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The Stunning Viking Runestones Of Scandinavia

The recent discovery of several Viking ship graves in Norway has lifted interest in Viking history to new heights. While there’s no doubting the fascinating discoveries being made, some truly remarkable Viking artifacts exist in plain sight throughout Scandinavia: runestones.

The region’s tradition of carving inscriptions into raised stones as a memorial began as early as the 4th century, but the vast majority of runestones still standing date from the 9th and 10th centuries, the latter years of the Viking Age. Scholars have attempted to translate many of the runic inscriptions, with varying degrees of success.

Rök, Sweden

The runestone of Rök, Sweden, is one of the most popular attractions on Scandinavia’s burgeoning Viking tourist trail. Yet its origin story continues to mystify.

First-time visitors to the runestone outside Rök in a rural part of East Middle Sweden are often left speechless. The imposing five-ton carved stone has an almost alien-like appearance and is unlike any other archaeological find in the world.

Believed to date back to the early 9th century, the stone was raised and carved by a Viking struggling to cope with the death of his son. He channelled his emotions into carving this sprawling text, which consists of more than 700 runes spread across the stone’s five sides.

While several translations have been made, experts struggle to interpret the results. One recent study even claims part of the inscription tells of the community’s fears about a period of extended cold.

A team led by Per Holmberg, a professor of Swedish language at the University of Gothenburg, said that a series of 6th century volcanic eruptions plunged Sweden into a prolonged cold snap, killing as much as half the population. The new study claims that the runestone’s author could have been spooked by a series of events that occurred between the years 775 and 810. During that time, a solar storm, a very cold summer, and a near-total solar eclipse all took place, any of which could have been mistaken as an indicator of another extreme cold spell on its way.

Jelling, Denmark

The Jelling area of Denmark is synonymous with Viking history. The town’s 11th century stone church was built on the site of Harald Bluetooth’s wooden church from the 900s.

Two giant burial mounds provide the backdrop for these runestones, considered to be some of the most famous historical artifacts in Denmark as they contain the oldest written references to the country’s name.

The Jelling stones make up part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as such have become one of Denmark’s most popular sights. The bigger stone was raised by Harald Bluetooth to honour his parents and celebrate his conquest of Denmark. The smaller, older stone is aid to have been raised by King Gorm the Old in memory of his wife, Thyra.

Rakkestad, Norway

As with Viking burial ships, runestones are still being discovered to this day across Scandinavia. Very few have been found in Norway, yet in 2018 this remarkable find was made in Rakkestad, only a handful of miles away from the location of the Gjellestad ship.

However, unlike the burial ship and almost all the other runestones in Scandinavia, this one has been found to predate the Viking Age by as much as 400 years. So old is the Proto Norse language of the 35 runes that it took researchers at the University of Oslo to confirm that they were indeed original runes.

Södermanland, Sweden

While Denmark and Norway to have a handful of runestones, the vast majority are located in Sweden. To the west of Swedish capital Stockholm, the Södermanland region alone is home to 450 known runic inscriptions.

Perhaps the most famous is the Stenkvista runestone near Stenkvita church. It is one of several runestones that reference Thor, but this one has a depiction of Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir.

Another famous stone at Skåang is notable for two sets of inscriptions. The first is written with the oldest known runic alphabet and is believed to date to the 6th century. A second inscription was added during the Viking Age.

Elsewhere in the region, a runestone with tales of extensive warfare throughout western Europe stands more than three meters high in the large burial ground at Kungshållet in Kjula.

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I was born in the U.K. but moved to Norway in 2011 and haven’t looked back. I run a website and podcast for fellow expats, authored the Moon Norway travel guidebook, help Norwegian companies with their English, and spend my free time touring the country to discover more about the people and places of this unique corner of the world. I write for Forbes with an outsider’s inside perspective on Norway & Scandinavia.

Source: The Stunning Viking Runestones Of Scandinavia

Runes. The Viking world was full of them. In an extract from The Dark Ages: An Age of Light, Waldemar Januszczak explains their importance in the much-misunderstood Viking culture. The complete series is now available on DVD from the ZCZ Films shop: http://www.zczfilms.com/shop/films/th…

 

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Russian Scientists Show Off 18,000-Year-Old Prehistoric Puppy Perfectly Preserved in Permafrost

This is a handout photo taken on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, showing a 18,000 years old Puppy found in permafrost in the Russia's Far East, on display at the Yakutsk's Mammoth Museum, Russia. Russian scientists have presented a unique prehistoric canine, believed to be 18,000 years old and found in permafrost in the Russia's Far East, to the public on Dec. 2, 2019.

(YAKUTSK, Russia) — Russian scientists on Monday showed off a prehistoric puppy, believed to be 18,000 years old, found in permafrost in the country’s Far East.

Discovered last year in a lump of frozen mud near the city of Yakutsk, the puppy is unusually well-preserved, with its hair, teeth, whiskers and eyelashes still intact.

“This puppy has all its limbs, pelage – fur, even whiskers. The nose is visible. There are teeth. We can determine due to some data that it is a male,” Nikolai Androsov, director of the Northern World private museum where the remains are stored, said at the presentation at the Yakutsk’s Mammoth Museum which specializes in ancient specimens.

In recent years, Russia’s Far East has provided many riches for scientists studying the remains of ancient animals. As the permafrost melts, affected by climate change, more and more parts of woolly mammoths, canines and other prehistoric animals are being discovered. Often it is mammoth tusk hunters who discover them.

This is a handout photo taken on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, showing a 18,000 years old Puppy found in permafrost in the Russia’s Far East, on display at the Yakutsk’s Mammoth Museum, Russia. Russian scientists have presented a unique prehistoric canine, believed to be 18,000 years old and found in permafrost in the Russia’s Far East, to the public on Dec. 2, 2019.
Sergei Fyodorov—Yakutsk Mammoth Museum/AP

“Why has Yakutia come through a real spate of such unique findings over the last decade? First, it’s global warming. It really exists, we feel it, and local people feel it strongly. Winter comes later, spring comes earlier,” Sergei Fyodorov, scientist with the North Eastern Federal University, told The Associated Press.

By DARIA LITVINOVA and ROMAN KUTUKOV / AP

Source: Russian Scientists Show Off 18,000-Year-Old Prehistoric Puppy Perfectly Preserved in Permafrost

Russian Scientists Show Off 18,000 Year Old Prehistoric Puppy Perfectly Preserved in Permafrost scientists on Monday showed off a prehistoric puppy, believed to be 18,000 years old, found in permafrost in the country’s Far East. Discovered last year in a lump of frozen mud near the city of Yakutsk, the puppy is unusually well-preserved, with its hair, teeth, whiskers and eyelashes still intact. Follow us : https://web.facebook.com/News-Of-The-…

 

This Ancient Greek’s Breastbone Shows He Was Executed With Terrifying Precision

Sternum of a Hellenistic period man showing stab wound.

On the island of Thasos, which lies close to the north shore of the Aegean Sea, archaeologists recovered dozens of burials dating to the Greek Hellenistic period, or 4th to 1st centuries BC. One particular older male caught their attention because he was likely executed with a precise wound to his breastbone.

Since at least the 7th century BC, the island of Thasos was an important part of the Greek world, as recorded by ancient authors Herodotus and Thucydides and as revealed through numerous excavations over the past several decades by archaeologists affiliated with the Hellenic Antiquities Authority. Residents of ancient Thasos built settlements and strongholds on the island and the nearby mainland, and through their control of regional sea routes, they became rich and powerful.

Excavation at an ancient cemetery on Thasos revealed clusters of Hellenistic and Roman period family graves that contained the skeletons of males and females of all ages. One specific skeleton, however, intrigued archaeologist Anagnostis Agelarakis of Adelphi University so much that he studied it in painstaking detail; his results are forthcoming in Access Archaeology.

Agelarakis discovered that the skeleton was male and that, based on the degenerative wear on his joints and teeth, he was likely more than 50 years old when he died. Further, his robust skeleton suggested that he had been involved in physically demanding tasks and activities. None of this was surprising to Agelarakis, as ancient Greek men were known to have engaged in much physical labor over their lifetimes. Once the bones were cleaned in the laboratories of the Archaeological Museum of Thasos Island, however, Agelarakis noticed something odd: a hole in the lower part of the man’s sternum or breastbone.

The human body can have numerous variants, often extraneous holes or bones whose presence (or absence) is passed down in families. These variations are selectively neutral, so they don’t get eliminated from the human species, but they are useful for bioarchaeologists interested in tracking genetic relationships without doing destructive analysis like DNA work. One of these common variants is a hole in the lower part of the breastbone, called the sternal foramen, which occurs in roughly 5% of the population.

“It became immediately apparent,” Agelarakis notes, “that this case did not pertain to a developmental anomaly of sternal foramen, but to a multilevel mechanically caused orifice, one that had been sustained by a through-and-through gladiolar [lower breastbone] injury.” A seven-sided entry wound could be seen, clearly suggesting a type of penetrating trauma, and there was no evidence of healing. The man had been stabbed.

To shed some light on the mechanics of the injury, I asked Patrick Randolph-Quinney, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Central Lancashire, to weigh in. “In my considered opinion, Agelarakis has a case,” he says. “Penetrating peri-mortem trauma is consistent with some of the skeletal defects displayed.” While he is not fully convinced of the seven-sided entry wound, Randolph-Quinney notes that the exit wound, or the back side of the sternum, is of particular interest. This exit wound has sharp bone edges, which rules out both post-mortem damage and a sternal foramen. Flat bones like the sternum react differently to trauma compared to bones like the skull and long bones of the arms and legs. “In cases of arrow or crossbow wounds,” Randolph-Quinney says, “it’s my experience that they ‘punch’ their way through flat bone, leaving sharp margins on both entrance and exit surfaces, similar to the photos in Agelarakis’ article. I think he’s right about the injury — but maybe for the wrong reasons.”

Not content to simply diagnose this ancient Thasian man with a stab wound, Agelarakis set out to figure out what kind of weapon made the odd, seven-sided mark on the bone. To do this, he and his colleagues extrapolated the shape of the weapon from the injury, created a 3D model reconstruction in wax, and then generated mold from that in order to cast the weapon in bronze. Once this process was completed, Agelarakis was able to suggest that the weapon was a styrax, or the spike at the lower end of a spear-shaft. He and his colleagues then used their reconstructed weapon on a ballistic model of a human in order to approximate force and direction of the fatal blow.

Ballistic model

Ballistic model created to test the force and direction of a styrax injury.

A. Agelarakis / Adelphi University

Given the identification of the weapon, Agelarakis hypothesizes that this was a close-encounter sharp force injury, in which the man was immobilized, perhaps with his hands tied behind his back, “in order to receive a contact thrusting of an accurately anatomically calculated, precisely positioned, and well-delivered striking into the inferior mediastinum region of the thorax.” Essentially, the deadly aim of the person wielding the spear caused a fatal wound to the Thasian man’s chest, which put him into cardiac arrest as he bled out. Agelarakis suggests that this was almost certainly “a prepared execution event.”

This older Thacian man was buried in an individual grave among clusters of family graves, without any indication that he was treated differently than others in death. Because of his simple burial, Agelarakis thinks that he was not condemned to capital punishment because he was a traitor or conspirator. Rather, “it may be postulated that his untimely and violent death could have been the result of a political-military turmoil or reprisals, possibly during forceful regime changes” that occurred during the Hellenistic era. Although this man was stabbed to death, he was likely of high standing and, as Agelarakis concludes, “would have been recognized as a worthy opponent.”

For more news about ancient skeletons, follow Kristina Killgrove on Twitter (@DrKillgrove), Instagram (Powered by Osteons), or Facebook (Powered by Osteons).

As a bioarchaeologist, I routinely pore over the skeletons of ancient populations so that I can learn about their health, diet, and lifestyles.

Source: This Ancient Greek’s Breastbone Shows He Was Executed With Terrifying Precision

Archaeologists Make ‘Very Special’ Viking Era Discovery in Norway

Almost one thousand years after the end of the Viking Age, Norwegian archaeologists have made a sensational find near Halden in the south-east of Norway. The burial mound and adjacent field harbour several longhouses and at least one ship burial. Digital data visualizations reveal the well-defined 20-meter-long ship-shaped structure, with indications that the lower part is well preserved. Incredibly, the ship lies just below the topsoil, with just 50cm separating it from the fresh air.

Source: Archaeologists Make ‘Very Special’ Viking Era Discovery in Norway

Archeologist Spends Over 35 Years Building Enormous Scale Model of Ancient Rome – Jessica Stewart

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Tucked in the residential Roman neighborhood of EUR, a sprawling 1:250 scale model displays the glory of ancient Rome. Known as the Plastico di Roma Imperiale, the plaster model was commissioned by Mussolini in 1933 and depicts Rome in the 4th century AD at the time of Constantine I. It now sits in the Museum of Roman Civilization, a museum opened in the 1930s to demonstrate the history of ancient Rome.The plaster model is a masterpiece created by archaeologist Italo Gismondi, who worked on the piece throughout his life…….

 

Read more: https://mymodernmet.com/scale-model-ancient-rome/

DNA From Ancient Latrines Reveal What People Ate Centuries Ago

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There’s treasure to be found in mining excrement. At least, it’s treasure to scientists studying the diets, habits and health of people who lived centuries ago.

In a new study, Danish researchers dug up old latrines and sequenced the DNA they found in the ancient poop. The results paint a picture of diets and parasites spanning times and places that range from an ancient fort Qala’at al-Bahrain, near the capital Bahrain in 500 B.C.E. to the river-ringed city of Zwolle in the Netherlands in 1850. The researchers published their results in the journal PLOS One.

The team collected samples of old latrines and soil deposits at eight different archeological sites. They screened the samples for the eggs of parasites, which can last for centuries, and analyzed the DNA in each sample to determine species. They also gleaned the DNA of plants and animals from the samples to determine what people ate.

In some ways, the team found that life centuries ago was unhygienic as might be imagined. Most people probably dealt with intestinal parasites at least once in their life, veterinary scientist and paper co-author Martin Søe, with the University of Copenhagen, tells Angus Chen at NPR. “I think it’s fair to say it was very, very common,” he says. “In places with low hygienic standards, you still have a lot of whipworm and round worm.”

Søe explains that the types of parasites they found could also give insight into the animals people consumed. Parasites that live in fish and pigs but that can also infect humans were a common find, indicating that undercooked or raw pork and fish was a diet staple.

The analysis also identified a handful of parasites that only infect humans such as the giant roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides) and the whipworm (Trichuris trichiura).

By sequencing the mitochondrial DNA of the parasite eggs, the researchers found that Northern European whipworms from 1000 C.E. to 1700 C.E. were more closely related to worms found in present-day Uganda than to those in present-day China. Findings like this offer “hints about ancient patterns of travel and trade,” writes Charles Choi for a blog post at Discover magazine.

Researchers also found parasites that don’t infect human but are more commonly found in sheep, horses, dogs, pigs and rats. This suggests the critters all likely lived near the latrines, leading people to dispose of the animal waste in the ancient toilets, Søe tells Choi.

The menagerie of ancient DNA helps paint a picture of life at some of the sites. For example, samples from Gammel Strand—a site in Copenhagen’s old harbor—include DNA from herring and cod, horses, cats and rats. The harbor was ”[l]ikely a very dirty place by our standards, with a lot of activity from humans and animals,” Søe says.

The findings also reveal information about ancient diets. DNA in Danish samples shows that the people probably ate fin whales, roe deer and hares, writes Sarah Sloat for Inverse. The study also delves into the analysis of plant DNA, which included cherries, pears, cabbages, buckwheat and other edible plants. The ancient Danes’ waste had an abundance of DNA from hops, showing the people’s fondness for beer, whereas the samples from the Netherlands showed people there had a preference for wine.

This isn’t the first time that scientists have looked to unappetizing leavings to learn more about the past. Researchers have traced the path of explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark by looking for traces of mercury in the soil. The metallic element was in pills the men took to treat constipation and its presence indicates where the expedition dug latrines and camped. And parasites in a castle latrine in Cyprus attest to the poor health endured by crusaders. But the DNA analysis of the new study offers a uniquely detailed picture of the past.

Together, the new findings offer intriguing hints about ancient life. Following up on some of these leads could lead future researchers to tell us more about ancient people’s health and the migrations of our ancestors. As Maanasa Raghavan, a zoologist at Cambridge University who wasn’t part of the new study, tells NPR: “Having these datasets will help us look further at how these pathogens evolved over time or how people moved around.”
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