23 April 2020

Meet Ratatoskr, mischievous messenger squirrel to the Viking gods


This is a total departure for this blog, but archaeology is not active at the moment, so some Norse mythology may be called for because we seem to be living a nightmare of mythic proportion on planet Earth. (Ed.)

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Meet Ratatoskr, mischievous messenger squirrel to the Viking gods

A depiction of Ratatoskr in a 17th-century illuminated manuscript.
A depiction of Ratatoskr in a 17th-century illuminated manuscript. (Johanna Olafsdottir)


By 
Columnist
April 13, 2020 at 2:05 p.m. MDT

When one ponders the case of Ratatoskr, the most celebrated squirrel in Norse mythology, one must eventually confront a question: Why is there a horn growing out of his forehead?

You can see it in a 17th-century illuminated manuscript in the collection of the Arni Magnusson Institute for Icelandic Studies in Reykjavik. A drawing shows the symbol around which all Norse mythology is organized: the famed Ygdrasil, or World Tree. The tree is populated by various fearsome creatures. At the bottom left is Ratatoskr, looking like a dog with a horn coming straight out of his noggin.

“We have no text to explain [this] for us,” said Gisli Sigurdsson, a professor in the department of folklore at the University of Iceland’s Magnusson Institute.

We will speculate about that horn in a bit, but first, a crash course in Norse mythology and the role a squirrel plays in it: The Viking age began around A.D. 800 and ended about 300 years later. During that time, Norsemen (and women) poured forth from Scandinavia, pillaging and colonizing their way across Britain, through the scattered islands of the North Atlantic, into Iceland and Greenland and venturing as far as North America.

04 April 2020

Fantastic Voyages: Myth, Legend, and the Recreation of Ancient Boats


This excerpt comes from an article in Deeper Blue, a SCUBA diving travel publication. I encourage the reader to click one of the links I have provided to read the entire article. The author did a good job, and her article is very interesting. (Ed.)

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by Gemma Smith
March 12, 2020
 
Viking Long ship
 The ancient Vikings have long been admired both for their daring and their expertise in boatbuilding. There have been several modern reconstructions of Viking boats including the 30 meter (98 ft) long Sea Stallion which sailed in 2007 successfully from the Danish port of Roskilde 900 miles to Dublin, Ireland. It landed to a much warmer welcome than its predecessors had evoked more than 1000 years before! The Skjoldungen, a replica of the Skudelev 6 discovered sunk in Roskilde fjord, Denmark in 1962 sailed up the southwest coast of Greenland as part of an experimental archaeology trip.

Perhaps the most ambitious expedition of these Viking reconstructions was undertaken by the Draken Harald Harfagre (Dragon Harald Fairhair, after a Norwegian king) in 2016. This ship set sail from Norway across the North Atlantic bound for Iceland, Greenland, Canada and the USA. A reconstruction of a Viking ‘great ship’ it carried a crew of 32 men and women of varying nationalities. The Draken Harald Harfagre is an open, clinker-built ship 35 meters (115 ft) from stem to stern, the largest reconstruction of a Viking-era ship to date. One of the aims of its builders was to explore the world as the Vikings did in the past, following the journey of the famous Leif Erikson who is believed by some to be the first European to land in America. The Draken’s landfall in Newfoundland was at St Anthony’s Harbour near the site of the Viking-era settlement at L’anse aux Meadows.