Publicada por Arith Härger / 1:41 PM /
It was found in Denmark, in a fiel near Vejen, a stash composed of seven wonderfully crafted bracelets, six of which are made out of gold, and one of silver.
The bracelets were handed over to the Sønderskov museum, and I must point out that this treasure was found by amateurs, and just like any responsable adult, the people in question delivered the treasure to their rightful place. Anyway - a little bit of personal thoughts on the matter - the bracelets date back to 900AD, and are decorated in a style typical to Viking jewelry weared by nobility or with high-status in society.
It is important to take in mind that the so called Viking Age is actually the "silver age" when it comes to hoards. The vast majority of them contain only silver. If there is gold, it is always a small part, which isn't the case in this specific finding, since objects made out of gold are the majority of this hoard.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 4:13 PM /
|The entrance to the tomb - [Photo Credits]|
Kungagraven, translating - The King's Grave - is the name given to the Nordic Bronze Age tomb located in southeastern Sweden, in the province of Skåne near Kivik. A double burial architecture with more or less 3000 years old. A magnificent structure of an unusual size; it is the largest known burial mound in Sweden.
Unfortunately the site was used as a quarry for construction materials until 1748 when two farmers quarrying in the old mound uncovered a 3.25 meters (11 ft) stone tomb, constructed with ten slabs of stone measuring 0.65 meters (2.1 ft.) wide and 1.2 meters (3.9 ft.).
The stones within the cairn represent various symbols, including sun wheels and possibly Bronze Age mortuary rituals held before, during and after the burial. There is also the representation of grave goods. The mound contained two cists which are adorned with petroglyphs which show people and ships, weapons, lurs being played, symbols, animals (including birds and fish), and a chariot drawn by two horses and having four-spoked wheels.
Archaeological investigations of the tomb were carried out during the 30's of the past century. Within this large mound it was found another burial chamber which was called "Prinskammaren" meaning: The Prince’s Chamber (smaller compared to the first one).
|Inside the tomb - [Photo Credits]|
Publicada por Arith Härger / 5:41 PM /
To this day the celts are still a strong subject which awakens the interest of many. Although with each passing year we are coming to the conclusion that the celts were not a people but merely a culture withdly spread, and that in fact the "celts" are thousands of different peoples who have adopted "celtic" cultural, political and religious similarities, it's still a fascinating subject. The more we dig the past, the better we can understand how our ancestors lived, and when it comes to study a culture which left nothing writen behind, and the only records are from outsiders or from people who lived long after the culture they are trying to discribe was already the stuff of legend, it's always difficult to comprehend the true nature of bygone population who shared a certain traditional background. Fortunately, archaeology has given us new insights on how the "celts" conducted their lives, what were their traditions, political and religious consciousness and, of course, their daily activities.
At the end of the 70's of the last century, a celtic burial chamber was found near Hochdorf an der Enz, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. A richly furnished chieftain's burial mound dating back to, more or less, year 530 BC. The interred subject in this grave, laid out upon a lavishly decorated 9 ft (275 cm) bronze couch on wheels, was about 40 years old and unusually tall for a person of the Iron Age (being a bit over 6ft tall (182 cm)). Judging by the objects found in the grave, this man had probably been a chieftain.
I've said this before, and here it goes again, we archaeologists spend a lot of time with the dead, it's true. The dead (well, their resting places) provide us with a lot of information about the societies of the past especially the votive objects which are, most of the time, what people gave much importance to. The graves of people who were highly respected and revered by the community of their time, are always the ones with a lot of artefacts, and these give us a lot of clues in how the societies of the time functioned.
The well-preserved funerary objects of this grave provided a lot of knowledge into the world of the rulers of these societies during the late Iron Age. This chieftain had been buried with a gold-plated torc on his neck which is clearly a symbol of power and strength; amber jewelry which have always been a "must-have" material, due to its rarety, since the Paleolithic; a gold-plated dagger made of bronze and iron, that we must not forget that this was the age of metals and such weapons had no use in war but were merely symbols of power and prestige; a bracelet on his right arm, a nail clipper, a comb, fishing hooks, a flat cone-shaped hat made of birch bark adorned with circle patterns and punched decorations, arrows, a razor knife, and thin embossed gold plaques were on his now-disintegrated shoes. At this man's feet was a large bronze cauldron, filled with honeyed-mead. The entrance to the burial mound was facing north, and the mound itself was surrounded by a stone ring and oak posts. The east side of the tomb contained an iron-plated, wooden, four-wheeled wagon holding a set of bronze dishes – along with the drinking horns found on the walls, enough to serve nine people. The one reserved for the host was delicately decorated with gold, the tip being adorned with beads made of bones.
Nearby the burial mound, a museum dedicated to the grave was built, and fortunately enough during the construction of museum the foundations of an ancient Celtic village were found - probably the one to which the chieftain belonged to.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 1:35 PM /
In the year of 1963, a burial ground with 24 graves inside the bay of Sandvika on the eastern side of the island of Jøa, in Central Norway, were discovered. The bodies were buried in a sitting position, and after a close analyses the dating of the remains go back to the years 650 to 1000 AD. The unusual burial caracteristics showned that these northmen belonged to a specific group of people within the Viking society.
Unlike other graves from the Viking Age, this graveyard was unknown to the human sight, because the bodies were not placed inside a burial mound that is could be clearly visible in the terrain, or marked in any other way but rune stones or anything of that kind. These Vikings were lowered into funnel-shaped shell sand holes. This burial ground is unique in Scandinavia, and these people are the only ones to have ever been found like this - in a sitting position. So why were they placed like this?
Lets make a quick analyses of the bodies. The people in question must have been dead for at least twenty-four hours so that rigor mortis has made it possible to shape the body into a sitting position. Also, it must have been very difficult to dig out chairs in the porous shell sand, so to go into all this trouble these people were not common folk amongst their community. There is another aspect which must be taken into consideration. In 14 of the 24 graves there were found skeletons and skeletal remains; the other 10 graves were simply empty. The remains were identify has belonging to 7 women and 4 men. Analysis shows that the women in question reached an average age of 47 years. (It has only been possible to determine the age of one of the men, and he died at the age of 40.)
The women had an average height of 157.2 centimeters (5ft 2in), and the men 162.6 centimeters (5ft 4in), which is much lower than the normal height for this period. The men were as much as 10 centimeters (3.9in) lower than the average for the Viking Age (172.6 cm / 5ft 8in).
The dating of the artifacts found here, shows that these Vikings were buried fully clothed in the period between 650 and 1000 AD, (from the Merovingian period to the end of the Viking Age), and it seems like the burial custom ended when Christianity was forced with swords upon the Norse society.
Today, on the other side of the small river Hovselva (the Hof River) is the Hov (Hof) farm located in the northeast – indicating that there was a pagan temple located close to the burial ground. In all of the 24 graves there were found remnants of bonfires, so it is natural to assume that there must have been some kind of ritual that includes bonfire in connection with the funeral.
Another peculiarity is that about half of the bodies were facing north-northeast (facing the Hof itself) and half to the south-southeast. No one was facing directly east and only one body was facing directly to the west. As many as ten knifes were found in 9 different graves. They vary in length, but none of them has a blade more than 20 centimeters and consequently have not been used as Viking combat weapons. The individuals they belonged to must have used these knives for a very specific purpose. There were no other weapons found inside the graves, which is unusual for the Viking Age. However, there were also found beads, brooches, finger rings and keys, but there is no repeating pattern.
Summarizing: these people were buried in a small area close to a heathen Hof, and the dead were put down in a sitting position. There was no marking of the graves but they may have been marked with ornamental shrubs or flowers; almost all of the graves contain remnants of bonfire, and there are no traces of weapons. However, there were found many “regular” cut knives; the bodies were facing north-northeast and south-southeast. No one was facing directly towards the east.
So who were these Vikings? They might have been “hovgydjer” - pagan priests and priestesses. The knives might have been used for sacrifice, or were the tools of these priests and priestesses. If thise is the case, it is very important for the understandment of the people who practiced the magical arts. It was common in Viking Age society that the only ones to practice sorcery, witchcraft, spell-work, divination and so on, were only women. But in this community it might have been different; it's quite plausable that men also did this kind of work.
We also have to take into consideration that these specific men were very small, and possibly very fragile. So it may have been that the community found a way to give them a purpose, a trade, a way to help the community since they might have been to fragile for other harduous works. Or maybe we are in the presence of an old Shamanic custome, where men who had certain feminine qualities were revered and worked as spiritual guides. Well, this remains a mystery.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 12:19 PM /
We usually associate runes with the Vikings, although these symbols have been an early form of writing spread all over Europe since the late Bronze Age (possibly even before that). Our ancestors started to produce geometrical symbols; they perfected them, simplify them, until we start to see in archaeological context the early forms of what would be the runes. This form of writing soon came to an end when Romans started to conquer Europe and the latin alphabet replaced the old forms of written language. But far in the north the runes remained till late, due to the fact that romans had little influence, if any, in those regions. However, christianity eventually reached Scandinavia during the middle ages, and it was thought that the Vikings might have been the last people to use the runes in a daily basis, and that the runes continue to be used only for magical purposes. But in the hidden deapths of Scandinavia, people still used the runes as far as 100 years ago.
The runic alphabet was the dominant written language in Northern Europe until the advent of Christianity in the 9th and 10th centuries introduced the Latin alphabet. By the 15th century the Latin alphabet had almost wiped out the use of runes. But here, in Älvdalen, the runes remained very much in use.
In Älvdalen, near Dalarna, in western Sweden, the local population continued to use the runes for centuries after the ancient written language had been abandoned by the rest of Scandinavia. Until the early 20th century the runes were still used there. The inhabitants of this region retained their very special language - Elfdalian - which is an other completely different language apart modern swedish (an unique old Norse tongue).
Here is an example of the runes used till modern days:
|Illustration from: [Arakun/Wikimedia Commons]|
As you can see, the runes of Älvdalen - dalrunerne - are reminiscent of those used on runes stones in countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, etc., but there are a number of differences. Dalrunerne developed over time, influenced partially by the Latin alphabet. The use of runes in Scandinavia gradually ceased during the 15th century. Although there were some areas of Gotland, in Sweden, and in Iceland, where the rune tradition survived until the 17th century, but in Älvdalen their use was widespread until the early 20th century.
The runes in Älvdalen were most commonly found on houses and inscribed in furniture, and were also engraved into "message blades" which were sticks of wood that were circulated among the farms in the area. It's really interesting to see that the people who herded the cattle up in the mountains would write messages to each other in runes.
This wonderful linguistic and traditional treasure remained till late due to the isolation of this region. A place deep in the Swedish forests and mountain ranges, hard to get into. While the rest of Scandinavia, and Europe, the Latin alphabet and Germanic dialects spread and gave way to the modern languages of the European linguistic-branch, in Älvdalen a little bit of the past remained frozen in time.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 7:28 PM /
A ritual spear dating back 9,000 years - made of wood and decorated with engraved ornament - has been discovered by archaeologists in Bolków near lake Świdwie (West Pomerania). The spear is an unusual artefact. The unique aspect of the find is the rich decoration on its outer, slightly convex side: interwoven geometric and zoomorphic patterns. The construction of the spear, and above all the presence of ornamentation indicates that it was a ritual object associated with the beliefs of the Mesolithic peoples inhabiting the lakeside settlements and hunting camps.
Communities living in the Mesolithic period often adorned items they used. In Europe there are known carvings made on various objects made of antlers and animal bones, wood, and rarely also on objects made of amber, flint and on stone pebbles. They represent the wealth of stylised depictions of forest animals, birds, fish and plants, as well as human figures.
The carvings on the spear showed the presence of different combinations of geometrical patterns in the form of single and grouped triangles, zigzags, herringbone, horizontal and vertical short notches and the dominant theme of short perpendicular incisions, arranged along the lines. Also visible are depictions of stylised human and animal figures. The analysis shows that central place in the image formed by the carvings has a ritual scene with three human figures. One of them is wearing a characteristic mask, made of widely branched antlers. "It certainly symbolizes a shaman - a spiritual guide of the community. The second figure is shown without clothes - drawn with a single thick line. Its position suggests performing a ritual dance. Hands are raised upwards. The third figure is presented in a long robe and carrying a bundle, possibly an offering. The scene takes place on the shores of a lake, by two boats. On the opposite side, in the background, there is an encampment composed of at least four shelters, presented in the form of several adjoining slender triangles.
The spear was discovered during excavations in the vicinity of previously studied shamanic sanctuary from the early Mesolithic. According to archaeologists about 9,000 years ago mysterious rituals were performed in this place. Archaeologists have been studying traces of these enigmatic activities since 2012. During that time they discovered, among other things, a meteorite located inside one of the huts, a wooden censer used during rituals, an unusually shaped stick, and even an object is made of birch bark, which is described as a fragment of a ritual mask.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 7:39 PM /
We know that cats have already conquered the internet with their cuteness and silly behaviour, but in the past they have also conquered lands! Well . . . not likely, but the latest and largest genetic study of cats revealed how our fluffy friends spread across Europe, Asia, and Africa, and even sailed aboard Viking ships.
The world’s first large study into ancient cat DNA reveals that the earliest ancestors of these furry fellows reached Eurasia and Africa at the same time as early farmers (during the Neolithic), and were later helped by sailors, including the Vikings. It was already known that cats reached the shores of Europe through the mediterranian sea during the Bronze Age, but now this study shows that cats have landed in European soils in a much distant past.
Scientists sequenced the DNA from 290 cats from more than 30 archaeological excavations throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa, including the remains of a cat in a Viking grave in northern Germany.
But why were the Vikings so important in spreading these feline conquerors? Well, cats have their importance in Norse mythology, and were often connected to specific deities. Of course I will mention the goddess Freyja, notoriously known as the goddess of love. In the Norse Mythology she has two cats that pull her carriage. And, of course, there is that one tale when Thor visited Utgard and he tried to lift the gigantic Utgard-Loki’s cat. It turned out to be a serpent, the Midgard Serpent, which not even Thor could lift; a spell was at work in this tale. Suffice to say, in this tale as well as Freyja's cats, there is a connection between cats and magic, because Freyja herself is also one of the few Norse goddesses to be closely connected to magic and Seiðr work - a type of sorcery which was practiced in Norse society, closely related to shamanic practices which I will not delve much into the subject because we are talking about cats dear friends.
There are other tales about cats in the Norse mythology, so it's safe to say Vikings cared about their cats because even the gods had them. When cultures include a certain animal in their mythologies, or in their cultural and traditional code which defines them as a people, it shows us that these animals where very important to these societies, which is why they gained a connection with the gods in the first place.
Anyhow, in this new study, samples were taken from the remains of cats dating to as recently as the 18th century and as far back as the early Stone Age. Around 8,900 to 3,900 years ago, when Europeans had not yet adopted farming and still led a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
It seems that cats spread throughout the old world in two waves. The first wave arrived with the earliest farmers in the eastern Mediterranean, as indicated by the discovery of 9,500 years old graves in Cyprus. It contained the remains of a cat and suggests that the relationship between humans and cats dates all the way back to the early days of the Neolithic period. The second wave took place thousands of years later as cats from Egypt quickly spread to the rest of Africa and Asia. Their genetic markers were discovered in cats from Bulgaria, Turkey, and sub-Saharan Africa that also date to around the same time.
It is possible that the friendship between people and cats arose as early farmers began to store grain. The grain attracted rodents, which in turn attracted wild cats, and so began the mutually beneficial relationship with our feline friends. Yes, cats to care of rats and so the grain was safe. This is exactly like the relationship of humans with early dogs. The domestication of wolves and wild canine creatures created the best friend humans could ever have - a guardian to ward of dangerous animals and other predators. In a subtle way, cats also made their way towards humans, showing their abilities and their usefulness, thus becoming equally important. Cats also helped to keep down the numbers of rats and mice on ships, during long voyages at sea, so it's perfectly understand why cats were brought by sailors.
A Viking grave, discovered in northern Germany, is believed to date back to somewhere between the 8th to 11th century CE, and there was a cat in it which helped in the study. A search in the Natural History Museum of Denmark database of archaeological finds showned that there is no doubt that cats were commonplace inthe Iron Age and Viking Age of Denmark and that people commonly wore cat skins by the late Viking Age.
With certainty, there were domestic cats back then, in the Viking society, because of their size which is related to the type of life of a household cat. Wild cats are larger and their bone-structure is much different, whilst dosmetic cats are smaller and are nowehre near the size of their wild cousins.
According to archaeological research there are also evidences that cats made it to Greenland, which points to the first Europeans to step into those lands - Vikings. Vikings carried cats in their longships probably for the same reason as everybody else, but maybe also because their connection to the goddess Freyja. Mayhaps it was easiler to bring domesticated creatures to a new land, rather than other animals more wild in nature and also connected to magic.