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

Monday, 28 November 2016

Altar of Miracle-Making Viking King Discovered in Norway

Archaeologists uncovered the foundations of a wooden church where the body of the Viking king Olaf Haraldsson may have been enshrined after he was declared a saint.
Credit: Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU);
Distributed Under a Creative Commons License

The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) announced Nov. 11 that its researchers had discovered the foundations of a wooden church where the body of King Olaf Haraldsson was taken immediately after he was declared a saint in 1031. St. Olaf, as he is now known, conquered and consolidated Norway in 1016 but held on to rule for a little more than a decade before his power was threatened by Canute I, king of Denmark and England. Olaf died in the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030.
Now, archaeologists say they've found a key location in the king's posthumous journey from martyr to Norway's patron saint. [25 Grisly Archaeological Discoveries]
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Tuesday, 22 November 2016

York to reopen Vikings of Jorvik attraction 16 months after floods

The December 2015 floods that forced the Vikings of Jorvik attraction to close. 
Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

It’s almost a year since Sarah Maltby, sat comfortably at home on her sofa in the sleepy days after Christmas, got a phone call to warn her that the Vikings of Jorvik were up to their waists in water.
“The first I knew of it was a call from the staff on duty saying the centre was open, there were visitors inside, but water was starting to pour in and what should they do,” the director of attractions for York Archaeological Trust said. “There was only one answer. Get the visitors out and close immediately.”
Jorvik, the unique visitor attraction under the streets of York and built on an archaeology site that revealed the real everyday lives of its Viking residents, has been closed ever since. It has only just announced a reopening date in April 2017.
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Friday, 18 November 2016

Built by the Huns? Ancient Stone Monuments Discovered Along Caspian

A massive stone structure, dating back 1,500 years, has been discovered along the Caspian Sea.
Credit: Photo courtesy Evgeniï Bogdanov

A massive, 1,500-year-old stone complex that may have been built by nomad tribes has been discovered near the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea in Kazakhstan.
The complex contains numerous stone structures sprawled over about 300 acres (120 hectares) of land, or more than 200 American football fields, archaeologists reported recently in the journal Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia.
"When the area was examined in detail, several types of stone structures were identified," archaeologists Andrey Astafiev, of the Mangistaus State Historical and Cultural Reserve; and Evgeniï Bogdanov, of the Russian Academy of Sciences Siberian Department's Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, wrote in the journal article. The smallest stone structures are only 13 feet by 13 feet (4 by 4 meters), and the biggest are 112 feet by 79 feet (34 by 24 m). [See Photos of the Massive Stone Structure and Artifacts]
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Revealing the substandard fate of the Dark Age dead

Almost 80 wooden coffins excavated at Great Ryburgh in Norfolk provides fascinating insight into the lives and deaths of Dark Age Anglo-Saxons

Our Dark Age Anglo-Saxon ancestors ended up in coffins made of decidedly substandard timber – according to new archaeological research.
In the first ever group of Dark Age wooden coffins ever unearthed in Britain, investigators have found that they were mostly made of poor quality knotted timber and that some of them were even slightly curved.
It appears that quality wood was so valuable that unknotted straight timber tended to be reserved for making planks and posts for buildings.
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Surprise Find: More Than 80 Anglo-Saxon Coffins Uncovered in England

An ancient Anglo-Saxon cemetery with more than 80 rare wooden coffins containing skeletons has been unearthed in England.
Earlier this year, archaeologists were investigating the ground around a river in the village of Great Ryburgh in eastern England, ahead of the construction of a lake and flood defense system. During an excavation, they started finding graves arranged in rows.
"We had no idea it [the cemetery] was going to be there," James Fairclough, an archaeologist with the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), told Live Science. [See Photos of the Rare Wooden Coffins and Cemetery]
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Discovery Of Rare Anglo-Saxon Burials Is Revealed

Archaeologists have uncovered an important Anglo-Saxon cemetery in an excavation in advance of a conservation and fishing lake and flood defence system at Great Ryburgh in Norfolk. The waterlogged conditions of the river valley led to the remarkable preservation of burials that are extremely rare in the archaeological record, including plank-lined graves and tree-trunk coffins dating from the 7th-9th century AD.

It is believed that this may have been the final resting place for a community of early Christians including a timber structure thought to be a church or chapel, of which there are few examples from this period. The wooden grave markers, east-west alignment of the coffins and the evident lack of grave goods all support the Christian origins of the cemetery.

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Friday, 11 November 2016

Why did Greenland’s Vikings disappear?

In 1721, missionary Hans Egede sailed a ship called The Hope from Norway to Greenland, seeking Norse farmers whom Europeans hadn't heard from in 200 years in order to convert them to Protestantism. He explored iceberg-dotted fjords that gave way to gentle valleys, and silver lakes that shimmered below the massive ice cap. But when he asked the Inuit hunters he met about the Norse, they showed him crumbling stone church walls: the only remnants of 500 years of occupation. "What has been the fate of so many human beings, so long cut off from all intercourse with the more civilized world?" Egede wrote in an account of the journey. "Were they destroyed by an invasion of the natives … [or] perished by the inclemency of the climate, and the sterility of the soil?"

Archaeologists still wonder today. No chapter of Arctic history is more mysterious than the disappearance of these Norse settlements sometime in the 15th century. Theories for the colony's failure have included everything from sinister Basque pirates to the Black Plague. But historians have usually pinned most responsibility on the Norse themselves, arguing that they failed to adapt to a changing climate. The Norse settled Greenland from Iceland during a warm period around 1000 C.E. But even as a chilly era called the Little Ice Age set in, the story goes, they clung to raising livestock and church-building while squandering natural resources like soil and timber. Meanwhile, the seal-hunting, whale-eating Inuit survived in the very same environment.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Archaeologists discover a Viking toolbox

ScienceNordic journalist Charlotte Price Persson, became an archaeologist for the day as she helped excavate a 1,000 year-old Viking toolbox. She how she did in the video above. 
(Video: Kirstine Jacobsen, ScienceNordic)

It might sound incredulous, but the small lump of soil pictured above represents one of the most sensational discoveries made at Denmark’s fifth Viking ring fortress: Borgring.

The lump of soil was removed from the area around one of the fortress’ four gates and it contains the remains of a collection of tools, which probably once lay inside a Viking toolbox.

The toolbox is the first direct indication that people have lived in the fortress. There have been only a handful of similar discoveries around the world.

ScienceNordic was allowed to help archaeologist Nanna Holm excavate the toolbox as it was opened for the first time in 1,000 years.

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Monday, 7 November 2016

Danish archaeologist discovers new Viking fighting style

Shields were apparently used for much more than just protection

The famous round Viking shield may have been more useful than previously thought 
(photo: Wolfgang Sauber)

Danish archaeologist Rolf Warming has been working to discover the fighting skills that Vikings in all probability must have used during battle.

Warming’s research revealed that along with using their shields to defend themselves against attacks, the shields were also an active part of fighting.

“It turns out that the Vikings may have used their shields much more actively than previously thought,” Warming told

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Archaeologists Discover Viking Toolbox

The toolbox before Nanna Holm began to dig [Credit: Stine Jacobsen,]

The lump of soil was removed from the area around one of the fortress’ four gates and it contains the remains of a collection of tools, which probably once lay inside a Viking toolbox.

The toolbox is the first direct indication that people have lived in the fortress. There have been only a handful of similar discoveries around the world.

ScienceNordic was allowed to help archaeologist Nanna Holm excavate the toolbox as it was opened for the first time in 1,000 years.

Tools scanned at the hospital

The exciting find first came to the attention of Holm and her colleagues when a couple of amateur archaeologists with metal detectors found a signal near to the fortress’ east gate.

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Viking raiders were only trying to win their future wives' hearts

Viking raiders were proving their masculinity to try to win women's hearts  CREDIT:AFP/GETTY IMAGES/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

When the Vikings landed at the holy island of Lindisfarne in 793AD, it marked the beginning of hundreds of years of terrifying raids, which would earn the Norsemen a fearsome reputation as murderers and pillagers throughout Europe.

But the reason why groups took to the seas in the first place continues to divide historians, some blaming over-population in Scandinavia, and others seeing it as a preemptive strike against the seemingly unstoppable march of Christianity.

Now a new theory suggests that the Vikings actually had matters of the heart on their minds.

Dr Mark Collard, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen and currently the Canada Research Chair at the Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, along with colleague Ben Raffield and Neil Price, Professor of Archaeology at Uppsala University , believes that changes in society had led to a desperate shortage of marriage partners.

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