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.”