had already gone through several rounds of evolution.Real Vikings—who probably looked a lot like this re-enactor—would use wooden sticks to propel themselves across the snow. ESPIN FINSTAD

But Vikings were the ones who popularized these activities. In fact, they gave skiing its name, from the Old Norse skríða á skíðum—“to stride on skis.” Skiing was often combined with hunting, which the Vikings so excelled at that the foundational Gulathing Law of 1274—written in Norway, where Vikings ruled through the 15th century—outlawed the hunting of elk while on skis, to protect the species from extinction. There were even two Norse gods involved in the sport: Ullr and Skaði, who were elevated in ancient Icelandic literature such as Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda and commonly depicted on skis.

05 October 2019

The Vikings in Ireland

Here's another excellent article from Archaeology Magazine that they published some years ago. The reason I pass it on to you is for the info it contains and the photo of this magnificent axe head that coincidentally is almost a twin to my registered trademark. To me that is pretty special to consider that the modern axe photo that I have registered is almost a twin of this axe head from the Viking Age found under the streets of Dublin.

Here's my trademark: 

Compare the two axe heads, amazing huh? (Ed.)


A surprising discovery in Dublin challenges long-held ideas about when the Scandinavian raiders arrived on the Emerald Isle

March/April 2015

(Courtesy Linzi Simpson)
An impressive ax head is one of hundreds of Viking artifacts found during excavations under the streets of Dublin.

When Irish archaeologists working under Dublin’s South Great George’s Street just over a decade ago excavated the remains of four young men buried with fragments of Viking shields, daggers, and personal ornaments, the discovery appeared to be simply more evidence of the Viking presence in Ireland. At least 77 Viking burials have been discovered across Dublin since the late 1700s, some accidentally by ditch diggers, others by archaeologists working on building sites. All have been dated to the ninth or tenth centuries on the basis of artifacts that accompanied them, and the South Great George’s Street burials seemed to be four more examples.

Yet when excavation leader Linzi Simpson of Dublin’s Trinity College sent the remains for carbon dating to determine their age, the results were “quite surprising,” she says. The tests, performed at Beta Analytic in Miami, Florida, and at Queen’s University in Belfast, showed that the men had been buried in Irish soil years, or even decades, before the accepted date for the establishment of the first year-round Viking settlement in Dublin—and perhaps even before the first known Viking raid on the island took place.

(Courtesy Linzi Simpson)
All across Dublin at sites such as South Great George’s Street (above), archaeologists have uncovered dozens of Viking burials. These graves are now contributing to a picture of the city as a successful trading outpost of the Viking world.

Simpson’s findings are now adding new weight to an idea gaining growing acceptance—that, instead of a sudden, cataclysmic invasion, the arrival of the Vikings in Ireland and Britain began, rather, with small-scale settlements and trade links that connected Ireland with northern European commerce for the first time. And, further, that those trading contacts may have occurred generations before the violent raids described in contemporary texts, works written by monks in isolated monasteries—often the only places where literate people lived—which were especially targeted by Viking raiders for their food and treasures. Scholars are continuing to examine these texts, but are also considering the limitations of using them to understand the historical record. The monks were devastated by the attacks on their homes and institutions, and other contemporaneous events may not have been recorded because there was no one literate available to do so. “Most researchers accept now that the raids were not the first contact, as the old texts suggest,” says Gareth Williams, curator of medieval coinage and a Viking expert at the British Museum. “How did the Vikings know where all those monasteries were? It’s because there was already contact. They were already trading before those raids happened.”

28 September 2019

Population Genomics of the Viking World

This excerpt from a very interesting article comes from the lab where the prodigious effort to produce this epic work originated. Some readers may be overwhelmed with the technical jargon, but stick with it, the content is valuable. 

The cadre of researchers responsible for gathering the data is amazing and the effort took them 4 1/2 years. 

Well worth your attention should you harbor a real interest in your own heritage, or the Norse people and their wanderings. (Ed.)


Max Naylor

Population Genomics of the Viking World

Scandinavian genetic ancestry and the beginnings of the Viking era
Although VA Scandinavians shared a common cultural, linguistic and material background, there was no common word for Scandinavian identity at that time1. The word ‘Viking’ is used in contemporary sources to mean a ‘pirate’ or ‘sea warrior’2. As such, there is no single ‘Viking world’, but a coalescence of ‘Viking worlds’ marked by rapidly growing maritime exploration, trade, war and colonization, following the adoption of deep-sea navigation among the coastal populations of Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea area7,8. Thus, it is unclear whether the Viking-phenomenon refers to people with a recently shared genetic background and if foreign influence initiated or accompanied the transition from the Scandinavian Iron Age into the Viking era.

To assess the genetic relationship of the VA Scandinavians with that of earlier European peoples, we performed genetic clustering using multi-dimensional scaling (MDS) on a pairwise identity-by-state (IBS) sharing matrix, as well as latent mixed-ancestry models (Admixture)9.

We find that the majority of our samples broadly cluster within the range of European Bronze Age (BA) and Iron Age (IA) populations, characterized by an ancestry component that is related to pastoralist populations from the Pontic-Caspian steppe (Fig. 2a and Extended Data Fig. 2) entering Europe around 5000 BP10,11.

A different dimensionality reduction technique using uniform manifold approximation and projection (UMAP) revealed additional fine-scale genetic structure. European individuals from the Bronze Age and onwards are generally distributed within a broad area anchored by four ancestry clusters across the two UMAP dimensions: Early BA individuals from the Steppe; pre-BA Neolithic Europeans; Baltic BA individuals; and Scandinavian IA and early VA individuals (Fig. 2b).

We observe a wide range of distributions for VA individuals within this broad area, with notable differences between geographic regions (Fig. S8.10), indicating complex fine-scale structure among the different groups. Modelling Scandinavian groups from the BA and onwards as mixtures of three ancestral components (Mesolithic hunter-gatherers; Anatolian Neolithic; Steppe early BA), again revealed subtle differences in their composition.

We find that the transition from the BA to the IA is accompanied by a reduction in Neolithic farmer ancestry, with a corresponding increase in both Steppe-like ancestry and hunter-gatherer ancestry (Extended Data Fig. 6).

While most groups show a slight recovery of farmer ancestry during the VA, there is considerable variation in ancestry across Scandinavia. In particular, we observe a wide range of ancestry compositions among individuals from Sweden, with some groups in southern Sweden showing some of the highest farmer ancestry proportions (40% or more in individuals from Malmö, Kärda or Öland).

Ancestry proportions in Norway and Denmark on the other hand appear more uniform (Extended Data Fig. 6).

Finally, we detect an influx of low levels of “eastern” ancestry starting in the early VA, mostly constrained among groups from eastern and central Sweden as well as some Norwegian groups (Extended Data Fig. 6).

Testing of putative source groups for this “eastern” ancestry revealed differing patterns among the Viking Age target groups, with contributions of either East Asian- or Caucasus-related ancestry (Supplementary Note 10).

Map of the “Viking World” from 8th till 11th centuries.

Different symbols on the map (a) correspond to ancient sites of a specific age/culture. The ancient samples are divided into the following five broad categories: Bronze Age (BA) - c. 2500 BC - 900 BC; Iron Age (IA) - c. 900 BC to 700 CE; Early Viking Age (EVA) - c. 700 to 800 CE; VA - c. 800 to 1100 CE; Medieval - c. 1100 to 1600 CE. b, All ancient individuals from this study (n=442) and published VA samples (n=21) from Sigtuna6 are categorized based on their spatio-temporal origin.

20 September 2019

Ancient Iron Smelting Techniques Revived at West Iceland Festival

Here's an excerpt from an article in Iceland Review, telling us that we missed the Viking festival in Iceland - maybe next year. (Ed.)


Iron smelting - Iceland

Ancient Iron Smelting Techniques Revived at West Iceland Festival
By Jelena Ćirić Posted September 2, 2019

Iron smelting, Viking crafts, and Viking tool forging were just a few of the activities guests partook in at the Járngerðarhátíð (Iron Making Festival) held in West Iceland last weekend. Hosted at Eiríksstaðir farm, the birthplace of Leifur Eiríksson, the festival brought together archaeologists, metalworkers, and Viking enthusiasts to partake in all things Viking. RÚV reported first.

The festival was organised in collaboration with US Organisation Hurstwic, which uses “the scientific method to research, study, and test Viking-related topics,” according to their website. The festival was labelled an “homage to experimental archaeology, where guests step into the world of the Vikings.” The focus of the weekend was using experimental archaeology to unlock the secrets of iron making in Viking-age Iceland.

Over the weekend, Hurstwic set up several fire-bellowing furnaces, including one made of Icelandic turf, in order to test archaeologists’ knowledge of how Iceland’s first settlers forged iron over a thousand years ago. Though much is known about Viking Age iron smelting techniques, researchers have yet to fully understand how iron was forged in Iceland using local materials.


09 September 2019

The Naval Power of Norse Dublin

An excerpt from Medievalists through Academia detailing what is known of the naval power of the Norse Ireland. (Ed.)


The Naval Power of Norse Dublin 

By Poul Holm

The Viking Warship “Sea Stallion” in Dublin, Ireland – photo by William Murphy / Flickr

Clerics, Kings and Vikings: Essays on medieval Ireland in honour of Donnchadh Ó Corráin, edited by Emer Purcell, Paul MacCotter, Julianne Nyhan and John Sheeha (Four Courts Press, 2015)

Introduction: In the ninth to twelfth centuries the Dublin fleet was one of the most formidable war machines in the Irish Sea area. I shall analyse the annalistic and archaeological evidence for Hiberno-Norse naval power in Dublin around 1000 AD. Drawing on comparative information from Scandinavia and England, I shall consider the manpower needed for the fleet, and the financial and monetary implications of the size of the fleet.

By Christmas of 1013 it may have seemed likely that all of Britain and Scotland would fall under Norse supremacy within the next few months. In England, King Svein Forkbeard had all but conquered the country except for London. By Yuletide, according to Njál’s saga, King Sigtryggr Silkenbeard of Dublin feasted at Jarlshof in Orkney with Jarl Sigurd. Their plan seems to have been to use the unrest building in the north-east of Ireland against the newly established high-kingship of Brian Bóruma and to assemble a large army of Norse mercenaries with the seditious men of Leinster against the high-king. King Brian was well aware of the threat from Dublin which he had unsuccessfully besieged in the autumn of 1013.

But whatever high hopes may have been nurtured at the Orkney jarls’s feast in Jarlshof, a few months later the tables had turned. King Svein died in February 1014 and the Danish hold on England seemed to crumble. In April, on Good Friday, Brian Bóruma’s men defeated the men of Leinster, Orkney and Scottish Isles. While the Danes eventually reasserted their power in England, the Dublin Scandinavians gave up any larger plans they may have had for Ireland. 

01 September 2019

Ancient Viking 'drinking hall' unearthed in Orkney

An overhead view of the trenches with the Viking 'drinking hall' on the left
Published: 14:39Tuesday 06 August 2019

The discovery was made at Skaill Farmstead in Westness, Rousay, and is believed to have been a high-status Norse hall, dating as far back as the tenth century.
Excavation of the northern outer wall of the Norse 'drinking hall'

 Westness is mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga - a historical narrative of the archipelago - as the home of Sigurd, a powerful 12th-century chieftain.
The site offers an "unparalleled" opportunity to research eating habits in the region over a millennia, according to researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).
The name Skaill suggests the site was home to a Norse hall or drinking hall and was a high-status site.
A team from the UHI Archaeology Institute, residents and students have been digging at the site for a number of years in an effort to find the building.
Dan Lee, co-director of the excavation project, said "The exciting news this season is that we have now found the hall at Skaill, as the place name suggests.
"You never know, but perhaps Earl Sigurd himself sat on one of the stone benches inside the hall and drank a flagon of ale."
The hall is believed to date to the tenth to 12th centuries and was discovered below a more recent farmstead.
"Substantial" stone walls were found 5.5m apart, with internal features such as stone benches along either side.
The building appears to be more than 13m long and facing down a slope towards the sea, although it is not yet fully uncovered.
Finds have included soapstone from Shetland, pottery and a bone spindle whorl, while a fragment of a Norse bone comb was also unearthed.
Archaeologists have been investigating the later stages of the farm complex and its middens, with a particular focus on past diet, farming and fishing practices.