‘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.

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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


Press conference on the discovery of the Viking sword, photo by Bjarte Brask Eriksen

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.”

Viking treasure discovery in Scotland


This video says about itself:

Metal detectorist finds Britain’s biggest ever haul of Viking treasure

12 October 2014

The largest haul of Viking treasure ever found in Britain has been unearthed by a metal detector enthusiast, it was revealed today.The discovery was found on Church of Scotland land after the detectorist painstakingly searched the unidentified area in Dumfries and Galloway for more than a year.

From STV in Scotland:

‘Significant’ Viking treasure found in Dumfries and Galloway

12 October 2014 12:31 BST

A hoard of Viking treasure found in Dumfries and Galloway has been described one of the most significant archaeological finds [in] Scottish history.

Early indication suggest there are over 100 artefacts, comprising several gold objects.

The hoard also included a complete metal vessel containing more objects. This has not yet been emptied and the first step will be to examine its contents by x-ray techniques.

Experts have begun to examine the finds, but it is already clear that this is one of the most significant Viking hoards ever discovered in Scotland.

Head of the Treasure Trove Unit Stuart Campbell, who is overseeing the recovery and assessment of the find, said: “This is a very important and significant find and has required the close cooperation of Historic Scotland with Treasure Trove Unit and National Museums Scotland staff to recover the fascinating items it contains.

“Due to the quantity and variety of the objects, and the importance of the find overall, it will take some time for experts to assess the hoard as a whole so that we can appreciate its true significance.

“We look forward to learning more.”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said: “The Vikings were well known for having raided these shores in the past, but today we can appreciate what they have left behind, with this wonderful addition to Scotland’s cultural heritage.

“It’s clear that these artefacts are of great value in themselves, but their greatest value will be in what they can contribute to our understanding of life in early medieval Scotland, and what they tell us about the interaction between the different peoples in these islands at that time.

“The Dumfries hoard opens a fascinating window on a formative period in the story of Scotland and just goes to show how important our archaeological heritage in Scotland continues to be.

“As ever, the Scottish Government will work to facilitate and support the discovery, analysis and exhibiting of finds like this, for the benefit of people here and abroad. With that in mind I would like to echo the praise for the responsible behaviour of the metal detectorists: without their continued cooperation this would not be possible.”

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.

Vikings Traded First (Then Plundered), Study Suggests: here.