Archaeological news about the Archaeology of Early Medieval Europe from the Archaeology in Europe web site

Friday, 27 March 2015

DNA map of UK migration history shows Vikings drew the line at pillaging

Analysis shows less Viking DNA than expected, and no single group of Celts.

A fine-grained genetic analysis has created a detailed map of genetic variation across the UK. It gives us a clearer picture of the waves of migration that populated the UK and could also contribute to research on genetic diseases.
Obviously, people in the UK these days don’t always stick around where they were born, so people in a given region don’t necessarily share ancestry. But, if you can find people whose ancestry is closely tied to a particular region, it becomes possible to approximate what genomes would have been like a century ago, before people could move around so easily.
A paper published in Nature this week analyzed the genomes of 2039 people whose grandparents were all born within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of one another. This effectively meant that the researchers were sampling the genomes of the grandparents, whose average birth year was 1885 and who obviously had strong ties to a region. This allowed the researchers to investigate the genetic structure of the UK population before the mass movements of last century.
Read the rest of this article...

The Bayeux Tapestry and the Norman Conquest

The Bayeux Tapestry and the Norman Conquest:
A Commemoration of 1066

5 - 7 Feb 2016

2016 is the 950th anniversary of the momentous year 1066, which climaxed with the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest of England. The Bayeux Tapestry commemorated the lead-up to that Conquest and we commemorate, in this conference, both historical events and the work of art. We compare The Bayeux Tapestry’s version of history with other sources and examine the cultural milieu that produced and appreciated it. We consider the ways in which the Bayeux Tapestry is unique among medieval textile furnishings; and we examine how The Bayeux Tapestry itself has been and still is being commemorated, from the nineteenth-century replica displayed in Reading to recent and current community projects that portray history in needlework.

Further details...

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Local cults of saints played a role in Scandinavian Christianisation

Parchment fragment of a medieval church book. Image: 
Sara Ellis Nilsson/University of Gothenburg

There is a clear link between the celebration of native saints and the ecclesiastical organisation that emerged in Scandinavia in the 12th century. Yet, according to a new doctoral thesis in history from the University of Gothenburg, important differences can be noted between Sweden and Denmark.

Local cults of saints emerged during the Early Middle Ages in the area of Scandinavia that was separated into the ecclesiastical provinces of Lund and Uppsala, roughly corresponding to modern-day Denmark and Sweden. Dioceses and other institutions were established in both provinces in the 11th and 12th centuries.

A Scandinavian perspective

This first-ever comparative study of all 23 native saints in both provinces yields a comprehensive Scandinavian perspective that has been missing in previous research on European cults of saints.

Read the rest of this article...

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

DNA study shows Celts are not a unique genetic group

A depiction of the Celtic Queen Boudicca from AD 1. Why are Celts' descendents not a single genetic grouping?

A DNA study of Britons has shown that genetically there is not a unique Celtic group of people in the UK.
According to the data, those of Celtic ancestry in Scotland and Cornwall are more similar to the English than they are to other Celtic groups.
The study also describes distinct genetic differences across the UK, which reflect regional identities.
And it shows that the invading Anglo Saxons did not wipe out the Britons of 1,500 years ago, but mixed with them.
Published in the Journal Nature, the findings emerge from a detailed DNA analysis of 2,000 mostly middle-aged Caucasian people living across the UK.
Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

New research indicates homosexuality prevalent in early Christian Rome

Dr Mark Masterson, from Victoria’s School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies, has analysed communications of all kinds from the late fourth and early fifth centuries to develop a fuller picture of late-ancient men. This includes correspondence between men, as well as legal notices from the authorities of the time which initially ruled against homosexual prostitution and later perhaps against homosexuality itself, although, Dr Masterson says, the law is unclear. 

Detail of a relief from a late Roman sarcophagus (ca. 250 AD)  
[Credit: © Marie-Lan Nguyen/WikiCommons] 

“While sex between men wasn’t against the law in those times, it was explicitly frowned upon by the authorities,” he says.  “But the very fact that the authorities talk about how men ‘must not do this with another man’, using humorous language and puns, reveals that these activities were prevalent and quite well-known. After all, you don’t make decrees against an activity unless it’s something that actually happens in society.” 

Many of the letters between men featured an element of ‘bromance’, says Dr Masterson. “They use super warm language and when you analyse it you find that they’re quoting erotic poetry to each other, as well as using words of love. Although this might not necessarily mean they are having a sexual relationship, their friendship is portrayed in a sexual way to underline its closeness. If you read letters like these between a man and a woman you’d figure they were having a sexual relationship.”

Read the rest of this article...

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Ring brings ancient Viking, Islamic civilizations closer together

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.

Scandinavians traded for fancy glass objects from Egypt and Mesopotamia as early as 3,400 years ago (SN: 1/24/15, p. 8). Thus, seagoing Scandinavians could have acquired glass items from Islamic traders in the same part of the world more than 2,000 years later rather than waiting for such desirable pieces to move north through trade networks.

Read the rest of this article...

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Anglo-Saxon pendant found in Norfolk field

A student who unearthed an "outstanding" piece of Anglo-Saxon jewellery believes it could be worth tens of thousands of pounds. 

Awaiting cleaning, the seventh-century Anglo-Saxon gold and garnet pendant  discovered in South Norfolk [Credit: Tom Lucking]

 Tom Lucking, 23, found the gold pendant, inlaid with a "profusion" of garnets, while metal detecting on farmland just before Christmas. 

The 7cm (2.8in) item has been described by treasure experts to be of "national significance". 

It is thought its owner may have had royal connections. 

The pendant was discovered by landscape history student Mr Lucking in south Norfolk along with a female skeleton and a number of other coins and jewellery. 

Read the rest of this article...