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

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Construction workers find Byzantine sarcophagus lid in northeastern Turkey


province discovered a 1,407-year-old Byzantine sarcophagus cover, assumed to belong to a "blessed" figure, near the ancient city of Satala, reports said Friday.

Workers immediately informed authorities after discovering the 2-meter long ancient cover in Gümüşhane's Kelkit district, Anadolu Agency reported.

Gümüşhane Museum officials said that there was a writing on the cover, saying "Blessed Kandes sleeps here" in Greek characters.

Museum Director Gamze Demir told reporters that the cover is from 610 AD and the sarcophagus is believed to be under the ground.

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Rare Pictish carving of “big nosed warrior” found near Perth

Detail from the stone found near Perth. PIC: Contributed.

A large Pictish stone decorated with what appears to be a big nosed warrior holding a spear and a club has been found by workmen on the outskirts of Perth.

Work on the upgrade to the A85/A9 junction was halted following the discovery with archaeologists called in to examine the stone.

Mark Hall, of Perth Museum & Art Gallery said the stone carried a type of Pictish carving not seen before in the area.

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Byzantine Shipwreck Found Off Coast Of Sicily


The wreck of a Byzantine ship has been found on the sea bed at a depth of 3 metres, buried by about 2 metres of sand, off Ragusa, sources said Friday. 

The wreck is now being examined by the University of Udine's Kaukana Project, which combines research activities with the training of students of underwater archaeology.

The project is directed by Massimo Capulli, professor of underwater and naval archaeology at the Department of Humanities and Cultural Heritage Studies (Dium) at the University of Udine, and by Sebastiano Tusa, of the Soprintendenza del mare della Regione Sicilia, with the support of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology of the Texas A&M University College Station.

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When the Gloves Come Off – Why We Do Not Use Gloves to Handle Artifacts in the Field


Ever since we started publishing pictures of our crew holding artifacts without using gloves, we have taken some heat in the Facebook comment sections. People have been worrying (or even cringing) about bad effects of touching the artifacts with bare hands. Their worry is that this could contaminate the artifacts with body oils or DNA. This blogpost explains why using gloves in the field is not necessary.

Body oils and other residues

When artefacts are handled in museums, you will see the museum staff wearing gloves while holding the objects. This is done to protect the artifacts from getting into contact with body oils and other residues on the person’s hand. It may seem like an obvious conclusion that the artifacts should also be handled wearing gloves in the field. However, this is rarely seen in practice. Why is there a difference in procedures?

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Sunday, 22 October 2017

Haggis originally brought to Scotland by Vikings, an award winning Scottish butcher argues

ICELANDIC “SLÁTUR” A Scottish butcher argues the Scottish national dish, Haggis, was originally brought to Scotland by Vikings, making it a descendant of the Viking delicacy still eaten in Iceland, slátur. Photo/Arnþór Birkisson.

ICELANDIC “SLÁTUR” A Scottish butcher argues the Scottish national dish, Haggis, was originally brought to Scotland by Vikings, making it a descendant of the Viking delicacy still eaten in Iceland, slátur. Photo/Arnþór Birkisson.

A Scottish butcher who has spent the past few years researching Haggis recipes argues it dates back to the Viking invaders of the British Isles the UK newspaper The Telegraph reports. The paper argues the research of award-winning Scottish butcher Joe Callaghan, who has spent the last three years studying haggis shows “Scotland’s national dish is an ‘imposter’… invented by Vikings”. Callaghan also argues the original Scottish ingredient is deer, not sheep.
The "natonal dish of Scotand", invented by Vikings

Haggis is a dish very similar to the Icelandic delicacy slátur: A sausage made by stuffing a sheep's stomach with diced innards of sheep, liver as well as lungs and heart, mixed with a oatmeal, onion, pieces of sheep suet (solid white fat) as well as seasoning. Haggis is considered the “national dish” of Scotland, occupying an important place in Scottish culture and national identity.

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Scotland's national dish is an 'imposter' and was invented by Vikings, claims master butcher

Scotland’s famous national dish is an ‘imposter’ and has been faking it as native for centuries, says an award-winning butcher


Scotland’s famous national dish is an ‘imposter’ and has been faking it as native for centuries, says an award-winning butcher who has traced haggis and its recipe back to Viking invaders.

Joe Callaghan, of Callaghans of Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, has been researching the savoury pudding for three years and claims that the evidence is clear - haggis should be made with deer, not sheep.

He also claims it was not invented by the Scots, but was instead left behind by marauding Norsemen as they plundered the Scottish coastline during the ninth century.

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The small piece of silver was found at a Viking fortress in Køge, Denmark.

The box brooch on the left was found in a grave at Fyrkat, Denmark. The silver fitting discovered at Borgring, on the right, is almost identical to the ornamentation at the front of the Fyrkat box brooch. (Photo: Nationalmuseet/Museum Sydøstdanmark)

A small silver fitting has been found during excavations of the Viking fortress “Borgring” in Køge, east Denmark. It resembles one of the three missing parts of a distinctive Gotlandic box brooch previously discovered at the Fyrkat fortress in Hobro, north of Borgring.

The Fyrkat grave was one of Denmark’s richest female graves from the Viking Age, and belonged to a shaman or sorceress who the Vikings would have held in extremely high regard.

If the silver fitting found at Borgring really did originate from the same box brooch it would suggest that the woman had travelled between the castles, which were presumably built by Harold Bluetooth--king of Denmark between 958 and 987 CE.

“It will be incredible if this fitting is connected with the find from Fyrkat. If this really is where it comes from then it’s like finding a needle in the ocean,” says archaeologist Jeanette Varberg, a curator at Moesgaard Museum, Denmark. Varberg was not involved in the excavations at Borgring.

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Possible Missing Jewelry Box Piece Found at Viking Fortress


Nationalmuseet/Museum Sydøstanmark

KØGE, DENMARK—A small silver artifact has been uncovered at Borgring, a Viking fortress in eastern Denmark. According to a report in Science Nordic, the object resembles one of the three parts known to be missing from an elaborate box brooch discovered in a Viking woman’s grave at the Fyrkat fortress in Hobro, which is located to the north of Borgring. “It will be incredible if this fitting is connected with the find from Fyrkat,” said Jeanette Varberg of the Moesgaard Museum. “If this really is where it comes from then it’s like finding a needle in the ocean.”

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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Norway calls on Ireland to help recover ‘irreplaceable’ Viking artifacts

© University Museum of Bergen / Facebook

A museum in Norway has appealed for help from its counterparts in Ireland after 400 Viking artifacts were stolen from its premises.

The collection, some of which was originally taken from Ireland by marauding Vikings more than a millennium ago, was stolen from the University Museum of Bergen on the country’s southwestern coast on August 12.

The Irish items have been on display in the National Museum of Ireland in the past and, in a karmic twist, local police are now said to be investigating a possible connection to Irish criminal gangs.

“It is difficult to find the right words to describe my feelings towards what has happened,” museum director Henrik von Achen said in a statement.

“One of our primary tasks is to protect cultural heirlooms. When we fail to do this, no explanation is good enough. This hits us at a very soft spot. We are all very shaky and feeling a sense of despair,” he added.

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Viking textile did not feature word 'Allah', expert says

Medieval Islamic art and archaeology professor Stephennie Mulder disputes the findings, saying the inscription has 'no Arabic at all'


A tablet woven band, from a Viking burial site Annika Larsson

An expert has disputed claims that Allah's name was embroidered into ancient Viking burial clothes - a discovery hailed as "staggering" when Swedish researchers announced their findings last week.

After reexamining the cloth, archaeologist Annika Larsson of Uppsala University claimed the silk patterns which were originally thought to be ordinary Viking Age decoration, showed a geometric Kufic script.

The patterns were found on woven bands as well as items of clothing in two separate grave sites, prompting the suggestion that Viking funeral customs had been influenced by Islam.

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Using parchment to reveal the ancient lives of livestock

A page from the York Gospels. Eraser rubbings left over from cleaning the pages of this manuscript revealed the ancient genomes of the animals used to produce the parchment. 
(Image: York Minster)

Innovative ways of utilising ancient protein and DNA analysis have revealed new information about medieval parchment and the animals from which they are made.

A group of researchers from Trinity College Dublin and the University of York have taken eraser rubbings – left over from the cleaning of medieval manuscripts – and extracted DNA and proteins from the waste. This method means that parts of the manuscript no longer need to be removed for destructive testing.

The group recently used this technique to analyse the pages of the York Gospels, an Anglo-Saxon book (c.1000 AD) containing the four Gospels of the New Testament, a letter from King Cnut, and land ownership documents. The experiment yielded some interesting results.

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Monday, 16 October 2017

Gold coin sheds new light on 5th century Swedish island massacre

The discovery of gold rings and coins on a Swedish island sheds new light on the history of the area, and could give insight into the motives for a massacre which took place in the fifth century, archaeologists told The Local on Wednesday.


The coin and gold rings in situ [Credit: Daniel Lindskog]

The team working at Sandby Borg, a ringfort on Öland off Sweden's south-eastern coast, said the discovery was the "find of the year".

Archaeologists Clara Alfsdotter and Sophie Vallulv last week uncovered two rings and a coin, which confirm a theory that the island was in close contact with the Roman Empire. Close by, the team found pieces of Roman glass in an area which was once an important house.

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Why did Vikings have 'Allah' embroidered into funeral clothes?

One of the excavated fragments made from fine silk and silver thread discovered at the two Swedish sites, Birka and Gamla Uppsala

Researchers in Sweden have found Arabic characters woven into burial costumes from Viking boat graves. The discovery raises new questions about the influence of Islam in Scandinavia, writes journalist Tharik Hussain.

They were kept in storage for more than 100 years, dismissed as typical examples of Viking Age funeral clothes.

But a new investigation into the garments - found in 9th and 10th Century graves - has thrown up groundbreaking insights into contact between the Viking and Muslim worlds.

Patterns woven with silk and silver thread have been found to spell the words "Allah" and "Ali".

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Ancient Viking burial fabrics found to have name of Allah woven into them

What was previously thought to be typical Viking Age patterns in silver have now proven to be geometric Kufic characters. The Uppsala University researchers behind the study also show that both Allah and Ali are invoked in the patterns of the bands.


A tablet woven band, from a Viking burial site 
[Credit: Annika Larsson]

The Arabic characters appear on woven bands of silk in burial costumes found in Viking Age boatgraves, as well as in the chamber graves clothing of central Viking Age sites such as Birka in Swedish Mälardalen.

“One exciting detail is that the word ‘Allah’ is depicted in mirror image,” says Annika Larsson, researcher in textile archaeology at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University.

“It is a staggering thought that the bands, just like the costumes, was made west of the Muslim heartland. Perhaps this was an attempt to write prayers so that they could be read from left to right, but with the Arabic characters they should have. That we so often maintain that Eastern objects in Viking Age graves could only be the result of plundering and eastward trade doesn’t hold up as an explanatory model because the inscriptions appear in typical Viking Age clothing that have their counterparts in preserved images of Valkyries.”

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‘Allah’ Is Found on Viking Funeral Clothes

A reconstructed Viking boat grave from the Gamla Uppsala archaeological site in Sweden is part of a Viking couture exhibition at the Enkopings Museum. Credit Therese Larsson

ENKOPING, Sweden — The discovery of Arabic characters that spell “Allah” and “Ali” on Viking funeral costumes in boat graves in Sweden has raised questions about the influence of Islam in Scandinavia.

The grave where the costumes were found belonged to a woman dressed in silk burial clothes and was excavated from a field in Gamla Uppsala, north of Stockholm, in the 1970s, but its contents were not cataloged until a few years ago, Annika Larsson, a textile archaeologist at Uppsala University, said on Friday.

Among the contents unearthed: a necklace with a figurine; two coins from Baghdad; and the bones of a rooster and a large dog.

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UK’s north-south divide dates back to Vikings, says archaeologist

A division 1,000 years in the making? Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

The north-south divide has been the butt of jokes in Britain for years, but research has shown the Watford Gap, which separates the country, was in fact established centuries ago when the Vikings invaded Britain.

According to the archaeologist Max Adams, who made the discovery while researching his new book, the Northamptonshire-Warwickshire boundary known as the Watford Gap is a geographic and cultural reality that can be traced back to the Viking age.

Adams was struck by the absence of Scandinavian placenames south-west of Watling Street, the Roman road that became the A5. “There might be one or two names, but I don’t think there are any, and there are certainly hundreds and hundreds north-east. Clearly the Scandinavian settlers stopped at Watling Street,” Adams said.

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Friday, 6 October 2017

Viking Fort Reveals Secrets of Danish King's Elaborate Military Network

Archaeologists are uncovering the mysteries of a Viking-age fortress at Borgring, on the island of Zealand in eastern Denmark, which is thought to have been built late in the 10th century by the Danish king Harald Bluetooth.
Credit: Peter Jensen/Aarhus University
The discovery of a Viking-age fortress in Denmark has shed new light on a network of military sites built by the 10th-century Danish king Harald Bluetooth, according to archaeologists.
Bluetooth — for whom the eponymous digital network technology is named — is credited with building several large, circular fortresses, or "ring forts," around Denmark in the 970s and 980s, as he unified the unruly Viking clans of the region into a centralized kingdom.
Until a few years ago, the sites of four such ring forts were known, and in the decades since they were found, debate has raged among Danish historians about these structures' purpose. [See More Photos of the Viking-Age Fortress in Denmark]
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Possible evidence of Norse parliament site near Thurso


Thing's Va Broch near Thurso in Caithness

Possible evidence of a medieval Norse parliament meeting place may have been found at an archaeological site in the Highlands.

A geophysical survey of Thing's Va Broch near Thurso has found "faint features" that may relate to activity associated with the meetings.

The site of an Iron Age broch, a stone-built roundhouse, takes it name from "thing", meaning a Norse meeting place.

Archaeologists will now carry out small-scale excavations this month.

The public can take part in the digs, which form part of the Caithness Broch Project and its year-long Caithness Broch Festival.

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Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Viking Boat Burial Found In Norway

On one of the last days of the excavation in the market square, archaeologists from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) became aware of a feature with a somewhat special shape.


The boat dates between the seventh and 10th centuries, around the time the Vikings began exploring and raiding Europe 
[Credit: Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU)]

The feature, which was dug into the natural deposits, had been disturbed in several places by later pits and postholes, but it was quite clearly boat-shaped.

"Careful excavation revealed that no wood remained intact, but lumps of rust and some poorly-preserved nails indicated that it was a boat that was buried here", says archaeologist Ian Reed.

The remains of the boat show that it was at least 4 meters long and oriented more or less north-south.

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Bronze Age Arrows and a Viking Sword – The 2017 Fieldwork Was Awesome!

Finally, the long wait was over and we were so ready for fieldwork!

We had chosen two large sites for the main fieldwork in 2017 – the Lauvhøe and Storfonne ice patches, both situated in the northeastern part of the Jotunheimen Mountains. More details on why these two particular sites were chosen can be found here.


he Storfonne ice patch, photographed in September 2014 during a major melt. Notice the light grey lichen-free zone surrounding the ice. This area was exposed by ice melt in the last 15-20 years. Photo: Lars Pilø, Secrets of the Ice/Oppland County Council.

Both sites had only seen short visits prior to this field-season. This had resulted in a number of artifact recoveries, especially arrows, found close to the melting ice. However, we knew that there were other finds on these sites, and that they were lying on the surface, exposed to the elements. The main job would be to rescue these artefacts. To achieve this, we planned to conduct a systematic and thorough survey of the lichen-free zone (where the ice has melted recently) surrounding the ice on both sites.

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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

'Exceptionally rare' crucifix found by metal detectorist in England

An "exceptionally rare" ancient crucifix has been unearthed by an amateur metal detectorist. The 2cm (0.78in) tall lead object, which depicts Christ on the cross, was found in the village of Skidbrooke, Lincolnshire, by Tom Redmayne. It is thought to date from between AD 950-1150.


The 2cm artefact depicts Christ on the cross [Credit: Adam Daubney]

Archaeologist Adam Daubney, from Lincolnshire County Council, said it is one of only three known examples in the country.

Mr Redmayne, who found the crucifix on Sunday, said he did not initially realise the significance of his discovery. He said he knew it was a crucifix, and was possibly old due to its crude design.

However, he said it was only when he researched the item online he realised it was something special. Despite the artefact having little monetary value, he said, it offers a unique insight into the lives of ordinary people at the time.

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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Breaking News: A Viking Sword Found at High Altitude

On Friday, we received the incredible news that a sword had been found at high altitude in our county. The discovery was made during reindeer hunting. The pictures accompanying the news were just stunning. One of them showed a hunter holding an extremely well preserved Viking sword.


The finder holding the sword, just moments after it was discovered. Photo: Einar Åmbakk.

Our minds were racing, but the immediate thought was that we had to inspect the find spot as quickly as possible. The question was whether this was an isolated find, or if there could be more artefacts here. After consulting with the Museum of Cultural History and the National Park authorities, two members of the Secrets of the Ice team visited the find spot yesterday, together with two of the reindeer hunters (including the finder Einar Åmbakk), a local metal detectorist and a local archaeologist. The group set out from a summer farm and reached the finds area after three hours of brisk walking up the mountain in strong wind.

The reindeer hunters had not taken a GPS position for the find, but we were able to access the exact coordinates through the geographical data stored in the photos. This was very important, as experience shows that it could otherwise have been difficult to relocate the exact find spot in a terrain with few landmarks. Using a GPS, the find spot was quickly re-discovered.

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Monday, 11 September 2017

DNA from Viking cod bones suggests 1,000-year history of European fish trade

One of the ancient Viking cod bones from Haithabu used in the study.
Credit: James Barrett

Norway is famed for its cod. Catches from the Arctic stock that spawns each year off its northern coast are exported across Europe for staple dishes from British fish and chips to Spanish bacalao stew.

Now, a new study published today in the journal PNAS suggests that some form of this pan-European trade in Norwegian cod may have been taking place for 1,000 years.

Latest research from the universities of Cambridge and Oslo, and the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology in Schleswig, used ancient DNA extracted from the remnants of Viking-age fish suppers.

The study analysed five cod bones dating from between 800 and 1066 AD found in the mud of the former wharves of Haithabu, an early medieval trading port on the Baltic. Haithabu is now a heritage site in modern Germany, but at the time was ruled by the King of the Danes.

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Remains from Viking Warrior’s Grave Identified as Female


STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—DNA testing has revealed that a warrior’s grave discovered in the Viking-era town of Birka in the late nineteenth century contained the remains of a woman. Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson of Uppsala University told The Local that the woman stood about five feet, seven inches tall, and was over the age of 30 at the time of her death. She was buried with weapons, including a sword, an ax, a spear, armor-piercing arrows, a battle knife, shields, and two horses. She also had a board game, thought to have been used to try out battle tactics and strategies, in her lap. “She’s most likely planned, led, and taken part in battles,” Hedenstierna-Jonson said

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A woman warrior from the Viking army in Birka


Illustration by Evald Hansen based on the original plan of the grave by excavator Hjalmar Stolpe, 
published in 1889 [Credit: Uppsala University]

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.

Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, who led the study, explains: "What we have studied was not a Valkyrie 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.

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Friday, 18 August 2017

Viking Borgring Fortress Discovered In Denmark

The Borgring fortress was discovered using airborne laser technology. It was built during the reign of the  Viking king Harald Bluetooth in the 10th century 
[Credit: Goodchild et al./Antiquity 2017]

A rare archaeological discovery has brought to light a historic 10th century Viking fortress to the south of Copenhagen.

The Borgring fortress is an incredibly accurate circular shape, measuring about 150 metres in diameter. It is the first of its kind to be found in Denmark for 60 years. The findings are published in a study in the journal Antiquity.

The structure is one of the Trelleborg-type fortresses that have a distinctive overall shape and internal structure. The earthworks, houses and other structures are meticulously arranged within the fortress. They have V-shaped ditches that are precisely circular, with four gates at the four points of the compass.

The Borgring fortress had been tentatively identified in the 1970s, but the technology was lacking then to verify whether it really was a Trelleborg-type fortress, study author Søren Michael Sindbæk of Aarhus University, told IBTimes UK.

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Friday, 11 August 2017

DNA from Viking cod bones suggests 1,000-year history of European fish trade


UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE—Norway is famed for its cod. Catches from the Arctic stock that spawns each year off its northern coast are exported across Europe for staple dishes from British fish and chips to Spanish bacalao stew.

Now, a new study published today in the journal PNAS suggests that some form of this pan-European trade in Norwegian cod may have been taking place for 1,000 years.

Latest research from the universities of Cambridge and Oslo, and the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology in Schleswig, used ancient DNA extracted from the remnants of Viking-age fish suppers.

The study analysed five cod bones dating from between 800 and 1066 AD found in the mud of the former wharves of Haithabu, an early medieval trading port on the Baltic. Haithabu is now a heritage site in modern Germany, but at the time was ruled by the King of the Danes.

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'I've got some Viking': English villagers surprised by DNA test results

DNA testing of residents of ancient village of Bledington showed genetic heritage spanning 18 locations around the world. Photograph: Simon Pizzey/AncesteryDNA/PA

The residents of the Cotswold village of Bledington were entitled to see themselves as the quintessential English villagers, blessed with a village green, stream, medieval church, Kings Head pub, mention in the Domesday Book, even a Victorian maypole. However, a DNA survey, one of the most comprehensive attempts to capture an entire village, has revealed their surprisingly diverse origins.

The village was classified as white British in ethnic origin from census data, but the saliva samples contributed by almost 120 of the residents – including the pub landlord, a farmer, an artist, a marketing director and the village historian – told another story: not a single individual of those tested was 100% English.

Just 42.5% of their DNA was Anglo-Saxon in origin: other ancestry derived from Europe, from Finland to Spain, the Celtic nations, including Scotland, Wales and Ireland, Native American, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Melanesia.

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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Mittelalterliches Gehöft in Velen-Ramsdorf freigelegt


In Velen-Ramsdorf (Kreis Borken) haben Archäologen des Landschaftsverbandes Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) bei Ausgrabungen im Vorfeld von Bauarbeiten Reste von Häusern aus dem Mittelalter entdeckt. Auf einer Fläche von 1.500 Quadratmetern standen auf dem geplanten Neubaugebiet einst drei Holzbauten, die zu einem bäuerlichen Gehöft gehörten.

Nachdem der Oberboden mit einem Bagger abgetragen wurde zeichneten sich die ehemaligen Pfosten der Häuser als dunkle Verfärbungen im Boden ab. So konnten die LWL-Archäologen die Grundrisse rekonstruieren. Das größte Haus war 22,5 Meter lang.

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Sunday, 30 July 2017

Archaeology: Ancient stone baptismal vessel found at Plovdiv’s Episcopal Basilica site


A team of archaeologists coming to the close of a 10-month project at Plovdiv’s Episcopal Basilica site have found a stone baptismal vessel given to the basilica by a Bishop Makedonii, possibly dating from some time in the fifth century.
The 10-month archaeological excavations at the 2500 square metre site come to a close this week, and it is expected that early in the week beginning on July 31, the site will be visited by a commission from the Ministry of Culture.
Archaeological team leader Zheni Tankova expressed thanks to the America for Bulgaria Foundation, which together with Plovdiv municipality “gave the opportunity to reveal this truly amazing monument of architecture, culture, art and religion”.
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Thursday, 27 July 2017

Uncovering the Galloway Viking Hoard, layer by layer


Hold on to your Viking helmet; you’re about to dig, layer by layer, into one of the most extraordinary Viking hoards ever found on the British Isles – the Galloway Hoard – with Dr Martin Goldberg, Senior Curator at National Museums Scotland

The team of metal detectorists had been working this field in Galloway for some time, but what they eventually found was way beyond their expectations.

The top layer contained eleven ingots and eleven silver arm-rings that had been flattened into bullion. They would have been made from the type of ingots they’re buried with. There’s a nice variety of decoration, with lots of punched lines and hatches. This type of arm-ring is normally found in hoards in Ireland and there are some from North Wales and from Lancashire – all around the Irish Sea, but we don’t have a lot of this particular type in Scotland. This hoard completes the circle around the Irish Sea.

They’re called a Hiberno-Scandinavian type of arm-ring and obviously the Scandinavian is the new element added to the cultural mix at the time, but they’re given that Hiberno- prefix because they’re normally found in Ireland. For me it is always the hyphen between these cultural labels where the interesting things are happening.

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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Archaeologists Return to Legendary Birthplace of King Arthur


Archaeologists have completed the first stage of a major five-year study of the archaeology of the Tintagel headland in Cornwall, in the southwest of England. In English folklore, the site is thought to be the birthplace of King Arthur.
Credit: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/English Heritage

Archaeologists are back at the legendary birthplace of King Arthur.

Last summer, researchers discovered traces of early medieval life at Tintagel in Cornwall, on England's southwest coast, where the legendary British monarch was said to have been born.

Now, they've returned to the site for another round of digging, to further explore buried buildings dated from the fifth to the seventh centuries. 

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1,100-year-old coin found in royal Pictish power centre


The 1,100-year-old coin found at an archaeological dig at Burghead Fort. Picture: PA

A 1,100-year-old coin is amongst a series of discoveries made at what experts believe was a royal power centre of a northerly Pictish kingdom.

The coin was found along with the remains of a longhouse at Burghead Fort near Lossiemouth, which was thought to have been largely destroyed by the development of a new town during the 19th century.

Now archaeologists from Aberdeen University hope further significant findings will be revealed at the site – a probable seat of power of Northern Pictland between 500AD and 1000AD, given the fresh discoveries.

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Casting light on the Dark Ages: Anglo-Saxon fenland is re-imagined

What was life in the fens like in the period known as the dark ages? Archaeologist Susan Oosthuizen revisits the history of an iconic wetland in the light of fresh evidence and paints a compelling portrait of communities in tune with their changeable environment. In doing so, she makes an important contribution to a wider understanding of early medieval landscapes.


Highland Cattle grazing in the Wicken Fen [Credit: © Wicken Fen]

The East Anglian fens with their flat expanses and wide skies, a tract of some of the UK's richest farmland, are invariably described as bleak – or worse. Turn the clock back 1,000 years to a time when the silt and peat wetlands were largely undrained, and it's easy to imagine a place that defied rather than welcomed human occupation.

Historians have long argued that during the 'dark' ages (the period between the withdrawal of Roman administration in around 400 AD and the Norman Conquest in 1066) most settlements in the region were deserted, and the fens became an anarchic, sparsely inhabited, watery wilderness.

A new interdisciplinary study of the region by a leading landscape archaeologist not only rewrites its early history across those six centuries but also, for the first time anywhere in Europe, offers a detailed view of the settlement and agricultural management of early medieval wetland landscapes.

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

Southampton Water fish trap dated to Saxon times

The trap was found by chance close to the Fawley oil refinery by archaeology students more than 10 years ago.

A timber fishing trap exposed on the Hampshire coast dates back to Saxon times, it has been confirmed.
The weir, built as a permanent wooden structure to catch fish as the tide ebbed, was found by chance on the shore of Southampton Water in 2005.
Radiocarbon dating has shown it was built in the 8th or 9th centuries.
Experts from Exeter University said the results were "thrilling" and provided new insights into the process of coastal erosion in the area.
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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Archaeologists discover mound next to Slough car park is 'prestigious' Anglo-Saxon monument


Archaeologists have found that a 20-foot high mound in Slough, thought to be a Norman castle motte and for centuries the centrepiece of a bizarre Eton College ceremony, is actually a rare Saxon monument, built 1,500 years ago.
University of Reading archaeologists say that Montem Mound in the Berkshire town, now surrounded by Municipal buildings and car parks, dates roughly to the same time as the famous burial mounds of Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, and the nearby burial  at Taplow. It is likely to mark the resting place of someone of high status and could contain artefacts.
The discovery of the 'Sutton Hoo of Slough' is a remarkable finding as only a handful of mounds from this period are known about. The findings go against the previous assumption that it was a Norman Conquest-era 'motte and bailey' castle.
Dr Jim Leary, the University of Reading archaeologist who led the investigation in December 2016, said: "Conventional wisdom placed the Montem Mound 500 years later, in the Norman period. But we have shown that it dates to between the 5th and 7th centuries, not long after the collapse of Roman Empire.
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Copper-covered baby-&-adult mummies unearthed in Russia’s Far North

A perfectly-preserved mummy of an adult bound in copper plates from head to toe has been dug up in Russia’s Far North, alongside the mummy of a “tiny” baby. The discoveries could shed unique light on medieval burial and medical practices.

The remains were found near Zeleny Yar archeological site in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region, which was discovered in 1997, and has since been the source of dozens of rare finds.

The two preserved mummies were wrapped in birch bark and thick fabric. The adult, of a height of about 170cm (5ft 6in), was covered in copper plates from head to toe, while the baby, under a year old at the time of death, was “sprinkled” with small fragments of a copper cauldron, said Gusev.
The mummies have been sent to the Institute of the Development of the North, in Tyumen, 500km south from Zeleny Yar.
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Monday, 17 July 2017

Breakthrough in dating Viking fortress

In 2014 archaeologists discovered the previously unknown Viking fortress at Borgring south of Copenhagen. Since then the search has been on to uncover the life, function, destruction and, not least, the precise dating of the Viking fortress. Now a new find has produced a breakthrough in the investigation.


The carved oak timber object recently found in peat layers just outside the south gateway of the fortress. The piece has been cut and sampled for dendrochronological sampling (left). The function of the piece is unknown, but it may be a part of a door or building.

Credit: The Museum of South East Denmark / Nanna Holm

In the period 2016-18 a programme of new excavations is made possible by a grant from the A.P. Møller Foundation. The team from the Museum of South East Denmark and Aarhus University are joind by leading experts from the Environmental Archeology and Materials Research at the Danish National Museum and the National Police Department's Section for arson investigation. Prior to this year's excavations it was only known that the massive, 150m wide fortress dated to the tenth century. Experts suspected that it was built in the reign of Viking king Harold Bluetooth (c.958-c.987), but the association could not be proven.
On June 26, the archaeological team opened new trenches is the meadow next to the fortress to search for evidence of the landscape surrounding the fortress. Around 2.5 meters below the current surface of the valley was found a c. 1m long piece of carved oak wood with drilled holes and several wooden pegs in situ. The wood carries clear traces of wear, but it is not currently possible to say what function the wood piece has had.
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Sunday, 16 July 2017

One of the most important buildings in history of Christianity discovered off Scottish coast



Archaeologists have located one of the most important buildings in the history of Western European Christianity – but it’s not a vast cathedral or an impressive tomb, but merely a humble wattle and daub hut on a remote windswept island.
Using radiocarbon dating techniques and other evidence, the  scholars –  from the University of Glasgow – believe they have demonstrated that the tiny five-metre square building was almost certainly the daytime home of early medieval Scotland’s most important saint, St Columba.
Located on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, the unprepossessing hut was probably the first administrative hub of the monastic community he founded – and whose monks, over succeeding centuries, went on to establish similar monasteries in mainland Scotland, in north-east England, in Belgium, in France and in Switzerland.
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Tintagel excavations reveal refined tastes of medieval settlers

 Archaeologists conducting the first research excavations at Tintagel in decades. 
Photograph: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/English He/PA

Early Cornish kings feasted on a diet of oysters, roast pork and fine wine, eating and drinking from bowls imported from Turkey and glass goblets from Spain, a new dig at Tintagel Castle has suggested.
Discoveries made by the Cornwall archaeological unit (CAU) support the view that Tintagel was a royal site during the 5th and 6th centuries, with trading links reaching as far as the eastern Mediterranean.
Perched on Cornwall’s rugged north coast, Tintagel has for centuries been associated with the legend of King Arthur. Over the past 18 months, its custodian, English Heritage, has been accused of putting too much emphasis on the stories of Arthur and Merlin, rather than focusing on the site’s true, ancient Cornish heritage. The excavations, the first at Tintagel for decades, may help redress the balance.
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Tintagel excavations reveal refined tastes of early Cornish kings

Tintagel is intricately bound up in the legend of King Arthur 
[Credit: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/English Heritage Trust]

Discoveries made by the Cornwall archaeological unit (CAU) support the view that Tintagel was a royal site during the 5th and 6th centuries, with trading links reaching as far as the eastern Mediterranean.

Perched on Cornwall’s rugged north coast, Tintagel has for centuries been associated with the legend of King Arthur. Over the past 18 months, its custodian, English Heritage, has been accused of putting too much emphasis on the stories of Arthur and Merlin, rather than focusing on the site’s true, ancient Cornish heritage. The excavations, the first at Tintagel for decades, may help redress the balance.

The excavation also uncovered stone-walled structures on the southern terrace of Tintagel’s island area, with substantial stone walls and slate floors, accessed by a flight of slate steps.

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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Pearls, Viking swords, spears and shields among hundreds of items excavated in N. Iceland


THE SECOND SWORD Both swords were badly damaged by rust. 
Photo/Hildur Gestsdóttir, Twitter.

Archeologists working at Dysnes, a recently discovered Viking age burial site in Eyjafjörður fjord in North Iceland are still busy excavating invaluable treasures. Hundreds of items have been found at the site, among them two swords, three spears and three shields. 

2 out of 6 burials fully explored

A total of six Viking age graves have been found at the site, including two confirmed boat burials. Only two of the burials have been fully excavated and archeologists are currently exploring the third burial. The site is unusual for many reasons, not least that two boat burials have been discovered: Viking age boat burials are very rare in Iceland. 

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