Publicada por Arith Härger / 3:28 PM /
In the meadows of Alken, Denmark, archaeologists made a wonderful discovering in a bog. The bodies of what appeared to be an entire army of soldiers dating back some 2,000 years ago. More than two hundred ancient warriors' skeletons were unearthed in the excavations held in 2009. It was also found a small number of spearheads, shields, clubs, and axes, and scientists have been studying them ever since, trying to piece together the final moments of these warriors.
The archaeological works took place in an area close to Jutland's Lake in Denmark, and it was very hard to unearth the bodies because they were some two meters below the surface of the thick bog. It appears that the low-oxygen content of the water had delayed decomposition so the bones were still in a well-preserved state.
The human remains, which have been found to belong to males between the ages of roughly 13 and 45, date to a time in which the Roman Empire had extended its northern border some 185 miles south of Alken. This expansion resulted in unrest, skirmishes between Romans and Germanic tribes, and increased militarization of local peoples, leading researchers to believe that the men had died in battle and their bodies dumped in the bog. It is true that their bones revealed traumatic injuries such as slices, cuts, and blows from sword, axes, and other weapons.
Ever since this discovery, archaeologists have been working to find out who these victims were and what the sequence of events led to such a gruesome ending for these warriors. Based on latest findings, some scholars now believe that the bodies of the victims underwent complex post-war rituals before being cast into the bog more or less 6 months after their deaths.
Several sacrificial sites of a different nature had been observed in nearby areas, leading to the suggestion that ritualistic activity was commonplace in the region at the time. For instance, one site known as Forley Nymolle was believed to be an area of daily rituals in which the inhabitants made offerings of pottery, wooden objects, and various stone collections. Archaeologists and other experts maintain that one of the wooden objects recovered at the site is a goddess figurine, and perhaps may have been the deity that they were making offerings to.
But there were even more clues leading scientists to believe that the Alken Wetlands was a location for complex sacrificial events. Among the Alken Enge remains, archaeologists found a wooden stick threaded through the pelvic bones of four different men. More proves that after these warriors' death, a violent sequel took place.
Researchers believe that these facts may have formed part of a religious ritual in preparation for offering the remains as a sacrifice, the bodies of the warriors were entirely defleshed, the bones sorted, and in some cases, they were threaded onto sticks. The pile of remains was then tossed into the water, along with the remains of slaughtered animals and clay pots that probably contained food sacrifices. This indicates that this place was certainly a holy site for the germanic pagan religion.
The buried army at Alken Enge are not the first set of human remains to have been found in this specific area. The Illerup River which runs into Lake Mosso is well known for its store of human bones along with other finds such as the world-renowned offering of weapons near Fuglsang Forest.
Archaeologists have not been able to determine the nationality of the slaughtered warriors based on the objects found alongside them, as very few weapons were found at the site and radiocarbon dating on those that were found has revealed that they could not have belonged to the buried army. However, some DNA has been preserved, so we can get a good profile of what Iron Age man looked like. An anthropological analysis of the bones will provide us with a picture of their diet and their physical appearance. It is also hoped that the DNA analysis may help to reveal who the soldiers were and where they came from.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 9:47 PM /
The blood eagle as a Viking method of executing a person, may be the result of mistranslations and not historically accurate.
The execution method of the blood eagle in which victims were sliced open along the spine, had their ribs snapped open so it would look like wings, the lungs pulled out and salt poured in, may be a mistranslation of the Icelandic poet Sigvat Thordarson’s famous poem - Knútsdrápa. The poem is about Ragnar Hair-Breeches’s sons slaying King Ella of Northumbria in revenge. The stanza in question has been translated as both “Ivar caused the eagle to cut the back of Ella” and “Ivar cut the eagle on the back of Ella.” However, only the first translation makes literary and historical sense, as it fits in with the unique structure of the Icelandic poetry as well as the tradition of describing a slaughter as providing carrion for birds. The second translation led to a 14th-century interpretation that still exists today of the Vikings enacting a particularly horrid form of retribution.
This dreadful description of one of the methods used by the Vikings to kill a person, lasted to our days as the correct form of translation in an attempt to mark the Vikings as the barbarian bloodthirsty hordes the priests and monks believed them to be. The victims of the Vikings gave them a terrible reputation and later on the historical documentations writen about them which have survived to our days, were made centuries later when the Vikings were no more and the truth about such events had been altered from writer to writer.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 9:29 PM /
As you well know, history has been written by the victorious, but in the particular case of the Vikings, history was written by their victims. As such, the Vikings have been portrayed as brutal, bloodthirsty barbarians, and so their terrible reputation went on even to our days. Fortunately, with the help of Archaeology and the profound study of the historical records, we now know that the Vikings weren't as brutal mindless barbarians as they have been portrayed.
The image we have today of the Vikings is both wildly off the mark, and ignores the major contributions they made in shaping Europe during the Middle Ages - or what we know nowadays as the European continent. Not only the Vikings are completely misunderstood, but they may have also saved Europe.
The Vikings were not so selective about the places they wanted to raid, but the treasures and ransom achieved by attacking monasteries resulted in the Vikings being relegated to the “vicious barbarian” category of history. The monks in those monasteries were the only historians around at that time, for the christian church had the monopoly on writing in that time, and so all the records concerning the vikings, were made by the terrified priests and monks. Since the Vikings attacked those with a monopoly on writing, all of their deeds concerning their victims have gone down in history, and so they became known as the infamous, irrational, and bloodthirsty murderers.
One of the reasons the Vikings are viewed so negatively is that their violence could seem wanton or irrational. Part of that lies in the lack of documentation of what the Vikings actually did during their raids. To many at the time, clerics in particular, attacking a monastery or church would have seemed irrational and an act of such evilness that only "Devil worshipers" could perform such a thing. Those who documented the raids, which were usually monks, had something to be gained by playing up the Vikings’ violence against religious figures, and they often resorted to broad, generic rhetoric about the “devastation” and “destruction” without specific detail. Also, some of the documentations we are left with were written centuries after the events, often without the true knowledge of the events, only by listening the accounts from generation to generation; we know that people always add something to the tales to enhance its importance.
It is important to take note that the Vikings were acting completely rationally with their raids. These men were not addicted to violence, the treasure gained from the raids was used by chieftains in the complex and even poetic gift-giving system of the Viking halls; it was no different than what Charlemagne did.
The contemporary ruler Charlemagne is today generally extolled as the founding father of Europe. France and Germany compete about who has the greatest right to claim him as their national founder; Charlemagne was the cultured hero of that age.
Charlemagne treated Saxony like his own personal punching bag. One day in the year of 782, Charlemagne ordered no fewer than 4,500 Saxons to be decapitated because they were oath-breakers. Meanwhile, because they attacked those who would control the written record, the Viking execution of 111 prisoners in the year of 845 lives on in infamy. Germany is so quick to extol Charlemagne, when their Saxon ancestors were among the longest-suffering of Charlemagne’s victims.
Charlemagne’s wars on his neighbors were not dissimilar from Viking raids in that their primary purpose, particularly the raids of Avar and Pavia, was booty for his currency-starved empire.
Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, all of Europe faltered as trade and commerce dried up. While things had picked up by the height of the Viking era in the 9th and 10th centuries, two things were holding the region back. One was a negative balance of trade in Charlemagne’s kingdom and the region as a whole. This was largely due to currency being made of silver and gold, but the precious metals came from the East. The second factor was that in regions where currency was not used, the system in place was the barter system, which limits economic growth. However, the Vikings solved these problems in two ways:
The first, and less significant one, is that by attacking the monasteries and churches, the Vikings tapped into the sole major untouched source of precious metals in Europe. Those riches did not disappear, as the Vikings were well integrated in the European trade network. They used it to buy anything from Frankish swords or turn them into coins for the chieftains of the Scandinavian kingdoms set up in England and Ireland. More important than that, the early medieval resurgence of commerce in western Europe was the central Asian silver that Scandinavian merchants brought to Europe. The trade network of the Vikings stretched from Greenland and Iceland in the west all the way to the caliphate and Bolghar in the east. The Vikings prodigious exports, mainly fur and slave. The economic recovery in Europe was during the Viking Age.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 8:40 PM /
The newly-made christians of the Balts had an hard time to accept the new faith, and not all of them let themselves be subjugated by this philosophy; rebellions were continuous against the christian orders. The strongest rebelion was in Prussia around 1260 - 1274 led by Herkus Monte. This rebellion was nearly successful, which would have crushed the Crusader state altogether. However, this happened only much later, after the Christianization of Lithuania in 1387. By the year of 1300, both Prussian and Livonian Crusaders crushed the resistance of the subjugated tribes and turned to the only pagan tribe left in Europe – the Lithuanians. Between the years of 1300 to 1400 was the period of ceaseless and merciless warfare. Both sides were strong enough and no one could achieve victory. It became a war of small raids and plunder. The crusaders would march to the Lithuanian periphery two to three times a year, with the Lithuanians returning about one raid a year. Both sides looted the land of the enemy and killed indiscriminately in a spiral of mounting hatred.
In the year of 1386, the Polish nobility invited the Lithuanian Grand Duke Jogaila (Jogiela in Polish) to take the Polish throne on condition that he and his people became Christianized. Jogaila agreed, and in 1387 the official Christianization of Lithuania took place. The western part of Lithuania (Samogitia) rejected it and was Christianized only in 1413. This late date is when the whole of the European continent was brought under the Christian rule.
Right after the Christianization of Europe, the military might of the Teutonic Order started to fade; They no longer received support from Western Europe. The military balance quickly shifted, and in 1410 the joint forces of Lithuanians, Poles and Russians defeated the Order entirely. However, this does not mean that the resistance to Christianity was over. In the wake of Christianity, the Baltic tribes were enslaved. The free peasants and warriors were turned into serfs. They were instructed that being a true Christian means working hard for their master. In Christianized Lithuania, it meant to labour for their former military chief, now turned landlord, or the bishop.
The nobility accepted the new faith readily. For them it was a new era of limitless exploitation of their former comrades in battle of course. However, the folk resistance was intense. Throughout the two centuries of ceaseless warfare Lithuania attracted all those neighbouring tribesmen who refused to be subjugated to Christianity. People continued to worship their old gods in secrecy. Rebellions would spring out continuously, and among those was the rebellion of Samogitia (Western Lithuania) in 1418, and by the year of 1441 throughout all of Lithuania, 1506 in Southern Lithuania, 1536 in Samogitia, 1544-45 in Eastern Lithuania. Those are but the first peasant rebellions against their masters, they continued well into the 17th century.
Christianity brought its usual system of Inquisition and brutality. The only difference was that the persecutions were focused on peasants who refused to abandon their ancient traditions. During the period of Christian assaults, Lithuania had been separated from western Europe. This and the extreme military pressures hindered the development of towns.
The battle against Christianity continued well after the official Christianization of Lithuania. Within their homes and deep in the ancient forests the old worship of the pagan deities continued well into the 17th and even 18th centuries. The old pagan tradition was carried almost to this day.
Publicada por Arith Härger / 8:20 PM /
The christianization of Europe is a subject we often understand as the arrival of a new faith coming from the middle eastern civilizations, which brought culture, unified Europe under one single faith and ended the barbarian ways of life from the tribes of the old continent. But Europe was already culturally rich, and the many different religions of the Europeans brought them happiness and a better understanding of the world around them, the coming of the christian faith changed what being an European truly meant, and the last pagans of Europe fought alone against their brethren who succumbed to the christian faith. The christianization of Europe took time, but in the Balts (nowadays Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and the now extinguished Prussians) it took even longer and their ancient tribal believes remained till late.
The Baltic tribes were among the oldest eastern inhabitants of Europe. In ancient times, they occupied a much larger area than their descendants, the Baltic lands stretched much further to the west, to the eastern shores of the Wysla river (nowadays in Poland territory), as well as further eastwards, about a hundred kms beyond the present Lithuanian and Latvian border with Belarus. The most famous Baltic tribes circa 1200 AD, were the Livonians and the Latgalians to the north of the Daugava River, the Selonians, Semigallians and Curonians to the south of the same river and around the Gulf of Riga, the Lithuanians (Aukstaitians at the hightlands and the Samogitians at the lowlands) and further south the Skalvians, Yotvingians (Sudovians), Galindians and the Prussians and their many tribes.
The conquest of the Baltic tribes began after the Crusades in the Holy Land suffered disastrous setbacks. After the crusaders lost Jerusalem to Saladin and the muslims in 1187 AD, they turned to the last pagan areas in Europe. The first crusaders appeared on the eastern shores of the Baltic sea around 1202 AD and settled in the Daugava delta. They established the castle and the city of Riga, now capital of Latvia. This branch of crusaders was originally called the Brothers of the Sword, later renamed the Livonian Order.
Several hundred km southward, in what is now the Kaliningrad district, another branch of crusaders settled there; it was called the Teutonic Order. They had established in Acre in the Holy Land between 1120 and 1128, the order was centered in Swabia (nowadays southern Germany) after the defeat in Jerusalem in 1187. The remnant of crusaders, with a strengthening from the Germanic-speaking lands, came to Prussia and established strongholds at Konigsberg and Marienburg. They gradually started to occupy the lands of the indigenous Prussian tribes (the Sambians, Bartians, Nadruvians, Warmians etc.). At the first stage the crusaders found some willing assistance. They offered protection to weaker tribes and thus played the indigenous people against each other, this helped them to secure their presence on the shores of the Baltic sea.
In 1236 DC, after the battle of Saule, the northern branch of crusaders suffered a major defeat and consequently merged with their southern cousins. After 1250, those two military states had firmly established themselves and started to make inroads into the neighbouring lands in all directions. They were equally eager to assault not only on the pagan tribes, but the Christian Poles and Russians as well. For more than 200 years, all neighbouring nations regardless of their faith, suffered continuous raids from the militant crusaders.
The Baltic sea has always been the greatest source of amber. Since prehistoric times, amber from the Baltic was found in many places further away from its origin. The Neolithic peoples of nowadays Portugal had trading networks with the Balts and amber is commonly found in ancient neolithic tombs of Central Portugal. Later, the Egyptians also coveted the Baltic amber and so did the Roman Empire. Historically speaking, the motives for this new invasion from the crusaders into the Balts, was to ensure that the trading routes with the Baltic areas continued to provide wealth to the newly formed christian nations as well as a religious opportunity, not only to spread the new faith, but to enslave more people under a single creed. The wealth of the Baltic areas was divided among the christian religious orders under the consent of the roman popes.
Between the years 1250 and 1300 AD, crusaders managed to subjugate most Prussians and Latvians. The tribal chiefs who agreed to convert to Christianity were offered protection and full rights to abuse their people as much as they liked. In 1291, when the Crusader State was expelled form the Holy Land, all the Christian fervour to expand the faith and lands turned on the Balts; it became the central front of the crusades. Ever larger numbers of fighters were drawn from Western Europe. On the other side, however, a concentration of forces also took place. The Lithuanians (the strongest of the Baltic tribes at that time) managed to establish a central rule by the year of 1253. The capital of the new state was established in Vilnius. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania had a rather easy time with crusaders by 1300 and it took the opportunity to expand to the east. The conditions were extremely favourable, the eastern Slavs were suffering from the brutal Mongol-Tatars' invasions, and were eager to accept the rule of pagan but tolerant Lithuanians. The Lithuanians left their Slavic subordinates more or less to their own devises, demanding only soldiers and limited tributes. By this time the pattern of how crusaders were expanding their influence was settled. At first they would try to convince the tribes to accept the one true God and save themselves from pagan falsehoods, but this seldom worked. At the next stage they would come back with the sword and force submission. This meant they had to accept Christianization or die. Those who agreed to receive the Lord as Saviour would be subjugated to work for the Order or for the Archbishop. Crusaders would explain that subservience to the Lord meant working diligently for his cause, and this meant that a peasant must save none of his efforts on this righteous path.