Dutch museum buys ancient Viking ring


This 2 April 2020 video from Leiden in the Netherlands says about itself (translated):

The Netherlands Middle Ages collection of the National Museum of Antiquities is richer now because of this Viking ring. The ring was found in a cornfield near Hoogwoud, in the north of North Holland province. It is a silver ring from the tenth century. The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden recently bought the ring from the finder. In this video, curator Annemarieke Willemsen explains why the ring is so special.

See also here.

The museum is now closed because of the coronavirus crisis. The ring will be exhibited later.

‘Over-hunting walruses killed Viking Greenlanders’


This 2013 video says about itself:

Getting the perfect shot of a walrus can be a cold, exhausting task. On assignment in a Greenland fjord, photographer Paul Nicklen explains why—then dives in for a close encounter.

From the University of Cambridge in England:

Over-hunting walruses contributed to the collapse of Norse Greenland, study suggests

January 6, 2020

Summary: Norse Greenlanders may have chased dwindling walrus herds ever farther north in an effort to maintain their economy, when the value of walrus ivory tanked after the introduction of elephant tusks into European markets in the 1200s.

The mysterious disappearance of Greenland’s Norse colonies sometime in the 15th century may have been down to the overexploitation of walrus populations for their tusks, according to a study of medieval artefacts from across Europe.

Founded by Erik the Red around 985AD after his exile from Iceland (or so the Sagas tell us), Norse communities in Greenland thrived for centuries — even gaining a bishop — before vanishing in the 1400s, leaving only ruins.

Latest research from the universities of Cambridge, Oslo and Trondheim has found that, for hundreds of years, almost all ivory traded across Europe came from walruses hunted in seas only accessible via Norse settlements in south-western Greenland.

Walrus ivory was a valuable medieval commodity, used to carve luxury items such as ornate crucifixes or pieces for games like chess and Viking favourite hnefatafl. The famous Lewis chessmen are made of walrus tusk.

However, the study also indicates that, as time wore on, the ivory came from smaller animals, often female; with genetic and archaeological evidence suggesting they were sourced from ever farther north — meaning longer and more treacherous hunting voyages for less reward.

Increasingly globalised trade saw elephant ivory flood European markets in the 13th century, and fashions changed. There is little evidence of walrus ivory imports to mainland Europe after 1400.

Dr James H. Barrett, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology, argues that the Norse abandonment of Greenland may have been precipitated by a “perfect storm” of depleted resources and volatile prices, exacerbated by climate change.

“Norse Greenlanders needed to trade with Europe for iron and timber, and had mainly walrus products to export in exchange,” said Barrett, lead author of the study published in Quaternary Science Reviews.

“We suspect that decreasing values of walrus ivory in Europe meant more and more tusks were harvested to keep the Greenland colonies economically viable.”

“Mass hunting can end the use of traditional haul-out sites by walruses. Our findings suggest that Norse hunters were forced to venture deeper into the Arctic Circle for increasingly meagre ivory harvests. This would have exacerbated the decline of walrus populations, and consequently those sustained by the walrus trade.”

Other theories for collapse of the colonies have included climate change — the “Little Ice Age”, a sustained period of lower temperatures, began in the 14th century — as well as unsustainable farming methods and even the Black Death.

“An overreliance on walrus ivory was not the only factor in Norse Greenland’s demise. However, if both the population and price of walrus started to tumble, it must have badly undermined the resilience of the settlements,” says co-author Bastiaan Star of the University of Oslo. “Our study suggests the writing was on the wall.”

Analysis using carved artefacts would risk damage, so researchers examined pieces of “rostrum”: the walrus skull and snout to which tusks remained attached during shipment, creating a protective “package” that got broken up in the ivory workshops of medieval trading centres such as Dublin, Trondheim and Bergen.

In total, the team studied 67 rostra taken from sites across Europe, dating between the 11th and 15th century. Ancient DNA (25 samples) and stable isotopes (31 samples) extracted from samples of bone, as well as tusk socket size, provided clues to the animals’ sex and origins.

The stable isotope analysis was conducted by Cambridge’s Dorothy Garrod Laboratory for Isotopic Analysis, and the DNA analysis by Oslo’s Department of Biosciences.

The researchers also studied traces of “manufacturing techniques” — changing styles of butchery and skull preparation — to help place the walrus remains in history.

While impossible to determine exact provenance, the researchers detected a shift in European walrus finds around the 13th century to walruses from an evolutionary branch most prevalent in the waters around Baffin Bay.

These animals must have been hunted by sailing northwest up the Greenland coast, and more recent specimens were smaller and often female. “If the original hunting grounds of the Greenland Norse, around Disko Bay, were overexploited, they may have journeyed as far north as Smith Sound to find sufficient herds of walrus,” said Barrett.

Norse artefacts have previously been found among the remains of 13th and 14th-century Inuit settlements in this most northern of regions. One former Inuit camp on an islet off Ellesmere Island contained the rivets of a Norse boat — quite possibly a hunting trip that never returned.

“Ancestors of the Inuit occupied northern Greenland during the time of the Norse colonies. They probably encountered and traded with the Norse,” said Barrett. “That pieces of a Norse boat were found so far north hints of the risks these hunters might have ended up taking in their quest for ivory.”

Barrett points out that the Inuit of the region favoured female walruses when hunting, so the prevalence of females in Greenland’s later exports could imply a growing Norse reliance on Inuit supply.

He says that hunting season for the Norse would have been short, as seas were choked with ice for much of the year. “The brief window of summer would have barely been sufficient for rowing the many hundreds of miles north and back.”

The legend of Erik the Red itself may mask what Barrett calls “ecological globalisation”: the chasing of natural resources as supply dwindles. Recent research revealed that Greenland might have been settled only after Icelandic walruses were hunted to exhaustion.

Ultimately, having been highly prized for centuries, the marbled appearance of walrus ivory fell out of favour as West African trade routes opened up, and the homogenous finish of elephant ivory became de rigueur in the 13th century.

One account suggests that in the 1120s, Norse Greenlanders used walrus ivory to secure their own bishopric from the King of Norway. By 1282, however, the Pope requests his Greenland tithes be converted from walrus tusk into silver or gold.

“Despite a significant drop in value, the rostra evidence implies that exploitation of walruses may have even increased during the thirteen and fourteenth centuries,” said Barrett.

“As the Greenlanders chased depleted walrus populations ever northwards for less and less return in trade, there must have come a point where it was unsustainable. We believe this ‘resource curse’ undermined the resilience of the Greenland colonies.”

Eight-year-old girl discovers (pre-)Viking sword


This 4 October 2018 video says about itself:

Girl, 8, pulls a 1,500-year-old sword from a lake in Sweden.

It reminds me a bit of a Vietnamese legend; from Wikipedia:

According to the legend, in early 1428, Emperor Lê Lợi was boating on the lake when a Golden Turtle God (Kim Qui) surfaced and asked for his magic sword, Heaven’s Will. Lợi concluded that Kim Qui had come to reclaim the sword that its master, a local God, the Dragon King (Long Vương) had given Lợi some time earlier, during his revolt against Ming China. Later, Emperor Lợi gave the sword back to the turtle after he finished fighting off the Chinese. Emperor Lợi renamed the lake to commemorate this event, from its former name Luc Thuy meaning “Green Water”.

In medieval British Arthurian legends, King Arthur obtained his sword Excalibur from the water, given by the Lady of the Lake.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Girl (8) pulls 1500-years-old sword from lake

An 8-year-old girl has, in Sweden, recovered a 1500-year-old sword from a lake. While swimming on holiday in Jönköping, Saga Vanecek took the 85-centimeter weapon out of the mud.

“I felt something in the water and pulled it up. When I saw a handle, I told my father it looked like a sword”, Saga told the Swedish media. The find was extra special for the Swedish-American girl because she is a fan of the Vikings NFL [American football] team.

If it is really 1500 years old, then it is not a Viking sword, but rather a pre-Viking weapon; as the Viking Age is usually said to start in 793 AD.

Her father initially thought that Saga had “found an unusual stick”, but further research soon indicated that it was a special archaeological find. According to experts, the weapon is very well preserved. Thus the sheath of leather and wood is still around the blade.

According to the local museum, the discovery was possible because the water in the lake was exceptionally low this summer due to the drought. Furthermore, it is being investigated whether more finds can be made. A brooch from the Iron Age has already been found.

Archaeologists have no idea how the sword landed in the water. It may have been thrown into the lake as an offering or simply lost, but it is also possible that it has been washed away from a grave.

The brooch found near the sword, photo Jönköpings Läns Museum

‘Male’ Viking warrior turns out to be woman


This is how the grave on Birka might have looked like where the female warrior was buried. Illustration by Evald Hansen based on the original plan of grave Bj 581 from Hjalmar Stolpe's excavations at Birka in the late 19th century. (Stolpe 1889)

From Stockholm University in Sweden:

An officer and a gentlewoman from the Viking army in Birka

War was not an activity exclusive to males in the Viking world. A new study conducted by researchers at Stockholm and Uppsala Universities shows that women could be found in the higher ranks at the battlefield.

September 8, 2017

Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, who led the study, explains: “What we have studied was not a Valkyrie [war goddess] from the sagas but a real life military leader, that happens to be a woman”.

The study was conducted on one of the most iconic graves from the Viking Age. It holds the remains of a warrior surrounded by weapons, including a sword, armour-piercing arrows, and two horses. There were also a full set of gaming pieces and a gaming board. “The gaming set indicates that she was an officer”, says Charlotte, “someone who worked with tactics and strategy and could lead troops in battle”. The warrior was buried in the Viking town of Birka during the mid-10th century. Isotope analyses confirm an itinerant life style, well in tune with the martial society that dominated 8th to 10th century northern Europe.

Anna Kjellström, who also participated in the study, has taken an interest in the burial previously. “The morphology of some skeletal traits strongly suggests that she was a woman, but this has been the type specimen for a Viking warrior for over a century why we needed to confirm the sex in any way we could.”

And this is why the archaeologists turned to genetics, to retrieve a molecular sex identification based on X and Y chromosomes. Such analyses can be quite useful according to Maja Krezwinska: “Using ancient DNA for sex identification is useful when working with children for example, but can also help to resolve controversial cases such as this one”. Maja was thus able to confirm the morphological sex identification with the presence of X chromosomes but the lack of a Y chromosome.

Jan Storå, who holds the senior position on this study, reflects over the history of the material: “This burial was excavated in the 1880s and has served as a model of a professional Viking warrior ever since. Especially, the grave-goods cemented an interpretation for over a century”. It was just assumed she was a man through all these years. “The utilization of new techniques, methods, but also renewed critical perspectives, again, shows the research potential and scientific value of our museum collections”.

The study is a part of the ongoing ATLAS project, which is a joint effort by Stockholm University and Uppsala University, supported by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences) and Vetenskapsrådet (The Swedish Research Council), to investigate the genetic history of Scandinavia.

See also here.

Viking army camp discovery in England


This video says about itself:

Top 10 GLORIOUS Facts about the VIKINGS

7 October 2016

The first record of the Scandinavian people known as the Vikings, or Norsemen (Northmen), was when they raided England in 793 A.D. The word Viking comes from the Scandinavian term vikingr, a word for “pirate.” Essentially, Scandinavian men would go on “a Viking” during the summer in which they’d raid the coastal areas of countries like France and England. Even today, over 1,200 years after they first made landfall in England, the Vikings have a reputation as fierce warriors and amazing seafaring people that explored more of the world than anyone before them.

10. Traders
9. Women Vikings Travelled with the Men
8. Viking Feasts
7. Drug Users
6. They Filed Their Teeth
5. The Viking Compass
4. Mead
3. The Middle East
2. They Founded Dublin and Other Irish Towns
1. Caused the Spread of the House Mouse

From the University of Sheffield in England:

Viking army camp uncovered by archaeologists in England

May 18, 2017

Summary: Thousands of Vikings established a camp in Lincolnshire as they prepared to conquer ninth century England, archaeologists have discovered. Vikings used camp in winter to repair ships, melt down stolen loot, trade and play games.

A huge camp which was home to thousands of Vikings as they prepared to conquer England in the late ninth century has been uncovered by archaeologists.

Established in Torksey, on the banks of the River Trent in Lincolnshire, the camp was used as the Vikings‘ defensive and strategic position during the winter months.

The research, conducted by archaeologists at the Universities of Sheffield and York, has revealed how the camp was used by thousands of Viking warriors, women and children who lived there temporarily in tented accommodation.

They also used the site as a base to repair ships, melt down stolen loot, manufacture, trade and play games.

Professor Dawn Hadley, who led the research from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology said: “The Vikings’ camp at Torksey was much more than just a handful of hardy warriors — this was a huge base, larger than most contemporary towns, complete with traders, families, feasting, and entertainment.

“From what has been found at the site, we know they were repairing their boats there and melting down looted gold and silver to make ingots — or bars of metal they used to trade.

“Metal detectorists have also found more than 300 lead game pieces, suggesting the Vikings, including women and children, were spending a lot of time playing games to pass the time, waiting for spring and the start of their next offensive.”

The findings have now been used to create a virtual reality experience giving users an opportunity to experience what life was like in a Viking army camp.

The virtual reality experience has been developed by researchers at the University of York and is part of an exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum that opens on Friday (19 May 2017).

All the scenes featured in the virtual reality experience are based on real objects found by archaeologists and metal detectorists at Torksey.

Professor Julian Richards, from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, said: “These extraordinary images offer a fascinating snap shot of life at a time of great upheaval in Britain.

“The Vikings had previously often raided exposed coastal monasteries and returned to Scandinavia in winter, but in the later ninth century they came in larger numbers, and decided to stay. This sent a very clear message that they now planned not only to loot and raid — but to control and conquer.”

Dr Gareth Beale from York’s Digital Creativity Labs added: “The new research by the Universities of Sheffield and York has been used to create the most realistic images of the camp to date, based on real findings. These images are also believed to be the most realistic Virtual Reality ever created anywhere of the Viking world.”

The exact location and scale of the camp in Lincolnshire has been debated for many years, but now the research by Sheffield and York is beginning to reveal the true extent of the camp. It is now thought to be at least 55 hectares in size, bigger than many towns and cities of the time, including York.

There have also been more than a thousand finds by metal detectorists and archaeologists, including over 300 coins. They include more than 100 Arabic silver coins which would have come to the area through established Viking trade routes.

More than 50 pieces of chopped up silver, including brooch fragments and ingots have been found along with rare hackgold. Evidence has been found that these items were being processed at the camp — chopped up to be melted down. Other finds include the 300 gaming pieces, iron tools, spindle whorls, needles and fishing weights.

Using landscape analysis, the research has been able to reveal the topography of the camp. With the River Trent to the west and surrounding land prone to flooding to this day, its strength as a defensive position becomes clear.

Extinct shellfish brought back to Europe by Vikings?


This video says about itself:

After reducing the level of water in the shallows sand seashells [soft-shell clams] (Mya arenaria) became visible.

Lower Tiligul Estuary (Liman). Ukraine. May 17, 2015.

From the Netherlands Journal of Geosciences, May 2016:

Are Medieval Mya arenaria (Mollusca; Bivalvia) in the Netherlands also clams before Columbus?

Abstract

During the Pleistocene [Ice Age], the coastal marine bivalve mollusc Mya arenaria became extinct in northwest Europe. The species remained present in North America. Datings of Mya shells found in northern Denmark and the southern Baltic Sea suggest that repopulation of northwest European coasts already occurred before Columbus’ discovery of America (1492), possibly facilitated by Viking (Norse) settlers at Greenland and northeast North America.

In this paper we report on findings of M. arenaria at five locations in the coastal landscape of the Netherlands: polders reclaimed from the Wadden Sea and the former estuaries of Oer-IJ and Old Rhine. The shells from four of these locations also date before 1492 AD.

Viking buckle discovery in the Netherlands


The Oudewater viking buckle, photo by Caio Haars

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Viking buckle found in Oudewater

Today, 12:54

Amateur archaeologist Caio Haars from Oudewater found three weeks ago a buckle from the Viking Age, reports RTV Utrecht. He found it with his metal detector.

The buckle is from the 10th to the 12th century. Typical are the inwardly rolled rank ornaments. The lion’s head with outstretched tongue (buckle thorn) was often used in the Nordic art world, especially in sculptures in churches.

The buckle will be exhibited in the town hall of Oudewater. The amateur archaeologist does not say where he made his discovery. He fears that other people will scour the meadows. Farmers may be affected by that, he says.

Norwegian hiker discovers ancient Viking sword


This November 2015 video says about itself:

During a fishing trip in 2012, Gøran Olsen discovered something between stones at Haukeli. The find is now at the University Museum, and appeared to be a single-edged Viking sword with an estimated date in the first half of the Viking Age (c.800-950).

The find spot is located in the mountains, along an old route between Eastern and Western Norway. Viking Age single-edged swords area particularly frequent in Western Norway, most often in graves, but this example is particularly well preserved. Viking Age graves in the mountains are rare, especially in this area, although one of the most numerous Iron Age grave fields is located not far away, in Røldal. Viking Age graves would normally be located closer to the farm.

The sword will be treated by the University Museum for a few months and eventually displayed in the Viking Age exhibitions. The find spot will be further investigated, hopefully to reveal some of the history behind its rare location and to find out if it came from a grave or not. This will provide information on the exploitation of this mountain area in the Viking Age. The investigations will probably take place during 2016, when the snow is gone.

From The Local in Norway:

Hiker finds 1,200-yr-old Viking sword in Norway

Published: 21 Oct 2015 07:35 GMT+02:00

A hiker travelling the ancient route between western and eastern Norway found a 1,200-year-old Viking sword after sitting down to rest after a short fishing trip.

The sword, found at Haukeli in central southern Norway will be sent for conservation at the University Museum of Bergen.

Jostein Aksdal, an archeologist with Hordaland County said the sword was in such good condition that if it was given a new grip and a polish, it could be used today.

“The sword was found in very good condition. It is very special to get into a sword that is merely lacking its grip,” he said.

“When the snow has gone in spring, we will check the place where the sword was found. If we find several objects, or a tomb, perhaps we can find the story behind the sword,” he said.

He said that judging by the sword’s 77cm length, it appeared to come from 750-800AD.

“This was a common sword in Western Norway. But it was a costly weapon, and the owner must have used it to show power”, he said.

Viking vessel discovery in Canada?


This video from Denmark says about itself:

Viking Age Bronze Casting

Traditional bronze casting using a sepia as mould. Made during a workshop held by Jess Vestergaard at Bork Vikingehavn 08/2012.

From Archaeology:

Possible Viking Vessel Identified in Canada

Thursday, December 18, 2014

OTTAWA, CANADA—Traces of bronze and glass have been detected on a piece of a small, 1,000-year-old stone vessel recovered from Baffin Island in the 1960s. According to Patricia Sutherland of the University of Aberdeen, Peter Thompson of Peter H. Thompson Geological Consulting, Ltd., and Patricia Hunt of the Geological Survey of Canada, who published their findings in the journal Geoarchaeology, the container was used as a crucible for melting bronze and casting small tools or ornaments. The glass formed when the rock was heated to high temperatures. Indigenous peoples of the Canadian Arctic did not practice high-temperature metalworking at this time, but a similar stone crucible has been found at a Viking site in Norway.

“The crucible adds an intriguing new element to this emerging chapter in the early history of northern Canada. It may be the earliest evidence of high-temperature nonferrous metalworking in North America to the north of what is now Mexico,” Sutherland told Sci-News.com. To read in-depth about some of the earliest evidence of Viking warfare, see “The First Vikings.”