Norse Parliament Site Discovered on Scottish Island

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A site on the Scottish island of Bute has been identified as a Viking gathering place known as a “thing” in Old Norse, used to make political decisions, promulgate laws and settle disputes.

The mysterious mount, known as Cnoc An Rath, has been known to archaeologists since at least the 1950s. However, its identity has been in question for several decades, with many suggesting it might have been a medieval or prehistoric farm site. According to The Herald Scotland, archaeologists now feel that this Viking parliamentary site was likely the seat of power for Ketill Flatnose, a powerful Viking ruler whose bloodline would go on to settle Iceland.

The key to the theory of the site being a Norse “thing” was a new study of the island’s place-names. The etymology of the names suggested many archaic designations for locations around the island could have indeed incorporated the word “thing”. Follow-up field investigations in the form of excavations have yielded preserved surface samples that have been radio-carbon dated back to when Norse raiders and settlers were active in and near the Argyll coast.

The analysis involved pieces of charcoal, according to archaeologist Paul Duffy, the head of Brandanii Archaeology and Heritage Consultancy. In an interview in the newspaper, Duffy recounted how the charcoal had been dated to the latter days of the kingdom of Dalriada – and the inception of Norse settlement on Bute. Eventually the date for the site was narrowed down to between the late seventh century and the late ninth century CE, which is within the window of certainty as to when Vikings were active in the region.

Read more here.

You Might Have Heard … Viking Chief Buried in His Boat Found in Scotland

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Reconstruction of what the burial site unearthed at Ardnamurchan might have looked like. (Credit: Geoff Robinson)

The first intact Viking boat burial site to be found on the British mainland was discovered recently in Scotland, archaeologists announced. The grave contains the body of a Norse warrior thought to have been a chieftain or other high-ranking figure, lying with his weapons by his side in the remains of a rotted ship. He was likely interred during a ritualized pagan ceremony roughly 1,000 years ago, according to the researchers.

Read more here.

OCTOBER 19, 2011

View From Space Hints at a New Viking Site in North America – New York Times

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Douglas Bolender, left, and Sarah H. Parcak, right, looking for evidence of a Viking presence in Point Rosee, Newfoundland. If confirmed, the site would be the second known Viking settlement in North America.  Credit Greg Mumford

A thousand years after the Vikings braved the icy seas from Greenland to the New World in search of timber and plunder, satellite technology has found intriguing evidence of a long-elusive prize in archaeology — a second Norse settlement in North America, further south than ever known.

The new Canadian site, with telltale signs of iron-working, was discovered last summer after infrared images from 400 miles in space showed possible man-made shapes under discolored vegetation. The site is on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, about 300 miles south of L’Anse aux Meadows, the first and so far only confirmed Viking settlement in North America, discovered in 1960.

Since then, archaeologists, following up clues in the histories known as thesagas, have been hunting for the holy grail of other Viking, or Norse, landmarks in the Americas that would have existed 500 years before Columbus, to no avail.

But last year, Sarah H. Parcak, a leading space archaeologist working with Canadian experts and the science series NOVA for a two-hour television documentary, “Vikings Unearthed,” that will be aired on PBS next week, turned her eyes in the sky on coastlines from Baffin Island, west of Greenland, to Massachusetts. She found hundreds of potential “hot spots” that high-resolution aerial photography narrowed to a handful and then one particularly promising candidate — “a dark stain” with buried rectilinear features.

Read more here.

The Surprisingly Sufficient Viking Diet

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Today, the Vikings are celebrated as a proud, warlike folk, well known for their mythology and elaborate funerals. The Viking diet, however, is a mystery to most people. What did these warriors eat to survive in such a forbidding landscape? As it turns out, their food was healthy, fresh, and even a poor Viking ate much better than an English peasant during the Middle Ages. That’s not to say that the Viking diet didn’t have inadequacies, but on the whole, the Viking diet was a model of efficiency and innovation in a time when cooks had to make the most out of some very limited ingredients.

Read more here.

Archaeologists Discover 1000-Year-Old Viking Fortress in Denmark

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Archaeologists from Aarhus University in Denmark and The Danish Castle Centre have made a sensational discovery south of Copenhagen: A massive Viking fortress built with heavy timbers and earthen embankments. The Viking fortress is over 1000 years old, and it’s the first to be discovered in over 60 years. The fortress is perfectly circular and is similar to the famous “Trelleborg” fortresses built by King Harald Bluetooth around the year 980, which have been nominated for inclusion in UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.

Read more: Archaeologists Uncover the First Viking Fortress Found in 60 Years

Canada: Christian claims to be victim of ‘viking discrimination’

Canada: Christian claims to be victim of ‘viking discrimination’

BBCBethany Paquette told CBC that “My beliefs have developed who I am as an individual”

A Canadian graduate of a Christian university says her religious beliefs were attacked when she applied for a job as a wilderness guide.

Bethany Paquette, who is an experienced rafting guide, says she got a shocking rejection letter when she applied to the Norwegian Amaruk Wilderness Corp, which runs treks in Canada’s north. “It did really hurt me and I did feel really attacked on the basis that I’m a Christian,”Paquette told CBC news. Trinity Western University alumnus says her beliefs “don’t come into play when I am doing my job”.

The letter from hiring manager Olaf Amundsen said, “The Norse background of most of the guys at the management level means that we are not a Christian organization, and most of us actually see Christianity as having destroyed our culture tradition and way of life.”

Read more here.

Did the Vikings Get a Bum Rap?

Did the Vikings Get a Bum Rap?

A Yale historian wants us to rethink the terrible tales about the Norse.

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This illustration shows the stereotype of Viking marauders wreaking mayhem, even on clergy. The scene depicts the monastery at Clonmacnoise, Ireland.

ILLUSTRATION BY TOM LOVELL

Christopher Shea

for National Geographic

PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 26, 2014

The Vikings gave no quarter when they stormed the city of Nantes, in what is now western France, in June 843—not even to the monks barricaded in the city’s cathedral. “The heathens mowed down the entire multitude of priest, clerics, and laity,” according to one witness account. Among the slain, allegedly killed while celebrating the Mass, was a bishop who later was granted sainthood.

To modern readers the attack seems monstrous, even by the standards of medieval warfare. But the witness account contains more than a touch of hyperbole, writes Anders Winroth, a Yale history professor and author of the book The Age of the Vikings, a sweeping new survey. What’s more, he says, such exaggeration was often a feature of European writings about the Vikings.

Read more here.

The Ulfberhts of the Vikings

Mysterious Viking Sword Made With Technology From the Future?

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The Viking sword Ulfberht was made of metal so pure it baffled archaeologists. It was thought the technology to forge such metal was not invented for another 800 or more years, during the Industrial Revolution.

About 170 Ulfberhts have been found, dating from 800 to 1,000 A.D. A NOVA, National Geographic documentary titled “Secrets of the Viking Sword”, first aired in 2012, took a look at the enigmatic sword’s metallurgic composition.

In the process of forging iron, the ore must be heated to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit to liquify, allowing the blacksmith to remove the impurities (called “slag”). Carbon is also mixed in to make the brittle iron stronger. Medieval technology did not allow iron to be heated to such a high temperature, thus the slag was removed by pounding it out, a far less effective method.

The Ulfberht, however, has almost no slag, and it has a carbon content three times that of other metals from the time. It was made of a metal called “crucible steel.”

Read more here.

Oseberghaugen ved Slagen (The Oseberg Burial Mound)

The ship was found in a burial mound in Oseberg near the Oslo Fjord in Norway in 1903. The mound (Norwegian: Oseberghaugen ved Slagen from the Old Norse word haugr meaning kurgan mound or barrow) contained numerous grave goods and two female human skeletons. The ship’s interment into its burial mound dates from 834 AD, but parts of the ship date from around 800, and the ship itself is thought to be older.  It was excavated by Norwegian archaeologist Haakon Shetelig and Swedish archaeologist Gabriel Gustafson in 1904-1905. This ship is widely celebrated and has been called one of the finest finds to have survived the Viking Age.The ship and some of its contents are displayed at the Viking Ship Museum, in Bygdøy.

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Made of oak, this ship is believed to have been built around 800. It would have been the type of Norwegian vessel that would have raided Lindisfarne. The ship is approximately 70 feet long, 16 feet wide and only 5 feet deep. This allowed it not only to travel in the sea but also up rivers. It could land right on the beach. This maneuverability and the speed of the ship is what took Europe by surprise.

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“The skeletons of two women were found in the grave with the ship. One, probably aged 60–70, suffered badly from arthritis and other maladies. The second was initially believed to be aged 25–30, but analysis of tooth-root translucency suggests she was older (aged 50–55). It is not clear which one was the more important in life or whether one was sacrificed to accompany the other in death. The younger woman had a broken collarbone, initially thought to be evidence that she was a human sacrifice, but closer examination showed that the bone had been healing for several weeks. The opulence of the burial rite and the grave-goods suggests that this was a burial of very high status. One woman wore a very fine red wool dress with a lozenge twill pattern (a luxury commodity) and a fine white linen veil in a gauze weave, while the other wore a plainer blue wool dress with a wool veil, possibly showing some stratification in their social status. Neither woman wore anything entirely made of silk, although small silk strips were appliqued onto a tunic worn under the red dress.

Dendrochronological analysis of timbers in the grave chamber dates the burial to the autumn of 834.Although the high-ranking woman’s identity is unknown, it has been suggested that she is Queen Åsa of the Yngling clan, mother of Halfdan the Black and grandmother of Harald Fairhair. Recent tests of the women’s remains suggest that they lived in Agder in Norway, as had Queen Åsa. This theory has been challenged, however, and some think that she may have been a völva. There were also the skeletal remains of 14 horses, an ox, and three dogs found on the ship.

 

The grave had been disturbed in antiquity, and precious metals were absent. Nevertheless, a great number of everyday items and artifacts were found during the 1904-1905 excavations. These included four elaborately decorated sleighs, a richly carved four-wheel wooden cart, bed-posts, and wooden chests, as well as the so-called “Buddha bucket” (Buddha-bøtte), a brass and cloisonné enamel ornament of a bucket (pail) handle in the shape of a figure sitting with crossed legs. More mundane items such as agricultural and household tools were also found. A series of textiles included woolen garments, imported silks, and narrow tapestries. The Oseberg burial is one of the few sources of Viking age textiles, and the wooden cart is the only complete Viking age cart found so far. A bedpost shows one of the few period examples of the use of what has been dubbed the valknut symbol.” – Wikipedia

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The Oseberg Sleigh

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The Oseberg Cart