Viking raid may have saved British artefact

A gold object was stolen by Vikings and later buried with its new owner in Norway. That twist of fate probably saved a part of one of the oldest known British croziers. 

 http://sciencenordic.com/viking-raid-may-have-saved-british-artefact


If Norwegian Vikings had not stolen this part of a British crozier, it would have almost certainly been lost. (Photo: Åge Hojem/NTNU University Museum)
Griffin Murray, an Irish archaeologist, visited the University Museum of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway, last year. He then took a closer look at the museum’s grave finds.
His visit resulted in new information about the find that is now known to be part of a crozier from northern England –  what it looked like and how the Vikings might have plundered it.
“This bit has been part of the decoration in the middle of a staff, or a crozier, from the late 700s, or the beginning of the 800s," says Murray
"It has probably come from the north of England, and not Ireland as we first thought. The decoration doesn’t look Irish.”
The object was exhumed in 1961 from a Viking grave in Romsdal, central Norway.
One of the oldest
The Irish researcher is involved in an intensive research project on Irish archaeological treasures. He has studied several fragments of ancient Irish and English croziers and thinks the NTNU University Museum’s find is important in understanding how croziers looked during the earliest periods.
He believes the most striking aspect of the gold object is the era it comes from.
“This is the oldest known English fragment, and the only one that dates from before 1000 BCE, ”Murray says.
“If the Norwegian Vikings had not stolen it, it would most probably have been lost,” he states.

 

----

 on Anders Risvaag, who is responsible for the museum’s archaeological collections, says it was rewarding to be visited by the Irish researcher.

“Murray is one of the foremost experts in the field, and he provided us with new and exciting information about the Viking finds that are important to share,” he comments.
Risvaag is very interested in determining just where the University Museum’s archaeological finds come from, and whether or not they are from a real Viking raid.
“This find tells us that the Vikings sailed to the British Isles with swords and axes in their hands and stole croziers and other items,” he says.
From bad to good
Risvaag also believes that the Viking raid may have saved the part of the crozier, noting that most of the croziers that remained in the British Isles were melted down for other uses.
“In Norway and other Scandinavian countries, these artefacts were buried as grave goods, which is why the finest objects are usually found in gravesites,” he says.
“This tradition now appears to have saved one of the oldest croziers we know of today.”
Easy targets
The earliest raids on churches took place from just before the year 800, and continued throughout the ninth century at an intense level, according to Murray. He believes that the Vikings chose churches as their goal, not only because they contained riches, but also because they were defenceless and unarmed.
“When Norwegian Vikings sailed to Ireland and the British Isles, their goal was to steal the most valuable stuff. Monasteries and churches were obvious, easy targets, especially because the Vikings were heathens and had no religious convictions or relationship to the bishopric,” says Murray.
Worn as jewellery

Griffin Murray (Photo: Åge Hojem/NTNU University Museum)
Because Norway did not have bishops or Christianity in the 800s, the stolen religious objects were used in ways that were radically different from their original intended use.
“This piece of crozier was cut in half and used as adornment. We only have half of it, so we do not know how the other half was used,” says Risvaag.
“This bit has probably been used as a kind of decoration on a dress, or as jewellery worn by a wealthy woman,” he adds.
A rich Viking woman’s grave
Archaeologists also found a number of fine objects in the same burial mound in Romsdal, in addition to the bit of gold from the crozier. The grave contained a weight, coins and beads as well as a reliquary, which Risvaag believed belonged to a rich woman.
A reliquary is a container for relics from a Christian saint, or for objects that are connected in some way with Jesus. Reliquaries were often shaped like a building, preferably a church, and were covered with gems, precious metals and enamel.
“This is a fine box in solid wood covered with tin. Most likely there would have been several decorations on the reliquary that have broken off, but the container remains a fine precious artefact from an estate with high status in western Norway. A wealthy Viking woman of high status was probably buried in this grave and was given the reliquary and the bit of gold from the crozier as a gift from a Viking raid to the UK,” Risvaag says.
Belong to Norway
Irish newspapers followed up on Murray’s research, and raised the question of whether or not Ireland can ask to have the objects repatriated.
Risvaag says this is unlikely.
“These objects have lain in the soil since the Viking Age. Everything that is excavated today that is older than the Reformation in 1537 is the property of the State. If the material had been illegally brought into Norway today, it would have to be returned to the country it originally came from,” he explains.
n a dark and murky bog in  the damp meadows of Alken, Denmark, archaeologists made a startling discovery – the bodies of what appeared to be an entire army of soldiers dating back some 2,000 years. More than two hundred ancient warrior skeletons were unearthed in 2009, along with a small number of spearheads, shields, clubs, and axes, and scientists have been studying them ever since, trying to piece together their final moments.
The excavation took place in an area close to Jutland's Lake in Denmark, and it was no easy task as the bodies were some two meters below the surface of the thick bog.  According to Ejvind Hertz, Curator of Archeology at Skanderborg Museum, 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 with 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. Indeed, their bones revealed traumatic injuries such as slices, cuts, and blows from sword, axes, and other weapons.
Thighbones from the dead warriors - Alken Enge
Thighbones from the dead warriors (Alken Enge). Credit: Skanderborg Museum
Archaeologists from Skanderborg Museum, Moesgård Museum and Aarhus University have been working to find out who these victims were and what the sequence of events were that led to such a gruesome ending for this army of soldiers. 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 some 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 area 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. “Our studies reveal that a violent sequel took place after the fallen warriors had lain on the battlefield for around six months," said Mads Kähler Holst from Aarhus University.
Four pelvic bones on a stick (Alken Enge)
Four pelvic bones on a stick are shown (Alken Enge). Credit: Peter Jensen, Aarhus University
In what the researchers believe 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 were then tossed into water, along with the remains of slaughtered animals and clay pots that probably contained food sacrifices.
"It seems that this was a holy site for a pagan religion – a sacred grove – where the victorious conclusion of major battles was marked by the ritual presentation and destruction of the bones of the vanquished warriors," said Holst.
The buried army at Alken Enge are not the first set of human remains to have been found in this 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 weapons offering near Fuglsang Forrest.
Archeologists 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,  according to Hertz, “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.
Featured image: Skulls are scattered around thighbones and joints in the great mass grave at Alken. Photo: Skanderborg Museum
Suggested Reading
An entire army sacrificed in a bog – Heritage Daily
The bog army – archaeology.org
An entire army sacrificed in a bog – Science Nordic
Macabre finds in the bog at Alken Enge – Science Codex
Evidence of gruesome ancient ritual unearthed in Denmark – History.com
Corpses at battle of Alken  Enge were desecrated – The Dragon’s Tales
By Susan Ardizzoni
- See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-europe/alken-enge-and-buried-army-002120#sthash.uhZBPOyD.dpuf
n a dark and murky bog in  the damp meadows of Alken, Denmark, archaeologists made a startling discovery – the bodies of what appeared to be an entire army of soldiers dating back some 2,000 years. More than two hundred ancient warrior skeletons were unearthed in 2009, along with a small number of spearheads, shields, clubs, and axes, and scientists have been studying them ever since, trying to piece together their final moments.
The excavation took place in an area close to Jutland's Lake in Denmark, and it was no easy task as the bodies were some two meters below the surface of the thick bog.  According to Ejvind Hertz, Curator of Archeology at Skanderborg Museum, 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 with 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. Indeed, their bones revealed traumatic injuries such as slices, cuts, and blows from sword, axes, and other weapons.
Thighbones from the dead warriors - Alken Enge
Thighbones from the dead warriors (Alken Enge). Credit: Skanderborg Museum
Archaeologists from Skanderborg Museum, Moesgård Museum and Aarhus University have been working to find out who these victims were and what the sequence of events were that led to such a gruesome ending for this army of soldiers. 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 some 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 area 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. “Our studies reveal that a violent sequel took place after the fallen warriors had lain on the battlefield for around six months," said Mads Kähler Holst from Aarhus University.
Four pelvic bones on a stick (Alken Enge)
Four pelvic bones on a stick are shown (Alken Enge). Credit: Peter Jensen, Aarhus University
In what the researchers believe 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 were then tossed into water, along with the remains of slaughtered animals and clay pots that probably contained food sacrifices.
"It seems that this was a holy site for a pagan religion – a sacred grove – where the victorious conclusion of major battles was marked by the ritual presentation and destruction of the bones of the vanquished warriors," said Holst.
The buried army at Alken Enge are not the first set of human remains to have been found in this 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 weapons offering near Fuglsang Forrest.
Archeologists 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,  according to Hertz, “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.
Featured image: Skulls are scattered around thighbones and joints in the great mass grave at Alken. Photo: Skanderborg Museum
Suggested Reading
An entire army sacrificed in a bog – Heritage Daily
The bog army – archaeology.org
An entire army sacrificed in a bog – Science Nordic
Macabre finds in the bog at Alken Enge – Science Codex
Evidence of gruesome ancient ritual unearthed in Denmark – History.com
Corpses at battle of Alken  Enge were desecrated – The Dragon’s Tales
By Susan Ardizzoni
- See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-europe/alken-enge-and-buried-army-002120#sthash.uhZBPOyD.dpuf
Share on Google Plus

About Gaby F

lectora, estudiosa de la historia antigua, especialmente la mitología germánica, indoeuropea. ".
    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment

0 berserkers opinando: