18 December 2021

Early Viking Sword Found in Norway

Here's an interesting article from Sputnik News about a sword found in Norwegian farm field by a man using a metal detector, once again proving the old adage about being in the right place at the right time. (Ed.)


Norwegian Man Stumbles Upon 'Unique' Early Viking Sword

He describes his reaction as a mixture of surprise and joy. He rushed to call local archaeologist Lars Holger Pilø. Pilø recalled having “one happy detectorist on the phone”, describing it as a special discovery and praising Høystad-Lunna for putting a lot of work into his hobby and his concern for doing everything right.

“It is not common for people to bring in weapons. They mostly find jewellery, buckles, and smaller objects, so bringing in a sword is a rarity indeed”, fellow archaeologist Kjetil Skare explained.

According to Pilø, the sword seems to date from the early Viking age, is about 1,200-years-old and belongs to an uncommon type. Viking swords have been found in Innland County before, but most of the finds were made in the 19th century, he explained. This is all the more dramatic given that the sword was found in cultivated land, where whole artifacts are rare as they tend to be damaged or destroyed by ploughs.

“There are even preserved remnants of leather or textile that are wrapped around the grip”, Pilø noted.

Pilø stressed that archaeological finds were made on the same farm before, although not of the same calibre or level of preservation.

Summing up, he once again stressed the importance of amateur archaeology with the help of metal detectors, as long as it is done the right way.

“The antiquities that lie in farmland slowly break down and are lost due to cultivation”, Pilø said, praising Høystad-Lunna for saving the sword for posterity.

27 November 2021

Gjellestad was a major Viking burial ground, new research reveals

 This installment from Medievalists briefs us on a very important archaeological site in southeastern Norway, off Oslo fjord, that is believed to be the largest Viking burial site extant. (Ed.)


Gjellestad, Norway, is home to the Jell Mound, one of the largest early medieval funerary mounds in all of Scandinavia. However, new research suggests that this is just scratching the surface— the site may also feature a previously unknown Viking ship burial, cult site, and feast hall.

The discovery, published in the journal Antiquity, was made without digging up the site. Instead, ground-penetrating radar (GPR) was used to map features below the surface. This survey began in 2017 to determine if construction plans would put any archaeology near the Jell Mound at risk. Historical records indicate three other funeral mounds at the site were demolished in the 19th century, suggesting there is more to the site than meets the eye. However, it turns out that even the three demolished mounds are just the tip of the iceberg.

The GPR showed 13 burial mounds once existed at Gjellestad, some over 30 metres wide. One of these mounds features an anomaly in the GPR data that likely represents a buried ship. Such ship burials were likely reserved for powerful Viking individuals. Additionally, the researchers found a farmhouse in the GPR data. They also spotted a large building, likely a feast hall, and another hall that does not appear intended for habitation. Instead, it may be a cult house or other religious structure.

Location of Gjellestad close to the eastern shores of the Oslofjord, Norway, along with well-known contemporaneous sites around the Oslofjord (map source: © Kartverket/CC-BY-4.0; figure by L. Gustavsen).

23 November 2021

Viking Temple to Thor and Odin Unearthed In Norway

Ancient Origins has posted this interesting article on archaeologists discovery of a temple to the  Norse gods Thor and Odin. Little is known about the religious beliefs of the Vikings, so this find is especially valuable. (Ed.)


Viking temple to Thor and Odin

Viking Temple to Thor and Odin Unearthed In Norway

The Viking Age has fascinated people for generations and now we have a newly discovered ancient Viking temple that has finally shed some new light on Norse religion . Believe it or not, there is a lot we don’t know about these fearsome warriors and daring explorers. For example, scholars know relatively little about specific Viking religious practices. For this reason, the discovery of this ancient Viking temple in Norway, dedicated to the Norse Gods, is an exceptionally important discovery.

An Early Viking Settlement And A Rare Ancient Viking Temple
Recently, a group of archaeologists, from the University Museum of Bergen, have been excavating a massive site on the Ose farm near Ørsta, in western Norway. Their work is part of a recovery project before the construction of a massive new housing project in the area. The experts believe that the site was an early Viking era settlement that dates to 1200 years ago, based on the remains of longhouses found there. Traces of an even earlier agricultural settlement were also found.

30 October 2021

Giant Viking Ring Fort

Heritage Daily featured this excellent article on the giant Viking ring fortress built on the north shore of a fjord in Denmark. (Ed.)


 Image Credit : Google Earth 2021


Aggersborg – The Giant Viking Trelleborg

Aggersborg is the site of a Viking trelleborg (ring fort), that was built near Aggersund on the north side of the Limfjord in Denmark.

A trelleborg was a geometrical circular fortification that usually contains a cross section of roads separating four internal quadrants, pointing in the four cardinal directions towards gated entrances.

Trelleborgs were built across numerous sites of strategic importance in areas of Denmark and Sweden, and are mostly attributed to Harold Bluetooth (a King of Denmark and Norway who ruled from AD 958–986), who was attributed with introducing Christianity to Denmark.
Aggersborg is Denmark’s largest trelleborg and dates from the Viking age between AD 970-980 (although archaeologists have also discovered that the fort overlaid an earlier Viking-Age rural settlement consisting of sunken huts connected with a couple of large farms), either during Harold Bluetooth’s reign, or that of his successor Sweyn Forkbeard.

The fort was strategically situated near a narrow passage of the Limfjord, a principal sailing route between the Baltic and the North Sea, and near the ancient Hærvejen trackway.

Image Credit : Frank Vincentz – CC BY-SA 3.0

23 October 2021

When were the Vikings in the Americas?

USA Today featured this article on an amazing discovery made at the Newfoundland, Canada, Viking settlement of L 'Anse aux Meadows.

Scientists have established the exact date of Viking wooden artifacts found at the site. (Ed.)


Reconstruction of a Viking sod church at L 'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada Shutterstock

When were the Vikings in the Americas? Exactly 1,000 years ago, study says

Doyle Rice


October 20, 2021October 20, 20212

Wooden artifacts discovered in Newfoundland, Canada, date precisely to the year 1021.
Scientists are confident the artifacts belonged to the Vikings.
"That level of precision and scientific proof has never been achieved before."

We now know when the Vikings came to America.

Although we knew that Vikings made their way across the Atlantic hundreds of years before Columbus arrived, we weren't sure precisely when that was – until now.

Wooden artifacts discovered in Newfoundland, Canada, date precisely to the year 1021, which is the earliest known record of humans crossing from Europe to America, according to a study published Wednesday in the British journal Nature.

This is "the only known date for Europeans in the Americas before Columbus," archaeologist and study co-author Michael Dee of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands told USA TODAY.

“This is the first time the date has been scientifically established,” archaeologist Margot Kuitems, a researcher at the University of Groningen and the study’s lead author, told NBC News.

“Previously the date was based only on sagas – oral histories that were only written down in the 13th century, at least 200 years after the events they described took place,” she said.

Scientists are confident the wood artifacts belonged to the Vikings, based on their location within the settlement and evidence for modification using metal tools, which were not manufactured by indigenous people in the area at the time.

Read more…

12 October 2021

Pre-Columbian Latin Text Proves Early Knowledge of the Americas

Ancient Origins comes through again with this fascinating article about a recent discovery of Latin text verifying early European knowledge of the Vikings discovery of the Americas. (Ed.)


Image portraying North America discovered by a Viking ship. A 14th-century Latin text now proves the Vikings knew about North America. Source: Nejron Photo / Adobe Stock

 Pre-Columbian Latin Text Proves Early Knowledge of the Americas


The accepted mainstream story has long been that no one in southern or western Europe knew anything about the Americas before the discoveries associated with the voyages of Columbus. But a new translation of a rare medieval Latin text, which was composed by an Italian monk, shows that this perception was inaccurate.

In this ancient 14th-century book, mention is made to a far-off land known as “Marckalada,” which was previously discovered by Scandinavian explorers. Given the overall context of the passage, it is clear the writer is referring to either Labrador or Newfoundland on Canada’s northeastern coast. This means there were people in Italy that knew about the North American continent, more than 150 years before Columbus ever set sail.

This amazing discovery was made by Milan University professor Paolo Chiesa, who specializes in the study of medieval Latin literature, and several graduate students who helped him examine and translate an ancient Italian manuscript known as “ Cronica Universalis .” The book was written sometime between 1339 and 1345 by a Dominican monk named Galvano Fiamma, and it contained a passage in Latin that revealed knowledge of lands that could be reached by sailing west across the Atlantic. This included a huge and expansive landmass known as Marckalada, which was said to have been discovered but never deeply explored.

A photograph of a page from the Latin text manuscript by the 14th-century Italian monk Galvano Fiamma. ( ArteMagazine)

Fiamma’s Amazing Latin Text Is Backed Up By Icelandic Sources

In an article in the historical journal Terrae Incognitae , Professor Chiesa refers to Fiamma’s newly translated disclosure as “astonishing.” As added proof that the monk was really talking about North America, Professor Chiesa makes note of statements and stories obtained from ancient Icelandic sources , which mention a land called Markland that had been previously identified by scholars as referring to the northeastern coast of modern-day Canada.

The rare copy of Fiamma’s book is currently owned by a private collector from New York, who gave Professor Chiesa permission to take photographs of the book and its contents. While completing a cover-to-cover Latin translation, one of Chiesa’s graduate students found the paragraph that contains the critical reference.

Fiamma’s passage sets up its revelation by first noting the success of the European sailors who’d reached Greenland and Iceland centuries before. He then wrote the following:


24 April 2021

Highly Unusual Glistening Hoard Of Viking Silver Discovered In Sweden

 From Ancient Origins, another heads-up from the archaeological world. (Ed.)



Highly Unusual Glistening Hoard Of Viking Silver Discovered

In Sweden

A hoard of Viking silver has been discovered in an ancient building in Sweden, and the discovery is being described as “highly unusual.” The trove of silver necklaces, bracelets and coins was unearthed in Viggbyholm, Greater Stockholm at an ancient farm discovered in 2019.

Evidence of a prehistoric farm dating back thousands years was discovered at the site, and in August 2020 Archaeology News Network announced that researchers had unearthed “utensils dating back to 400–550 AD.” At that time, the researchers said the discovery “might shed new light on how the area looked during the Late Iron Age.” However, recently they found a rare hoard of ancient Viking silver artifacts and coins “exceeding all expectations.”

A portion of the Viking silver treasure hoard found just outside Stockholm, Sweden. ( Acta Konserveringscentrum AB )

Swedish Viking Silver Hoard: A Once-In-A-Lifetime Discovery

The 8,000-square meter (86,000 square foot) site is located in a remote coastal bay and is currently being excavated in preparation for urban construction. Back in the Iron Age , however, the site was a “prehistoric Viking farm .” Researchers have unearthed layers of ancient dwellings from different historical eras, according to an August 2020 DW article.


13 March 2021

Runriket, Where the Power Struggle of a Viking Ruler is Written in Stone

If your interest in the Viking Age includes the runes, this article from Ancient Origins will peak your interest. (Ed.)




Where the Power Struggle of a Viking Ruler is Written in Stone

The Viking era (800 -1066 AD) is arguably one of the most fascinating in history. Runriket, or the Rune Kingdom, is a unique archaeological area in Sweden, containing more than a hundred runestones with a great number of inscriptions. Runriket is the largest known concentration of runestones in the world and they offer us the opportunity to get close to Sweden’s ancient Viking past.

The Rune Kingdom and the Age in Transition
Runestones are monuments with inscriptions written in the Runic alphabet . They were typically engraved by experts known as ‘rune masters’. While Christian writers often portrayed the runes as sinister, many of them were simply memorials. Researchers are able to better understand the mindset and history of the Viking world through these writings as the Rune Kingdom demonstrates the complexity of Viking society and culture in ancient Sweden.

The majority of the runes date to the 11th but especially the 12th century. While we may regard the Vikings as pagans who worshipped the gods Thor and Odin, the reality was rather different. Many of them had been Christianized or at least partly Christianized. Through the 11th century, the pagans and the Christians had agreed to co-exist in a unique instance of tolerance in the Middle Ages . By the 12th century, Sweden was mostly Christian

06 March 2021

Melting Ice Has Revealed a Spectacular Trove of Ancient Hunting Artifacts in Norway

As the ice melts in Norway, they are finding lots of artifacts both older and younger than the Viking Age we are interested in.

I think the reader will find the article engaging. (Ed.)


Melting Ice Has Revealed a Spectacular Trove of Ancient Hunting Artifacts in Norway


27 NOVEMBER 2020

Archaeologists have uncovered a "treasure trove" of artifacts as another major ice patch melts away in the Norwegian mountains, revealing a total of 68 arrows and many more items from an ancient reindeer hunting site.

The earliest finds go back some 6,000 years, according to radiocarbon dating. They include reindeer bones and antlers, as well as scaring sticks used to herd the animals into spots where they could be more easily hunted.

Finds like this are becoming increasingly common as global temperatures rise – especially underneath static patches of ice, which don't move around and break up objects in the same way that glaciers do. As the planet's future becomes more uncertain, more of its past is being revealed.

"It is the ice site in the world with most arrows, and by a large margin," writes archaeologist Lars Pilø, from the Department of Cultural Heritage at Innlandet County Council in Norway. "Doing fieldwork here and finding all the arrows was an incredible experience, an archaeologist's dream."

"I remember telling the crew: 'Enjoy the moment as much as you can. You will never experience anything like it again.'"

The potential discoveries were so significant that the group of researchers kept the location of the site – the Langfonne ice patch in the Jotunheimen mountains – a secret for years, until all the artifacts had been recovered.

The dates of the finds stretch from the Stone Age to the Medieval period, with different patterns across different time periods. Most of the arrows are from Late Neolithic (2400-1750 BCE) and Late Iron Age (550-1050 CE) eras.

In trying to piece together some of the history of the area from the discoveries, the researchers had to take a lot of different factors into account: the movement of ice and meltwater, the impact of winds and exposure, and so on.

Read more…

27 February 2021

Delving into Viking DNA

Current Archaeology magazine always features interesting articles, this one is nor exception.

Rather than answering the many questions regarding medieval Vikings origins, this very interesting article ads to the mystery, which is a good thing. Perhaps one day we might actually know who these ancient people dubbed Vikings really were and from whence they came. (Ed.)


Delving into Viking DNA
November 3, 2020February 19, 2021

A large study, led by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, has mapped the DNA of the Viking world. The results (recently published in Nature: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2688-8) paint a complex picture of population movement across Europe during this period.

Over ten years, the team sequenced the DNA of 442 individuals whose remains were excavated at archaeological sites across Europe and Greenland, combining it with previously published genetic data from 1,118 ancient human remains as well as DNA from 3,855 people living today. One of the biggest findings from the study was how region-dependent the genetic differences within Scandinavia were. While we often lump all Scandinavians from this period together under the term ‘Viking’, there were actually fairly distinct groups, with individuals from the areas of present-day Norway, Sweden, and Denmark displaying specific genetic signatures.
The Ridgeway Hill mass grave in Dorset (see CA 299) which featured in the DNA study. CREDIT: Dorset County Council/Oxford Archaeology

Not only did these groups remain separate within Scandinavia, they also appear to have chosen different regions to invade. The DNA results largely accord with archaeological and historical evidence, indicating that those with Swedish-like DNA mainly travelled eastwards, including around the Baltic region and into present-day Poland; those with Norwegian-like DNA explored the North Atlantic islands, Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland; and those with Danish-like DNA largely went to the British Isles. This adds to other evidence suggesting that the use of the word ‘Dane’ in written sources from medieval Britain – which is sometimes thought of as a catch-all term for ‘Scandinavian’ – may originally have referred to those hailing specifically from Jutland.

The results also show that the term ‘Viking’ was not necessarily a label affixed only to those originating from Scandinavia. Two individuals from Orkney were buried in a Viking fashion, but had no identifiable Scandinavian heritage. Instead, they were more genetically similar to present-day Irish and Scottish populations. The project also found other evidence for cross-cultural connections between the Picts and the Vikings, including two more individuals buried in Orkney who had half Scandinavian ancestry, and five individuals with similarly blended DNA found in Scandinavia.

This last example is just one of many from the dataset which shows movement happening in the reverse direction, with individuals from Britain making their way into Scandinavia – and into the local genetic signature as well.

22 February 2021

Ground-Penetrating Radar Locates Massive Viking Burial Mounds in Norway

The reader is encouraged to visit Ancient Origins web site for the original article - click on the title link.

This is a huge discovery. It will take years to determine exactly what has been found by carefully opening some of the mounds. (Ed.)


Ground-Penetrating Radar Locates Massive Viking Burial Mounds in Norway


An extensive survey using ground penetrating radar in northern Norway has revealed the presence of 15 gigantic Viking burial mounds , along with other measurable remains of ongoing human activity. Based on their sizes, shapes, and designs, archaeologists have dated the mounds and other surrounding features back to the eighth century AD, when the Vikings were beginning their era of expansion and conquest.

Future excavations could reveal new and fascinating details about the beliefs and practices of the settlers who occupied this perpetually frigid and semi-frozen stretch of land, in a time when the predations of the Vikings rudely introduced Scandinavian culture to the outside world.

The survey was undertaken in November 2019 by researchers affiliated with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. Using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) devices with a penetrating range of three meters (10 feet), they carefully explored a rectangular area covering 24 acres (10 hectares) in the snow-covered fields of Bodøsjøen, a village in the municipality of Bodø located along the windswept coast of the Norwegian Sea.

The discovery of the burial mounds in Norway was not a surprise. Aerial photographs had already picked up subtle signs of their presence, and it was in fact these photographs that prompted the 2019 survey. ( Norge i Bilder )

The Mystery of the Oval Ditches Found Near Burial Mounds in Norway

The discovery of the burial mounds was not a surprise. Aerial photographs had already picked up subtle signs of their presence, and it was in fact these photographs that prompted the 2019 survey. But what fascinated archaeologists the most was the discovery of 32 moderately-sized oval ditches, an enigmatic feature that has never been seen before in GPR surveys or excavations in this part of Norway. The ditches were oriented similarly, with their narrowest ends facing toward the sea. This suggests the ditches were constructed to minimize exposure to wicked eastward winds, which are frequent and often unrelenting in this part of the globe.

Read more…

14 February 2021

Walrus Ivory Holds the Clue to the Lost Norse Civilization in Greenland

 Here’s an interesting article from The Science Times about a much-debated subject: what happened to the Greenland Norse?

It’s a good question and one that isn’t answered by this article. It has all been said by other authors down through the years, but the fact remains that we simply do not know for certain and I doubt we ever will.

I prefer to think that the Norse settlers gradually assimilated with Indian groups in North America as their business with Europe dried up and the Mini Ice Age descended on the north country with a vengeance. (Ed.)


 Walrus Ivory Holds the Clue to the Lost Norse Civilization in Greenland

Margaret Davis Feb 11, 2021 12:27 AM EST


Around 985AD, Erik the Red founded Norse communities in Greenland after his exile from Iceland that thrived for centuries. However, it did not last as it vanished in the 1400s only leaving ruins as seen today in Greenland.


Artifacts found from this civilization revealed many walrus ivory sculptures, which provide evidence of a trade network that once extended from Northern America to the Mediterranean. 


The Norse communities were able to forge a lucrative economic mainstay in Greenland despite its harsh environmental conditions, Discover reported. Theories about why Norse communities in the area abandoned it is because of climate change with the climate growing colder.


But studies published in the last five years, particularly the 2019 study of the researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Oslo, and Trondheim, found that the Norse communities did not disappear due to climate, but because of the increasing unstable walrus ivory trade.


Walrus Ivory Trade Went From Being a Blessing to Becoming a Curse

A thousand years ago, walrus ivory was a valuable medieval commodity used by the Norse communities in Greenland to trade with those from Europe. Norse in Greenland carved ornate crucifixes, pieces for games like chess, and hnefatafl made from walrus ivory. Even the famous Lewis chessmen were also made of walrus ivory.


However, the study said that this trade slowly went from an economic blessing to become a curse. James H. Barrett, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the study, and his team found that the ivory came from smaller animals, often female, as time wore on.


They tested the bones and found that some of it could even come from ever farther north, which means they must have voyaged for longer periods of time in dangerous journeys but a lesser reward.


"This really cranks up the amount of danger they are facing," said Tom McGovern, an archaeologist from Hunter College in New York who was not part of Barrett's research team.


Science Daily reported that the increasing elephant ivory trade that flooded the European markets during the 13th century, and changes in fashion have led to the decrease in demand for walrus ivory. By the 1400s, walrus ivory imports to mainland Europe have slowly faded.


Barrett said that the Norse abandonment in Greenland may have been due to the depleted resources and volatile prices that were worsened by climate change.


Read more…

12 January 2021

L’Anse aux Meadows – the Viking Settlement in Canada

 Heritage Daily from the UK brings us this well-written and detailed article about the World Heritage Site of L’Anse aux Meadows, located on the northeastern tip of Newfoundland, Canada, the only unquestioned medieval Viking settlement ever discovered in North America.

I have been there, and I must say the place gave me chills. (Ed.)



Reconstruction of Viking structures L’Anse aux Meadows 
Image Credit : Douglas Sprott – CC BY-NC 2.0

L’Anse aux Meadows – the Viking Settlement in Canada


L’Anse aux Meadows is an archaeological site, and the remains of a Norse settlement in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.


The earliest evidence of occupation dates from roughly 6,000 years ago, with the most prominent period of prior Norse settlement, dating to the Dorset people, a Paleo-Eskimo culture.


A study of the Norse architectural type, artifacts, and carbon dating suggests that the Norse settled at L’Anse aux Meadows around AD 990–1050. Archaeologists suggest that the settlement served as an exploratory base and winter camp, with industrial activity for iron production and woodworking, likely used for ship repair.


The site consists of eight buildings (labelled from A–J) most likely constructed from sod (grass and the part of the soil beneath it held together by its roots) placed over a wooden frame. Buildings B,C, and G have been identified as possible workshops or dwellings, with building J being an iron smithy, and building D a carpentry workshop.


Read more…