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Models submerged in flood water at the Jorvik Viking Centre, York England
 
Most people living in Britain will be only too aware of the floods that have hit the north west of the country over the last few days. The devastation has left thousands of people with wrecked homes and/or businesses and more damage is forecast with the arrival of Storm Frank which is due to sweep into the area tonight. Amongst the devastation there is at least one piece of good news. Although the Jorvik Viking Centre in York has been flooded all of its priceless artefacts have ben moved to safety at a higher level or elsewhere. The Independent reports –
 
York’s Jorvik Viking Centre has been closed for the first time in 32 years after the exhibition was submerged in 50cm of dirty floodwater. The city has been severely hit by flooding over the Christmas period. The water levels of the River Ouse and River Foss are now falling but nine severe flood warnings are still in place mostly around York.
 
Earlier, staff had removed important artefacts [from the Centre] and helped build a barricade to try to protect the centre from the flooding. In a statement, Sarah Maltby, director of attractions for York Archaeological Trust, which owns the centre, said: “When we first became aware of water leaking into the basement, we immediately transported all of the historic artefacts within Jorvik up to the first floor, and they have now been moved off-site to a safe location.”
 
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.
   

A gold pin from the Dumfries and Galloway Viking Hoard
©
Church of Scotland

The Church of Scotland reports yesterday that –

A hoard of Viking treasure described as the largest found in modern times has been discovered on land owned by the Church of Scotland. The historically significant find was made by Derek McLennan, a committed metal detector enthusiast who has been searching around the area in Dumfries and Galloway for the last year. The hoard contains more than one hundred artefacts, many of which are unique. They are now in the care of the Treasure Trove Unit and considered to be of international importance.

The hoard falls under the Scots law of treasure trove, and is currently in the care of the Treasure Trove Unit. The law provides for a reward to be made to the finder which is judged equivalent to the market value of the items. The Church of Scotland General Trustees, as the landowners, have reached agreement with Derek about an equitable sharing of any proceeds which will eventually be awarded. Secretary to the General Trustees, David Robertson said “We are very excited to have been part of such an historic find and we commend Derek for the spirit in which he has worked with us and the other agencies involved in making sure everything is properly registered and accounted for. Any money arising from this will first and foremost be used for the good of the local parish. We recognise Derek is very responsible in pursuing his interest, but we do not encourage metal detecting on Church land unless detailed arrangements have been agreed beforehand with the General Trustees.”

The location of the find is not being revealed. The Scottish Government, Treasure Trove Unit and Historic Scotland are all involved in ensuring the area is properly protected while the full historical significance of the site is established. The objects within the hoard will now undergo painstaking conservation work, revealing their secrets and preserving them for future generations.

Full Church of Scotland article here.

   

 
Natalie McCaul, Curator of Archaeology at the Yorkshire Museum, holds a unique Viking silver neck ring from the Bedale Hoard
 
An appeal by the Yorkshire Museum for £50,000 to secure the Bedale Viking Hoard has been successful (see our earlier feature here). The 9th century hoard was discovered by metal detectorists Stuart Campbell and Steve Caswell last year and includes a gold sword pommel, a neck ring and collar (above) gold rivets, half a silver brooch and no less than 29 silver ingots. Its true value however lies in what it will tell us about the Viking presence in Yorkshire 1,100 years ago.
 
The (York) Press reports that –
 
…thanks to generous donations from the public and grants from funders, the £51,636 has been raised so the hoard will remain in Yorkshire on public display. Archaeology Curator Natalie McCaul said: “It is fantastic that the public and funders have helped us keep this spectacular hoard. We would like to thank them for their generosity.”
 
The North Yorkshire finds liaison officer of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, Rebecca Griffiths, based at the Yorkshire Museum, was also involved in the original find. She and her colleague from the museum then went to the site and unearthed the rest of the hidden treasures. Natalie added: “The hoard is incredibly important. It is going to tell us things we never knew before about Viking fashion and jewellery and how fashions changes and style ideas moved around in the Viking world. Members of staff of our team went out to excavate the hoard which is also unique. To have been there from the discovery helps us tell the whole story.”
 
An appeal launched in January saw The Art Fund and the Victoria & Albert Purchase Grant Fund both contribute £11,000. But local people and organisations who have asked to remain anonymous provided the vital cash to clinch the deal. The hoard was on temporary display in the museum entrance during the fund-raising. It will go away for cleaning and conservation work before being returned for permanent show as part of the Capital of the North medieval exhibition. Ms McCaul added: “If we had not raised the money to buy it it could have ended up in a private collection anywhere in the world.” The money will be split between the finders and the landowners as a reward for handing in the jewels.
 
Full article here.
 
The Yorkshire Museum has said that more donations are needed to preserve the Hoard for future generations. To donate to the Museum please contact natalie.mccaul@ymt.org.uk
 
Sarcophagi like this, originally in a recumbent position, often show hunting scenes and interlacing patterns
 
Steven Brocklehurst, writing for BBC News Scotland, reports on –
 
A unique collection of Viking-age monuments, which lay unloved in a Govan churchyard for 1,000 years, has attracted the attention of the British Museum. Its curator said the Govan Stones was one of the best collections of early medieval sculpture anywhere in the British isles.
 
The Govan Stones are a collection of 31 recumbent grave stones, hogback stones and one remarkable sarcophagus from this period of history when warfare instigated by the Norse transformed the political landscape of Britain.
 
A request from the British Museum to feature one of the hogbacks in a flagship exhibition Vikings Life and Legend, which begins in March, is an indication of the growing awareness of the importance of the sculptures. Gareth Williams, curator of the British Museum Viking exhibition, said: “We wanted to go with one of the Govan ones because it is a particularly splendid example but also because we felt that it would be nice to put Govan on the map a bit more. “It is a very important site and one which I think deserves to be better known.
 
“It is one of the best collections of early medieval sculpture anywhere in the British isles.”
 
    
 
The Oseberg longship. Viking Ship Museum, Oslo. Image credit Wikimedia Commons
 
  
Silk textiles from the Persian region found in the Oseberg ship
Parts of special bird motifs associated with Persian mythology, clover-leaf axes, a Zoroastrian symbol taken from the Zodiac are visible. Image credit KHM-UiO
 
 
Continuing with our theme on ancient textiles, Past Horizons reports Friday, 1 November 2013 that –
 
The silk trade was far more comprehensive than we have hitherto assumed and recent research may change our perceptions of the history of the Norwegian Vikings.
 
After four years of in-depth investigation of the silk trade of the Viking Age, Marianne Vedeler, Associate Professor at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo has found that the Norwegian Vikings maintained trade connections with Persia and the Byzantine Empire through a network of traders from a variety of places and cultures who brought the silk to the Nordic countries.
 
One hundred small silk fragments
 
In the Oseberg ship, which was excavated nearly a hundred years ago, more than one hundred small silk fragments were found. This is the oldest find of Viking Age silk in Norway. At the time when the Oseberg silk was discovered, nobody conceived that it could have been imported from Persia. It was generally believed that most of it had been looted from churches and monasteries in England and Ireland.
 
Since the Oseberg excavation, silk from the Viking Age has been found in several locations in the Nordic countries. The last finding was made two years ago at Ness in Hamarøy municipality, Nordland county. Other Norwegian findings of silk from the Viking Age include Gokstad in Vestfold county, Sandanger in the Sunnmøre district and Nedre Haugen in Østfold county.
 
 
Persian textiles also travelled east along the Silk Road; this reproduction is from one housed in the 8th century Shōsōin (正倉院) Imperial Repository in Nara, Japan
Private collection Great Britain
 
Full article here.
 
 
Items from the Silverdale Hoard dating from around 900ce
©
The Trustees of the British Museum
 
BBC News Lancashire reports earlier this week that a –
 
Viking treasure, valued at £110,000, is to go on permanent display in Lancashire. The Silverdale Hoard, made up of more than 200 pieces of silver and jewellery, was found two years ago in a field by a metal detecting enthusiast. It will be on display at Lancaster City Museum from 25 October, before moving to a permanent home at the Museum of Lancashire in Preston in February.
 
Full article here. See also our earlier feature on the forthcoming Vikings: life and legend exhibition at the British Museum here.
 
 

Promotional video for the Viking exhibition now showing at The National Museum of Scotland

Opening today, stv news reports that, “An exhibition of more than 500 Viking objects will be shown in Scotland. The National Museum of Scotland is the only UK venue for Vikings!, a collection of artefacts which are rarely seen outside of Scandinavia. The jewellery, weapon fragments, carvings, precious metals and household items are from the collections of the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm. The objects, along with archaeological evidence, hands-on displays and innovative interpretation, show a different side to the Vikings. The term Viking refers to an activity rather than a group of people. Men would go “out on a Viking”, which could refer to both pillaging raids and peaceful trading expeditions.”

The exhibition runs until 12 May 2013. Details on The National Museum of Scotland website 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.

 

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