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

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Iron-age Viking longhouses were burned and buried in funerals

From the Bronze Age until the Viking Age, burial mounds could be placed on top of the remains of three-aisled longhouses. The internal posts that served as roof-supporting beams were sometimes removed before the house was set on fire. Once the house had burned to the ground, one or more burial mounds were placed on top of its remains.
Marianne Hem Eriksen is a postdoc at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History. In an article in the European Journal of Archaeology, she investigates the causes of this practice.
'I studied seven different house burials from the Iron Age in Scandinavia, in five different locations: Högom in Sweden; Ullandhaug in Rogaland; Brista in Uppland, Sweden; Jarlsberg in Vestfold; and Engelaug in Hedmark,' Eriksen tells us.
The custom of setting houses on fire and placing burial mounds over of the house remains may be reminiscent of a cremation. Eriksen argues that the burial mounds may equally well mark the cremation and burial of a house – not necessarily a human being.
'In some cases we have been unable to find human remains, even in places where we could expect such remains to have been preserved. Nevertheless, archaeologists have more or less implicitly assumed that somewhere or other, there must be a deceased individual.'
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Friday, 7 April 2017

Why you should take your kids to Britain's smelliest attraction

Scent is the most underrated element of travel. Consider: lavender-infused Provencal fields or sulphuric water in Iceland. Each smell evokes a fundamental aspect of its place of origin. And, if you are under the age of 12, or know someone who is, consider this particular whiff: rotting flesh, with more than a hint of human excrement.

Nothing brings history alive like the scent of a turd, particularly when accompanied by a fossilised version, which you will find on display in a new case at Jorvik Viking Centre, which re-opens this weekend, 17 months after floods destroyed one of York’s most memorable attractions.

Vikings are heroes for my children’s generation thanks, in part, to How to Train Your Dragon, the historical drama Vikings and the Scandi clothing invasion, which features cheerful bearded Nordic faces on just about anything.

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Monday, 3 April 2017

Tiller the Hun? Farmers in Roman Empire converted to Hun lifestyle -- and vice versa

New archaeological analysis suggests people of Western Roman Empire switched between Hunnic nomadism and settled farming over a lifetime. Findings may be evidence of tribal encroachment that undermined Roman Empire during 5th century AD, contributing to its fall.

Example of a modified skull, a practice assumed to be Hunnic that may have been appropriated by local farmers within the bounds of the
Credit: Susanne Hakenbeck

Marauding hordes of barbarian Huns, under their ferocious leader Attila, are often credited with triggering the fall of one of history's greatest empires: Rome.

Historians believe Hunnic incursions into Roman provinces bordering the Danube during the 5th century AD opened the floodgates for nomadic tribes to encroach on the empire. This caused a destabilisation that contributed to collapse of Roman power in the West.

According to Roman accounts, the Huns brought only terror and destruction. However, research from the University of Cambridge on gravesite remains in the Roman frontier region of Pannonia (now Hungary) has revealed for the first time how ordinary people may have dealt with the arrival of the Huns.

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Medieval villagers mutilated the dead to stop them rising, study finds

The Wharram Percy excavation area as it looks today. 
Photograph: Pete Horne/Historic England/PA

A study by archaeologists has revealed certain people in medieval Yorkshire were so afraid of the dead they chopped, smashed and burned their skeletons to make sure they stayed in their graves.

The research published by Historic England and the University of Southampton may represent the first scientific evidence in England of attempts to prevent the dead from walking and harming the living – still common in folklore in many parts of the world.

The archaeologists who studied a collection of human bones – including the remains of adults, teenagers and children excavated more than half a century ago, and dated back to the period between the 11th and 14th century – rejected gruesome possibilities including cannibalism in times of famine, or the massacre of outsiders. The cut marks were in the wrong place for butchery, and isotope analysis of the teeth showed that the people came from the same area as the villagers of Wharram Percy in North Yorkshire – a once flourishing village which had been completely deserted by the early 16th century.

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