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

Thursday, 28 April 2016

All aboard! Nordic Viking ship ready for Atlantic voyage

The world's largest Viking ship in modern times is about to set sail across the Atlantic.
Named after Harald Hårfagre, the king who unified Norway in the 10th century, the ship's Swedish captain Björn Ahlander was originally supposed to have ordered the great dragon vessel to weigh anchor from Avaldsnes in Norway's Haugesund on Sunday, but the departure was delayed by bad weather.
And time is of the essence. Following in the historical tailwind of Leif Eriksson, the Viking thought to have discovered America centuries before Christopher Columbus, the ship has a long journey ahead, taking a route via Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland before it finally drops anchor in the United States.
"We've got one month because the only gap, if you don't want to battle low pressure and harsh winds, is May. That's your chance to make it across," Ahlander told the Swedish news agency TT on Monday.
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The Viking Great Army in England: Torksey, treasure and towns

The Viking Great Army in England: Torksey, treasure and towns

Tuesday 3 May 2016, 5.30PM

Speaker: Julian Richards

From AD 865 to 879 a Viking army wreaked havoc on the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, leading to political conquest, settlement on a substantial scale, and extensive Scandinavian cultural and linguistic influences in eastern and northern England. This critical period for English history led to revolutionary changes in land ownership, society, and economy, including the growth of towns and industry, while transformations in power politics would ultimately see the rise of Wessex as the pre-eminent kingdom of Anglo-Saxon England. 

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‘Lost’ songs from Middle Ages brought back to life

An ancient song repertory will be heard for the first time in 1,000 years this week after being ‘reconstructed’ by a Cambridge researcher and a world-class performer of medieval music. 

Detail from the Cambridge Songs manuscript leaf that was stolen from and then recovered by Cambridge University Library [Credit: Cambridge University] 

‘Songs of Consolation’, to be performed at Pembroke College Chapel, Cambridge on April 23, is reconstructed from neumes (symbols representing musical notation in the Middle Ages) and draws heavily on an 11th century manuscript leaf that was stolen from Cambridge and presumed lost for 142 years. 

Saturday’s performance features music set to the poetic portions of Roman philosopher Boethius’ magnum opus The Consolation of Philosophy. One of the most widely-read and important works of the Middle Ages, it was written during Boethius’ sixth century imprisonment, before his execution for treason. Such was its importance, it was translated by many major figures, including King Alfred the Great, Chaucer and Elizabeth I.

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Sunday, 24 April 2016

Did volcano eruptions tip Europe into Dark Ages?

Back-to-back volcanic eruptions in the mid-6th century darkened Europe's skies for more than a year and may have ushered in the Dark Ages, according to finding to be presented Friday at a science conference in Vienna.
"Either would have led to significant cooling of Earth's surface," said Matthew Toohey, a climate modeller at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel Germany who led the research.
"But taken together, the two eruptions"—in 536 and 540—"were likely the most powerful volcanic event affecting the northern hemisphere climate over at least the past 1,500 years," he told AFP at a meeting of the European Geosciences Union.
Their combined impact lowered temperatures by two degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) during what is probably the coldest decade in the last two millennia, he added.
This sudden drop, caused by a Sun-blocking blanket of sulphur particles in the stratosphere, had a devastating impact on agriculture, provoking famine throughout much of Europe and beyond.
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Romsey Abbey: The mystery of the hair in the coffin

For the past few months, archaeologists have been testing a full head of hair found in a coffin. Is it the hair of a saint?
In October 1839, the work of some gravediggers came to an abrupt halt when their tools hit something hard. It was a lead coffin. Inside they found some hair. Human hair.
In the year 2000, a seven-year-old boy called Jamie Cameron went on a school trip to his local parish church, Romsey Abbey in Hampshire. It was where the gravediggers had made their discovery more than a century and a half earlier.
He was taken to a display case and was immediately drawn to the full head of hair, which was still resting on the oak "pillow" on which it was found.

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Friday, 22 April 2016

Searching for the Vikings: 3 Sites Possibly Found in Canada

Another possible Viking site, located at a place called Point Rosee in southern Newfoundland, was discovered using satellite imagery. 

Three archaeological sites that may have been used by Vikings around 1,000 years ago were excavated recently in Canada.

If confirmed, the discoveries would add to the single known Viking settlement in the New World, located at L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland. Excavated in the 1960s, that Viking outpost was used for a short period of time around 1,000 years agoas well.

Sagas from the time of the Vikings tell tales of their journeys into the New World, mentioning places named "Helluland" (widely believed to be modern-day Baffin Island), "Markland" (widely believed to be Labrador) and "Vinland," which is a more mysterious location that some archaeologists have argued could be Newfoundland. [See Photos of the Newfound Viking Sites]

Even so, pinpointing actual Viking remains or other clues of Viking settlements has been difficult, making the three sites — two in Newfoundland and the other in the Arctic — intriguing to archaeologists.

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Solving the mystery of the mummified lung

In 1959 a preserved lung was found by archaeologist Michel Fleury in a stone sarcophagus in the Basilica of St. Denis, in Paris. At this site the kings of France were buried for centuries. Along with the lung skeletal remains, a strand of hair, textile and leather fragments, as well as a golden ring with the inscription “Arnegundis Regine”, were found. Among the grave goods, an elaborate copper belt was also discovered. 

Drawing of the old queen Arnegunde, with the dress she probably  wore when she died 
[Credit: L. Brossard/Inrap] 

The inscription on the golden ring showed the remains belonged to the Merovigian Queen Arnegunde. Arnegunde, Aregunda, Aregund, Aregonda or Arnegonda (c. 515/520-580) was a Frankish queen, the wife of Clotaire I, king of the Franks, and the mother of Chilperic I of Neustria. 

The discovery of the preserved lung raised the question of how it could be preserved while the body was completely skeletonized.

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Monday, 18 April 2016

Prehistoric monuments and 150 Anglo-Saxon graves found at Bulford

Excavations on MOD land in Bulford, Wiltshire, have uncovered 150 Anglo-Saxon graves spanning the later 7th to early 8th century, and a host of prehistoric finds – as well as new insights into early medieval burial practices.
Containing the remains of men, women, and children, the burials were arranged in neat rows, packed closely together – though as none of the graves intercut, the team from Wessex Archaeology (excavating on behalf of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, ahead of the construction of new homes for army families) suggests that they may once have been picked out in some way.
‘It is likely that the graves were identified somehow, perhaps with some kind of marker or a low mound,’ said Wessex Archaeology osteologist Jackie McKinley. ‘This is a planned cemetery.’

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Anglo-Saxon graves and Neolithic pits and monuments found at MOD army base where anti-tank weapons were tested

The graves of men, women and children could have contained members of the same families on Salisbury Plain

This workbox was found in the grave of a woman on Ministry of Defence land in Bulford
© Wessex Archaeology

Two Neolithic monuments, prehistoric pits and an Anglo-Saxon cemetery of 150 graves containing spears, knives, jewellery and bone combs have been discovered at an army site where anti-tank weaponry was tested during World War Two.

One burial at Bulford has been radiocarbon dated to the mid Anglo-Saxon period, between AD 660 and 780. The graves have been found as part of a £1 billion Ministry of Defence development to create 1,000 homes for service personnel.
Archaeologists are now planning to excavate the monuments next to the cemetery, which are made up of Early Bronze Age round barrows and are likely to become scheduled monuments. Grooved ware pottery, stone and flint axes, a disc-shaped flint knife, a chalk bowl and deer and extinct wild cattle bones were found in the pits.

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'Woman in Blue' sheds light on Iceland’s first settlers

Iceland’s “woman in blue,” the partial skeleton of a young woman found in 1938 in a grave with Viking-era objects, was a child of some of the island’s earliest settlers, researchers reported April 14 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. Tooth development and wear suggest she was between 17 and 25 years old when she died.

A female’s jaw dating to the early 900s, with some flesh still attached, floats  in a jar filled with light paraffin oil. The jaw belonged to one of Iceland’s earliest  colonizers, known as the “woman in blue” for her indigo-dyed apron
[Credit: Ivar Brynjólfsson/The National Museum of Iceland]

It’s not known if the woman was a Viking or if she came from another northern European population, said bioarchaeologist Tina Jakob of Durham University in England. A chemical analysis of one of her teeth indicates that, between ages 5 and 10, she started eating a lot of fish and other seafood for the first time after having previously consumed mainly plants and land animals, a team led by Jakob and Joe Walser III of the University of Iceland in Reykjavik found.

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Tuesday, 12 April 2016


A 10th century church with a necropolis has been discovered by the Ruse archaeologists during their participation in the rescue digs in the nearby Danube city of Silistra, the modern-day heir to Durostorum (in the Antiquity) and Drastar (in the Middle Ages). 
Photo: Ruse Regional Museum of History

church from the 10th century, dozens of medieval graves, and coins testifying to the Tatar (Mongol) invasion of theSecond Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) in 1242 AD have been discovered during rescue excavations of the medieval city of Drastar, known as Durostorum in the Antiquity, in today’s Danube city of Silistra in Northeast Bulgaria.
These findings have just been presented to the public by archaeologists Nikola Rusev and Varbin Varbanov from theRuse Regional Museum of History; the discoveries were made in the late summer and fall of 2015 when their team participated in the rescue excavations in the city of Silistra after a local water supply rehabilitation project exposed a number of archaeological structures from different time periods.
The rescue digs in Silistra, which was a major regional center in the Antiquity and Middle Ages, continued for several months as part of the rehabilitation of the city’s water supply and sewerage system. They also led to the discovery of the outer fortress wall of the Ancient Roman city of Durostorum (as the city was known in the Antiquity period).
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Monday, 11 April 2016

Viking Treasures seen for the first time in a thousand years

More than ten centuries after being buried in a field in Galloway, conservators are releasing images that reveal the contents of a pot of Viking treasure for the first time.

Although the objects are not currently on  display, a series of images will give the public a chance to see the Viking treasure for the first time, following a painstaking conservation project to remove and conserve the rare items, which date from 9th-10th centuries AD.
The project is being funded by Historic Environment Scotland, working in partnership with the Treasure Trove Unit, and the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer (QLTR).

The cache of objects were, until recently, contained in a ‘Carolingian’ (West European) vessel, or pot, which was part of a wider hoard, amounting to around a hundred items, which includes a large number of silver ingots and armrings, a beautifully-preserved cross, and an ornate gold pin in the likeness of a bird. 

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Christian sects drop their differences, and their fists, to restore Jesus's tomb

 The Aedicule at the heart of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is in need of repairs 

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Jerusalem holy site where Jesus is thought have been crucified, is as often the scene of Christian rivalry as brotherly love. 

Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox priests jostle for space under its great dome, sing during each other's prayers and occasionally engage in sectarian fist fights

But the three communities have set aside their differences for a task all can agree is of critical importance: restoring the crumbling structure of Jesus's tomb. 

At the heart of the church is the Aedicule, a towering shrine built on what is said to be the spot where Jesus was buried before rising from the dead three days later.

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Monday, 4 April 2016

Did Alabama space archaeologist just help rewrite history of Vikings in North America?

Sarah Parcak revealed her plan for a $1 million grant to the world during an impassioned speech on stage at the TED2016 event in Vancouver on Tuesday night. 
(Photo courtesy TED)

An expert team of archaeologists, including University of Alabama at Birmingham archaeologist Sarah Parcak, has uncovered what may be the first new Norse site discovered in North America in decades.

Parcak's international renown grew last year when she was announced as the winner of a $1 million TED prize, which she is using to fight looting using satellite technology.

Now she is part of a group of scientists who have uncovered what could prove to be North America's second Viking site.

Parcak, a researcher and professor of anthropology at UAB, was awarded the 2016 TED Prize because of her innovative work preserving ancient Egyptian sites using satellites. She has discovered 17 lost pyramids, more than 1,000 tombs and more than 3,100 ancient settlements in Egypt.

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A Viking village in Canada, spotted from space

Space archaeologist Sarah Parcak on the site of a possible Viking settlement on the southern coast of Newfoundland in July 2015.
Credit: Freddie Claire/ BBC

Evidence at an archaeological site in southern Newfoundland suggests it may once have been inhabited by a group of the seafaring Scandinavians. If borne out by further research, this would be only the second Viking site in North America, and the first uncovered in more than 50 years.

“You can explain away one site,” said Sarah Parcak, the archaeologist from the University of Alabama at Birmingham who led the discovery. “It’s a one-off. But I think if there’s two, there’s definitely more.”

Parcak first discovered the ancient ruin in a thoroughly modern fashion: through satellite images taken hundreds of miles above earth. Her team scanned the coastline of eastern Canada and northern New England using Google Earth to search for evidence of past human settlements.   

When the team found areas where plant growth seemed disrupted, they ordered high-resolution satellite imagery for a closer look. That led them to the southwestern corner of Newfoundland and a site researchers are now calling “Point Rosee.”

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Discovery Could Rewrite History of Vikings in New World

Archaeologists have unearthed a stone hearth that was used for iron-working, hundreds of miles away from the only other known Viking site in North America.

It’s a two-mile trudge through forested, swampy ground to reach Point Rosee, a narrow, windswept peninsula stretching from southern Newfoundland into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Last June, a team of archaeologists was drawn to this remote part of Canada by a modern-day treasure map: satellite imagery revealing ground features that could be evidence of past human activity.
The treasure they discovered here—a stone hearth used for working iron—could rewrite the early history of North America and aid the search for lost Viking settlements described in Norse sagas centuries ago.
To date, the only confirmed Viking site in the New World is L’Anse aux Meadows, a thousand-year-old way station discovered in 1960 on the northern tip of Newfoundland. It was a temporary settlement, abandoned after just a few years, and archaeologists have spent the past half-century searching for elusive signs of other Norse expeditions.

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Friday, 1 April 2016

New evidence of Viking life in America?

A new discovery has revealed that the Vikings may have travelled hundreds of miles further into North America than previously thought. It's well known that they reached the tip of the continent more than 1,000 years ago, but the full extent of their exploration has remained a mystery, writes historian Dan Snow. 

After a long hike across boggy ground and through thick pine forests, clutching pepper spray to protect against bear attacks, Sarah Parcak and her small team of archaeologists stood on an exposed, wind-blasted headland in North America.

Exhausted but happy, they had been led to Point Rosee in Newfoundland by the most high-tech weaponry in the modern archaeological arsenal - satellite data captured 383 miles (600km) above the Earth. But once here they were back to using trowels and brushes. I joined them to see how this powerful combination of new and old allowed them to make what could be a seismic discovery.

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New satellite images reveal fresh evidence that Vikings settled in North America

Credit BBC

The Vikings' claim to be the first Europeans to reach North America will receive a huge boost, with the announcement of the discovery of a new site that marks the farthest known westerly point of the Norse exploration across the Atlantic.

Scientists working with the BBC will today reveal that they believe they have discovered only the second known Viking site in North America, on the Canadian island of Newfoundland, 400 miles south-west of a settlement discovered in the 1960s – the farthest known point of all the Viking voyages.

The remains of metal and turf, dating to sometime between 800AD and 1300AD, were excavated after sophisticated new satellite searches, and give further credence to the claim that it was the Vikings, not Columbus, who were the first European explorers to discover the Americas.

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View From Space Hints at a New Viking Site in North America

 Douglas Bolender, left, and Sarah H. Parcak, right, looking for evidence of a Viking presence at a remote site, called Point Rosee by researchers, in Newfoundland. If confirmed, the site would be the second known Viking settlement in North America. Credit Greg Mumford

A thousand years after the Vikings braved the icy seas from Greenland to the New World in search of timber and plunder, satellite technology has found intriguing evidence of a long-elusive prize in archaeology — a second Norse settlement in North America, further south than ever known.

The new Canadian site, with telltale signs of iron-working, was discovered last summer after infrared images from 400 miles in space showed possible man-made shapes under discolored vegetation. The site is on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, about 300 miles south of L’Anse aux Meadows, the first and so far only confirmed Viking settlement in North America, discovered in 1960.

Since then, archaeologists, following up clues in the histories known as the sagas, have been hunting for the holy grail of other Viking, or Norse, landmarks in the Americas that would have existed 500 years before Columbus, to no avail.

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