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A 12th century toy boat with a hole in the middle where a mast could have been stepped
Image credit Åge Hojem, NTNU University Museum

A thousand years ago, for reasons we will never know, the residents of a tiny farmstead on the coast of central Norway filled an old well with dirt. Maybe the water dried up, or maybe it became foul. But when archaeologists found the old well and dug it up in the summer of 2016, they discovered an unexpected surprise: a carefully carved toy, a wooden boat with a raised prow like a proud Viking ship, and a hole in the middle where a mast could have been stepped.

More here. 

 

 
 
Celtic gilt buckle found in the grave of a Danish Viking woman
Image credit Museum Østjylland
 
David DeMar, writing in the New Historian, reports 22 March on the discovery of a Celtic gilt buckle found in the grave of a Danish Viking woman –
 
The six-centimeter gilt buckle, which had once been used as a clasp on a petticoat, dates to somewhere between 900 to 1,000 years in the past and was buried with its female owner. The find is a rare one, as the workmanship and design of the artifact was common to contemporary Irish or Scottish bronze working.
 
Additionally, the researchers involved in the study of the disc unanimously agreed that it had not begun life as a petticoat buckle; instead it was likely pried off a religious wooden box and then stolen in a Viking raid. Stidsing  [Ernst Stidsing, archaeologist at the Museum of East Jutland] pointed out that such objects simply weren’t traded, meaning that some church or monastery – possibly a pre-Christian one – was looted through good old-fashioned plunder. The bronze ornament itself has been dated to approximately 800 CE; the grave, in comparison, is about a century younger.
 
More here.
 
 
Thin filaments of gold spirals found in a field in eastern Denmark
©
West Zealand Museum, Denmark
 
BBC News reports on nearly 2,000 tiny golden spirals found in a field in eastern Denmark –
 
The coils, made from thin filaments about 3cm (1in) long, date from between 900BC and 700BC, according to Flemming Kaul of the National Museum in Copenhagen. But he and his colleagues aren’t quite sure what they have found. “The fact is we don’t know what they were for, although I’m inclined to think they were part of a priest-king’s robes, perhaps a fringe on a head-piece or parasol, or maybe woven into cloth,” he says on the museum’s website. The gold spirals will go on display at Skaelskor City Museum next week.
 
More here.
 
 
A ninth century glass and silver ring from a woman’s Viking burial site in Birka, Sweden
 
A ninth century glass and silver ring from a woman’s Viking burial site in Birka, Sweden is thought to have originated from an area following the Islamic religion. The ring is inset with coloured glass and engraved ‘for (or to) Allah’ in the ancient Arabic Kufic script.
 
Bruce Bower, writing for ScienceNews reports –
 
More than a century after its discovery in a ninth century woman’s grave, an engraved ring has revealed evidence of close contacts between Viking Age Scandinavians and the Islamic world.
 
Excavators of a Viking trading center in Sweden called Birka recovered the silver ring in the late 1800s. Until now, it was thought that it featured a violet amethyst engraved with Arabic-looking characters. But closer inspection with a scanning electron microscope revealed that the presumed amethyst is colored glass (an exotic material at the time), say biophysicist Sebastian Wärmländer of Stockholm University and his colleagues.
 
An inscription on the glass inset reads either “for Allah” or “to Allah” in an ancient Arabic script, the researchers report  February 23 in Scanning.
 
More here.
   
 
Sword pommel
©
Manx National Heritage/John Caley
 
Discover Britain reports that –
 
Parts of a Viking sword, glass beads, bronze pins and iron nails from a Viking ship burial are amongst items that will be on loan for a new exhibition opening on 20 March 2015 at Falmouth’s National Maritime Museum Cornwall. Nationally and internationally historically significant items will be on display during the two-year exhibition, which aims to show the Vikings as a maritime culture rather than an ethnic group. Visitors to the museum will be able to discover what is behind the popular myth of the bloodthirsty raiders, what it meant to be a Viking and how their mastery of maritime technology was the secret to their success.
 
More here.
   
 
The British Museum has announced that –
 
Tickets are now on sale for Viking Adventures from the British Museum – a lively, interactive, educational film designed to enhance cross-curricular learning for Key Stage 2 students. The show is related to the BP exhibition Vikings: life and legend [which begins today, 6 March 2014] at the British Museum, and will support a broad range of curriculum subjects at KS2, including History, Geography, English, Art and Design, Design Technology and RE.
 
Viking Adventures will be screened in selected cinemas across the UK and Ireland in the week beginning 2 June 2014. Explore the world of the Vikings in their Scandinavian homelands and as they travelled across the seas to create a trading network that spanned four continents. Find out about Viking ships, daily life, Norse gods and goddesses, and ancient sagas. Raiders and traders, sailors and settlers – the story of the Vikings will amaze, surprise, enthrall and fire your students’ imagination!
 
The broadcast is approximately one hour and screenings will take place in selected Odeon, Vue, Cineworld, Picturehouse, Empire, Curzon and independent cinemas.
 
Tickets are on sale now, so book early to avoid disappointment.
 
 
 
Vikings: life and legend exhibition at the British Museum
 
The British Museum has announced that –
 
In March 2014 the British Museum will open the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery with a major exhibition on the Vikings, supported by BP. The exhibition has been developed with the National Museum of Denmark and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin) and focuses on the core period of the Viking Age from the late 8th century to the early 11th century.
 
The extraordinary Viking expansion from the Scandinavian homelands during this era created a cultural network with contacts from the Caspian Sea to the North Atlantic, and from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean. The Vikings will be viewed in a global context that will highlight the multi-faceted influences arising from extensive cultural contacts. The exhibition will capitalise on new research and thousands of recent discoveries by both archaeologists and metal-detectorists, to set the developments of the Viking Age in context. These new finds have changed our understanding of the nature of Viking identity, trade, magic and belief and the role of the warrior in Viking society. Above all, it was the maritime character of Viking society and their extraordinary shipbuilding skills that were key to their achievements. At the centre of the exhibition will be the surviving timbers of a 37-metre-long Viking warship, the longest ever found and never seen before in the UK. Due to its scale and fragility it would not have been possible to display this ship at the British Museum without the new facilities of the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery.
 
The Vale of York Hoard will be shown in its entirety at the British Museum for the first time since it was discovered by metal detectorists near Harrogate in 2007 and jointly acquired by the British Museum and York Museums Trust. Consisting of 617 coins, 6 arm rings and a quantity of bullion and hack-silver the Vale of York Hoard is the largest and most important Viking hoard since the Cuerdale Hoard was found in Lancashire in 1840, part of which will also be included in the exhibition. With coins and silver from places as far removed as Ireland and Uzbekistan, the hoards reveal the true extent of the Viking global network. The silver cup in which the Vale of York Hoard was buried predates the burial by a century and was probably made for use in a Frankish church. It may well represent treasure stolen in a Viking raid. The Vale of York hoard includes objects coming from as far apart as Afghanistan in the East and Ireland in the West, as well as Russia, Scandinavia and continental Europe. Represented in the hoard are three belief systems (Islam, Christianity and the worship of Thor) and peoples who spoke at least seven languages.
 
Full press release here.
 
 
 
 The Church of St Oswald, Lythe, North Yorkshire
 
St Oswald’s is an ancient church with an internationally renowned collection of Anglo-Scandinavian carved stones. With the help of Heritage Lottery and Nortrail funding, a selection of the ancient stones at St Oswald’s Church are now displayed in a permanent exhibition, which was opened by the Marquis of Normanby in 2008.
 
 
The permanent exhibition of Anglo-Scandinavian carved stones at the Church of St Oswald
 
The exhibition displays both the Anglo-Scandinavian carved stones and the post Conquest Anglo-Norman stones. The Anglo-Scandinavian pieces date from the 9th and 10th century and are all funereal monuments, or fragments thereof, indicating a major burial ground on this site. Tantalisingly, among the group of Anglo-Scandinavian pieces which have been catalogued are two pieces which have been identified as dating from the 8 century. These pieces might constitute evidence for a stone Church prior to the arrival of the ‘Vikings’ and contemporary with the abbey at Whitby (Streoneshalh).
 
 
Artist’s impression showing how the graveyard at Lythe may have looked in the 10th century
Illustration Peter Snowball
 
The stones which do not find a place in the exhibition are systematically stored on purpose built shelving in the (modem) crypt and can be accessed on request. The purpose of Lythe PCC in sponsoring this heritage project was to conserve and secure the collections for future generations and to provide a display which interpreted the significance of what is here.
 
Those in the church are in a display second to none. The area lights up automatically as you enter, and turns itself off as you leave. The carved stones can be examined close up and there are well-written and informative explanations to both the stones and the general history of the church and surrounding area, accompanied by either photographs or the beautiful illustrations by the artist Peter Snowball.
 
Well done to the Church of St Oswald, Lythe PCC and all those involved in bring the project to fruition.
 
Text in italics from the Church’s website. More here.
 
 
 
 
Excavation at Cape Tanfield, mainland Canada. Image credit Patricia Sutherland
 
BBC NEWS HIGHLANDS & ISLANDS reports yesterday that –
 
An archaeologist with close links to Scotland is painstakingly gathering evidence of early Viking contact with people who once occupied Arctic Canada. Pat Sutherland has spent 13 years investigating artefacts recovered from Baffin Island and mainland Canada. The items are similar to those made in Greenland and European Viking sites. Dr Sutherland said they suggest close contact between the Norse and hunters known as the Dorset, who mysteriously disappeared in the 14th Century. The Dorset culture occupied parts of Canada for 2,000 years before Inuit moved in from Alaska. Dr Sutherland, a Canadian archaeologist, is an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen.
 
Dr Sutherland said: “There are three groups of artefacts found over a 1,500km of coastline from north Baffin to northern Labrador from sites that were occupied by the Dorset people that suggest a Norse presence.” One group is cord spun from animal hair. Penelope Rogers, a York-based expert on Norse textiles from Greenland, studied the Canadian cordage and found that it was comparable to that found in Greenland.
 
Notched sticks used by the Vikings in trading goods, or as a calendar, make up a second group of artefacts.
 
The third is whetstones – used for sharpening weapons and tools – which have also been identified as being similar to those uncovered at European Viking sites. Dr Sutherland said: “The latest work being done on the whetstones is to identify smelted metal traces on the surfaces.”
 
Full article here.

 

Archaeologist Ulla Mannering studying the skirt belonging to The Woman from Huldremose whose 2,000 year-old body was found in a marsh in Jutland in 1879
Photo: Colourbox

Writing in ScienceNordic on the 29 May, Sybille Hildebrandt reports that –

Clothes in the early Iron Age were not grey and dull, as previously assumed. They were colourful and patterned. This new discovery comes as a result of new analyses of 180 textile samples from 26 different bog finds, carried out by Ulla Mannering, a senior researcher and archaeologist at the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research at the National Museum. “The beginning of the Iron Age sparked a revolution in fashion in which clothes became coloured and patterned,” she says. The conventional theory has so far been that colourful textiles only emerged in the centuries after the birth of Christ. “But our analyses show – quite surprisingly – that colour and pattern came into fashion in the earliest part of the Iron Age. That’s 500 years earlier than previously thought.”

The colours changed people’s world view

The new analyses also show that the bodies, buried in an ancient sacrificial bog, from which the textiles were taken are older than previously thought. Most of them date back to the centuries leading up to Christ’s birth, which makes them more than 2,000 years old.

Full article here.

 

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