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

Friday, 18 December 2015

Rare Viking hoard found by detectorist in Oxfordshire

A rare Viking hoard of arm rings, coins and silver ingots has been unearthed in Oxfordshire. The hoard was buried near Watlington around the end of the 870s, in the time of the "Last Kingdom". 

The hoard includes rare coins, jewellery and silver ingots
[Credit: Trustees of the British Museum]

This was when the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex were fighting for their survival from the threat of the Vikings, which was to lead to the unification of England. 

Archaeologists have called the hoard a "nationally significant find". The hoard was discovered by 60-year-old metal detectorist James Mather.

He said: "I hope these amazing artefacts can be displayed by a local museum to be enjoyed by generations to come." 

The find in October was lifted in a block of soil and brought to the British Museum, where it was excavated and studied by experts from the British Museum in London and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

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The Viking Phenomena

Neil Price, Professor at the Institution for Archaeology at the University in Uppsala has been granted 50 mill SEK (5.4 mill EUR/5,9 Mill USD) to study “Vikingafenomenet” – The Viking Phenomena.

“The Viking Phenomena” is an umbrella programme that shelters several sub-strands, with a principle focus on the polities of eastern Scandinavia in the mid-eighth century.
A primary objective is the final, full publication of the Vallsgärde cemetery – Uppsala’s most prominent archaeological excavation over the years – to be undertaken by a team coordinated under the direction of Neil Price. This will be supported by an international collaborative arm with an Estonian team, conducting detailed post-excavation research on the extraordinary twin boat graves discovered at Salme on Saaremaa, which seem to represent the casualties of a raid on Estonia launched from Swedish Uppland, perhaps even by the Valsgärde people themselves.
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Staffordshire Hoard Newsletter: Conservation Update

The conservation team have been busy with reconstruction of the fragments of silver and silver gilt objects recently. Alongside the conservation work the team have been busy presenting the hoard project at conferences, including the European Archaeological Association conference in Glasgow and Monumental Treasures conference in Helsinki. 

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New find could change our understanding of an Irish national treasure

Fragments of a mediaeval manuscript hidden in the spine of a book for hundreds of years could shed new light on Ireland's greatest cultural treasure, 'The Book of Kells'.
The pieces, discovered in a German library, bear “remarkable similarities” to the Irish national icon and could even pre-date ‘The Book of Kells’.
‘The Book of Kells’ is thought by scholars to have been produced on the island of Iona, in Gaelic Scotland, around AD 800, although conflicting views have suggested that its origins could lie in English Northumbria or in Pictland in eastern Scotland.
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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Archaeologists Discover Elite 6th Century AD Cavalryman With Unique Foot Prosthesis

6th century AD male skeleton with prosthesis in situ during archaeological excavation at Hemmaberg, Austria. Right: Evidence of amputation of the left foot and ankle. 
(Images courtesy OEAI, the Austrian Archaeological Institute.)

In Hemmaberg, Austria, archaeologists excavating a cemetery associated with an early Medieval church discovered the remains of a middle-aged man whose left foot had been amputated. In its place, a unique foot prosthesis was found. Through analysis of the burial and the bones, the researchers tried to figure out who this man was and whether his foot was amputated for medical reasons, accidentally, or as punishment for a crime.

Heavily occupied in the Late Roman to Early Medieval periods, Hemmaberg was a site of early Christian pilgrimage due to its abundance of churches. Archaeological excavation of graves near the Church of St. Hemma and Dorothea revealed early Christian burial practices as well: east-west aligned pits with few grave goods and little evidence of clothing. But one grave in particular piqued researchers’ interest. Situated close to the church, buried with a short sword and an ornate brooch, was a man who likely died during the Frankish reign in the area, the mid- to late-6th century AD, but who had clearly survived a foot amputation.

The analysis of the skeleton, which will be published in the March issue of the International Journal of Paleopathology, was led by bioarchaeologist Michaela Binder of the Austrian Archaeological Institute (OEAI). She and her team pored over the bony evidence, and also x-rayed and CT scanned the remains, in order to learn as much as possible about this man’s life and injury. His name is lost to history, but his bones provide a wealth of information.

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Monday, 14 December 2015

Viking hoard found in field sheds light on England's origins

 A trove of Viking jewelry and Saxon coins unearthed by an amateur treasure-hunter in a farmer's field may help rescue an English king from obscurity.
The Watlington Hoard, a collection of silver bands, ingots and 186 coins unveiled at the British Museum Thursday, dates from a tumultuous period. The coins were minted during the reign of Alfred the Great, ruler of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, who battled a "great heathen army" of Viking invaders during the 9th century.
By coincidence, discovery of the hoard coincides with the broadcast of "The Last Kingdom," a big-budget BBC drama series that has boosted popular interest in the conflict between Alfred and the Vikings.
Alfred is renowned as the ruler whose victories helped create a unified England, but some of the coins in the hoard also bear the name of the far more obscure King Ceolwulf II of Mercia, a neighboring kingdom to Wessex.
"Poor Ceolwulf gets a very bad press in Anglo Saxon history," said museum coins curator Gareth Williams. What little is known of him was written at Alfred's court and paints Ceolwulf as "a puppet of the Vikings."

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Viking hoard discovery reveals little-known king 'airbrushed from history'

A hoard of Viking coins could change our understanding of English history, after showing how Alfred the Great 'airbrushed' out a rival king

A rare coin showing King Alfred ‘the Great’ of Wessex (r.871-99) and King Ceolwulf II of Mercia (874-79)

A Viking hoard discovered by an amateur metal detectorist could prompt the re-writing of English history, after experts claimed it shows how Alfred the Great “airbrushed” a rival king from history.
Ceolwulf II of Mercia is barely mentioned in contemporary records and largely forgotten by history, only briefly described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as an “unwise King’s thane”.
But as of today, his reputation might be rescued after a haul of coins dug up after more than 1,000 years suggested he in fact had a powerful alliance with Alfred, ruling their kingdoms as equals.
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