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One of the ancient Viking cod bones used in the study. The bones, dating from between 800 to 1066 AD, were found on the site of the early medieval Baltic port of Haithabu. Credit: Dr.James Barrett

Original Article:

Popular-archaeology.com

 

UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE—Norway is famed for its cod. Catches from the Arctic stock that spawns each year off its northern coast are exported across Europe for staple dishes from British fish and chips to Spanish bacalao stew.
Now, a new study published today in the journal PNAS suggests that some form of this pan-European trade in Norwegian cod may have been taking place for 1,000 years.
Latest research from the universities of Cambridge and Oslo, and the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology in Schleswig, used ancient DNA extracted from the remnants of Viking-age fish suppers.
The study analysed five cod bones dating from between 800 and 1066 AD found in the mud of the former wharves of Haithabu, an early medieval trading port on the Baltic. Haithabu is now a heritage site in modern Germany, but at the time was ruled by the King of the Danes.
The DNA from these cod bones contained genetic signatures seen in the Arctic stock that swims off the coast of Lofoten: the northern archipelago still a centre for Norway’s fishing industry.
Researchers say the findings show that supplies of ‘stockfish’ – an ancient dried cod dish popular to this day – were transported over a thousand miles from northern Norway to the Baltic Sea during the Viking era.
Prior to the latest study, there was no archaeological or historical proof of a European stockfish trade before the 12th century.
While future work will look at further fish remains, the small size of the current study prevents researchers from determining whether the cod was transported for trade or simply used as sustenance for the voyage from Norway.
However, they say that the Haithabu bones provide the earliest evidence of fish caught in northern Norway being consumed on mainland Europe – suggesting a European fish trade involving significant distances has been in operation for a millennium.
“Traded fish was one of the first commodities to begin to knit the European continent together economically,” says Dr James Barrett, senior author of the study from the University of Cambridge’s McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.
“Haithabu was an important trading centre during the early medieval period. A place where north met south, pagan met Christian, and those who used coin met those who used silver by weight.”
“By extracting and sequencing DNA from the leftover fish bones of ancient cargoes at Haithabu, we have been able to trace the source of their food right the way back to the cod populations that inhabit the Barents Sea, but come to spawn off Norway’s Lofoten coast every winter.
“This Arctic stock of cod is still highly prized – caught and exported across Europe today. Our findings suggest that distant requirements for this Arctic protein had already begun to influence the economy and ecology of Europe in the Viking age.”

Stockfish is white fish preserved by the unique climate of north Norway, where winter temperature hovers around freezing. Cod is traditionally hung out on wooden frames to allow the chill air to dry the fish. Some medieval accounts suggest stockfish was still edible as much as ten years after preservation.
The research team argue that the new findings offer some corroboration to the unique 9th century account of the voyages of Ohthere of Hålogaland: a Viking chieftain whose visit to the court of King Alfred in England resulted in some of his exploits being recorded.
“In the accounts inserted by Alfred’s scribes into the translation of an earlier 5th century text, Ohthere describes sailing from Hålogaland to Haithabu,” says Barrett. Hålogaland was the northernmost province of Norway.
“While no cargo of dried fish is mentioned, this may be because it was simply too mundane a detail,” says Barrett. “The fish-bone DNA evidence is consistent with the Ohthere text, showing that such voyages between northern Norway and mainland Europe were occurring.”
“The Viking world was complex and interconnected. This is a world where a chieftain from north Norway may have shared stockfish with Alfred the Great while a late-antique Latin text was being translated in the background. A world where the town dwellers of a cosmopolitan port in a Baltic fjord may have been provisioned from an Arctic sea hundreds of miles away.”
The sequencing of the ancient cod genomes was done at the University of Oslo, where researchers are studying the genetic makeup of Atlantic cod in an effort to unpick the anthropogenic impacts on these long-exploited fish populations.
“Fishing, particularly of cod, has been of central importance for the settlement of Norway for thousands of years. By combining fishing in winter with farming in summer, whole areas of northern Norway could be settled in a more reliable manner,” says the University of Oslo’s Bastiaan Star, first author of the new study.
Star points to the design of Norway’s new banknotes that prominently feature an image of cod, along with a Viking ship, as an example of the cultural importance still placed on the fish species in this part of Europe.
“We want to know what impact the intensive exploitation history covering millennia has inflicted on Atlantic cod, and we use ancient DNA methods to investigate this,” he says.
Article Source: University of Cambridge news release

 

 

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A Neolithic bow and arrows were recently unearthed when a snow patch that had remained untouched for thousands of years melted.
Credit: Hojem/Callanan-NTNU
image

Topic: Ancient hunters of Norway

A melting patch of ancient snow in the mountains of Norway has revealed a bow and arrows likely used by hunters to kill reindeer as long ago as 5,400 years.

The discovery highlights the worrying effects of climate change, said study author Martin Callanan, an archaeologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

“It’s actually a little bit unnerving that they’re so old and that they’re coming out right now,” Callanan told LiveScience. “It tells us that there’s something changing.”

Locked in snow

Callanan and his colleagues spend every summer hiking up the Trollheim and Dovre mountains a few hours south of Trondheim, Norway, to study the snow patches in the area, track snow melt and look for archaeological artifacts. The mountains stretch 6,200 feet (1,900 meters) above sea level, and at the highest elevations, only rocks and snow prevail year-round.

In 2010 and 2011, a patch of snow melted, revealing an ancient bow and several arrows that had been locked in the snow for centuries. The bow was made from a common type of elm that grows at lower altitudes along the coast. The arrows were tipped in slate and set in different types of wood. [See Photos of the Ancient Bow and Arrows ]

Dating revealed the Neolithic bow was about 3,800 years old, while the oldest of the arrows were 5,400 years old.

Ancient Stone Age hunters probably used the bow and arrows to kill reindeer, which spend summer days at high altitudes. The mountain retreat would have allowed the animals a respite from pesky insects, while standing on snow patches would have helped the shaggy creatures keep cool, Callanan said. Those predictable habits likely made them easy prey for ancient hunters.

No one knows exactly who left these ancient hunting instruments, but the bow and arrows have a design that’s strikingly similar to those found thousands of miles away in other frigid landscapes, such as the Yukon, Callanan said.

“The people in Norway, they didn’t have any contact with people in the Yukon, but they have the same type of adaptation,” Callanan said. “Across different cultures, people have acted in the same way.”

Decomposing artifacts

Finding such well-preserved tools is rare, said E. James Dixon, an archaeologist and director of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, who was not involved in the study.

“It’s one of the rare glimpses that we have into this Neolithic-period archery technology,” Dixon said.

However, while the find itself is stunning, the climate change that caused such ancient snow to melt is bad for archaeology, he said.

Artifacts locked in ice can be preserved for thousands of years.

“As soon as ice melts and it comes out, it’s subject to decomposition and we lose it,” Dixon told LiveScience. “For every artifact we find, there are probably hundreds, maybe thousands, that are lost and just destroyed forever.”

The bow and arrows are described in the September issue of the journal Antiquity.

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitter and Google+. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on livescience
Sep30, 2013

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A set of balance scales.

Topic: Trade
This article is interesting, I hope more shows up on food that might have been traded,( I’m sure it was ). If so I’ll keep you informed.

A tantalizing hint of an ancient trading town

When archaeologists Geir Grønnesby and Ellen Grav Ellingsen found these and other artefacts during a dig in mid-Norway, they realized they had intriguing evidence of a Viking-age trading area mentioned in the Norse Sagas.

The finds came from two separate boat graves in an area in Nord-Trøndelag County called Lø, a farm in part of Steinkjer. The archaeologists, who both work at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s University Museum, were there to conduct a routine investigation required because of an upgrade to Norway’s main national highway, the E6.

But instead of a simple highway dig, the researchers found themselves with a potential answer to an unsolved puzzle about a mysterious Viking trading place that is named in ancient sagas, but that has never before been located.

“These finds got us thinking about the descriptions in the Sagas that describe Steinkjer as a trading place,” the researchers wrote of their findings in Vitark, an academic journal published by the University Museum from Dec. 2012. “The Sagas say that Steinkjer, under the rule of Eirik Jarl, was briefly even more important than Nidaros, before Olav Haraldsson re-established Nidaros as the king’s residence and trading city.

Norway’s medieval capital

Nidaros, now the modern city of Trondheim, was Norway’s capital during Viking times, and the country’s religious centre. The world’s northernmost Gothic Cathedral, Nidarosdomen, was built in Trondheim, with its first stones laid in 1070 over the grave of Olav Haraldsson. The oldest existing parts of the cathedral date from 1183.

As a medieval city and a religious capital, Nidaros played an important role in international trade throughout the Middle Ages. The Lewis Chessmen, an exquisite set of 12th century chess pieces worked out of walrus ivory and whales’ teeth, are widely believed to have been crafted in the Trondheim/Nidaros area, and traded away.

Olav Haraldsson was the Norwegian king who is often credited with bringing Christianity to Norway and whose sainthood, first proclaimed in 1031, a year after his death, was confirmed by Pope Alexander III in 1164.

Not surprisingly, he features in a number of different Norse and Icelandic sagas. It was these sagas that mention a major trading place in Steinkjer that was even larger than Nidaros. But until archaeologists started the dig in Lø, they had few clues as to where this Viking-age commercial powerhouse might be found.

1000 years of dirt and development

Archaeologists seeking to find a 1000-year-old trading place have precious few leads to pursue.

Almost certainly there were no permanent buildings, which would be the easiest to find, and many items that would have been traded would be made of organic materials that might not survive the ravages of the centuries.

Apart from finding obvious clues, such as coins or metal or glass items that were clearly from foreign lands, archeologists have to rely on much more subtle evidence that can stand the test of time.

One such hint that a location might be a trading place is the geography of the place itself, the researchers wrote in Vitark.

“Even though there is no archaeological proof that there was a trading place in Steinkjer during Viking times, there are several aspects that support this idea,” the researchers wrote.

Most importantly, they note, Steinjker is located in a natural trading areas, at the mouth of a river at the innermost part of Trondheim fjord. It is also in a place where farmers have been working flat fields for centuries.

Swords, beads and jewelry

Another clue that archaeologists use to locate the possible trading place is a detailed map of the locations of all kinds of different archaeological finds that might suggest trade.

The logic here is that greater numbers of traded goods are more likely to be found in close proximity to a place of trade, with fewer traded goods found farther and farther from trading areas.

So the researchers plotted all relevant finds from Nord-Trøndelag County, and again and again, the finds suggested a major trading area in Steinkjer.

Beads made of amber and glass are commonly traded, and the area around Steinkjer was rich with finds of these goods, with 254 beads found in 28 different locales, the researchers said.

While nearby Stjørdal had a higher number of bead finds – 485 beads, all told – the researchers noted that most of those beads came from two large finds, which makes it less likely that the beads were linked directly to a trading place.

Twenty-two examples of a special kind of Viking-age sword, called the H sword based on the design of its hilt and one that is associated with trade, were also found in Steinkjer, the most of any area in Nord-Trøndelag.

Five of six pieces of imported jewelry found in Nord-Trøndelag were found in Steinkjer, while six of 10 imported brooches from Nord-Trøndelag also came from Steinkjer.

Scales and a button

While beads, swords and imported jewelry help suggest that Steinkjer was home to a major trading place, two specific finds, in boat graves in Lø, were among the most persuasive finds.

One, a silver button made of braided silver threads that appears to have originated in the British Isles, suggests that the person in the grave had a high status.

The second is a set of balance scales found in another boat grave. The balance scales were constructed in a way that led the archaeologists to believe it came from the west – not from Norway.

Scales themselves naturally suggest trade, and when the researchers looked at all the scales found in Nord-Trøndelag, they again found a clear concentration in the Steinkjer area.

Under the church, in the city centre

If all of these concentrations of finds support the location of a major trading place in Steinkjer as mentioned in the Norse sagas, then where is it?

Here, the archaeologists can only make an educated guess. Based on the fact that sea levels were four or five metres higher in this area 1000 years ago, the location of the existing church in Steinkjer is the most logical place for the trading place to have been, the researchers say.

But confirmation of the fact that Steinkjer was a major trading area in the Viking age raises yet another puzzle: If Steinkjer was such an important area for international trade, why did trade eventually shift to Trondheim, as it did?

Grønnesby says that the shift in trading areas was surely due to the tremendous power struggles between different rulers in the area. Nidaros along with Levanger, another trading area, simply had more support than Steinkjer. “We see that Steinkjer disappears in the sources in the Middle Ages while the same sources show that (nearby) Levanger was a trading post,” he notes.

Nevertheless, determining the exact answer will require finding more than silver buttons, scales and beads – and may be an answer that we will never really know.

Original article:

Phys.org
July10, 2013

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Topic: Bark used to make flour

The article below is fasinating it goes to show just how far man will go to feed himself as well as preserve nature around him.

The mysterious scars on ancient pine trees in northern Norway have been explained. The pines were once used as a food supplement.

During a recent mapping of the rare virgin forest in and around the Øvre Dividalen National Park in Troms, Norway, scientists noticed some scars reappearing on the trees. Many trees had some of their bark cut away on one side, leaving marks that were hard to explain.

Arve Elvebakk of the University of Tromsø (UiT) headed the study. He worked together with Andreas Kirchhefer, an expert in dating old trees by tree-ring analysis. He had already used ancient pines to chart weather and climate conditions.

Could the cuts in the bark have been left by settlers who started farms in the Dividalen valley in 1850? These dalesmen logged the pine forest, but the scars appeared to be from long before this.

Some suggested the cuts in bark could have been made by indigenous Sami herders as markers of reindeer migration routes and indicators of territorial grazing rights – or simply as signs marking footpaths.

A third proposal was that the cuts were made by Finnish immigrants who used the trees for bark bread. In hard times with failed crops and famine at home they could cross over to Norway in search of food and game.

“How wrong we were,” says Elvebakk.

The mystery was solved when the scars in the bark were dated back to the 17th and 18th centuries. This was over a century before the dalesmen arrived. There were also too many of the scars for the footpaths or reindeer routes theory to be plausible.

“It turned out that this came from the ancient Sami practice of harvesting pine bark for food,” explains Elvebakk. “In a laborious process the bark was converted into flour that could be used in cooking.”

This was a tradition that had been lost in Norway. But in Sweden research on the theme has been conducted for the last couple of decades, and the solution to the Norwegian bark mystery was given by studies in the neighbouring country.

Careful cultivation

Pine bark has been used in times of famine by all the peoples of the High North. Norwegian farmers would chop down the trees and then scrape off all the bark, or simply scrape the bark off trees in continuous rings.

The pines with the strange scars in Dividalen haven’t been so brutally handled. The cuts in the bark are on just one side of the trees, which enables them to survive the injury.

The local Sami, who did not have tools for chopping down large trees, were more careful when they reaped bark.

“The harvesting was done in the spring. We think it was a job for women and children,” says Elvebakk.

Researchers have found five different tools made of bone that were used to harvest bark. The inner bark was the prize they were after.

Buried and toasted

After the pine bark was scraped away from the trees it was packed in birch bark and buried.

“A bonfire was lit on the ground above the buried bark and allowed to burn for up to four days,” says Elvebakk.

The heat slowly toasted strips of the bark and removed the bitter taste.

“The bark flour was mild and tasty. It was considered a delicacy when mixed with other food, such as porridge or a stew with animal fat.”

Respect for the tree

Researchers also think the fine bark flour was healthy.

“Comparisons made with the incidences of scurvy in the Sami and the Norwegian populations show that the disease was much more common among the Norwegians,” he says. “This can indicate that the bark had medicinal effects.”

The bark also protected against tapeworms.

The trees did not suffer from such harvesting. The oldest scrapings are all on the north side of the trees, in reverence of the sun god’s effect on the south side. But Elvebakk says this practice vanished when Christianity was spread to the Samis.

Not really virgin forest

The Sami and mainstream Norwegian farmers and foresters were often at odds with one another, not just in Dividalen, but also elsewhere in northern Norway.

The farmers who logged the forest regarded the scrapings as harmful for their lumber, says Elvebakk. Therefore, the Sami were pressured to stop scraping the trees. This is evident in contemporary articles on forestry.

Around 1860 more flour and sugar became available, and the need for home-made bark flour disappeared.

The tradition was forgotten, and as time passed nobody could explain the scars on the trees.

That is, not until Swedish researchers solved the mystery and the tradition was rediscovered in Norway as well.

“Now that we know what the marks mean and the history they represent, this is an enrichment for tourists and hikers in Dividalen. It also changes our outlook regarding this as a virgin forest area,” he says.

The definition of a virgin forest is that it is untouched by humans. No trees have been logged, and trees that fall down are left to rot.

“But this forest wasn’t untouched after all; what we regarded as a virgin forest was actually part of an ancient Sami cultural landscape.”

The tree marks can be found in many areas of northern Norway. If you are out in these woods this summer and see any of these old scars, Arve Elvebakk would be happy to receive your photos at his e-mail address: arve.elvebakk@uit.no

Here are a couple of additional links on bark bread and a recipe.

Bark bread

Julie’sKitchen

Original article:

By: Nina Kristiansen

sciencenordic.com

June 27, 2012

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Topic: Ancient Hunters

artifacts from Nowray dig

Climate change is exposing reindeer hunting gear used by the Vikings’ ancestors faster than archaeologists can collect it from ice thawing in northern Europe’s highest mountains.

“It’s like a time machine…the ice has not been this small for many, many centuries,” said Lars Piloe, a Danish scientist heading a team of “snow patch archaeologists” on newly bare ground 1,850 meters (6,070 ft) above sea level in mid-Norway.

Specialized hunting sticks, bows and arrows and even a 3,400-year-old leather shoe have been among finds since 2006 from a melt in the Jotunheimen mountains, the home of the “Ice Giants” of Norse mythology.

As water streams off the Juvfonna ice field, Piloe and two other archaeologists — working in a science opening up due to climate change — collect “scare sticks” they reckon were set up 1,500 years ago in rows to drive reindeer toward archers.

But time is short as the Ice Giants’ stronghold shrinks.

“Our main focus is the rescue part,” Piloe said on newly exposed rocks by the ice. “There are many ice patches. We can only cover a few…We know we are losing artefacts everywhere.”

Freed from an ancient freeze, wood rots in a few years. And rarer feathers used on arrows, wool or leather crumble to dust in days unless taken to a laboratory and stored in a freezer.

Jotunheimen is unusual because so many finds are turning up at the same time — 600 artefacts at Juvfonna alone.

Other finds have been made in glaciers or permafrost from Alaska to Siberia. Italy‘s iceman “Otzi,” killed by an arrow wound 5,000 years ago, was found in an Alpine glacier in 1991. “Ice Mummies” have been discovered in the Andes.

RESCUE

Patrick Hunt, of Stanford University in California who is trying to discover where Carthaginian general Hannibal invaded Italy in 218 BC with an army and elephants, said there was an “alarming rate” of thaw in the Alps.

“This is the first summer since 1994 when we began our Alpine field excavations above 8,000 ft that we have not been inundated by even one day of rain, sleet and snow flurries,” he said.

“I expect we will see more ‘ice patch archaeology discoveries’,” he said. Hannibal found snow on the Alpine pass he crossed in autumn, according to ancient writers.

Glaciers are in retreat from the Andes to the Alps, as a likely side-effect of global warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases, the U.N. panel of climate experts says.

The panel’s credibility has suffered since its 2007 report exaggerated a thaw by saying Himalayan glaciers might vanish by 2035. It has stuck to its main conclusion that it is “very likely” that human activities are to blame for global warming.

“Over the past 150 years we have had a worldwide trend of glacial retreat,” said Michael Zemp, director of the Swiss-based World Glacier Monitoring Service. While many factors were at play, he said “the main driver is global warming.”

In Norway, “some ice fields are at their minimum for at least 3,000 years,” said Rune Strand Oedegaard, a glacier and permafrost expert from Norway’s Gjoevik University College.

The front edge of Jovfunna has retreated about 18 meters (60 ft) over the past year, exposing a band of artefacts probably from the Iron Age 1,500 years ago, according to radiocarbon dating. Others may be from Viking times 1,000 years ago.

Juvfonna, about 1 km across on the flank of Norway’s highest peak, Galdhoepiggen, at 2,469 meters, also went through a less drastic shrinking period in the 1930s, Oedegaard said.

REINDEER

Inside the Juvfonna ice, experts have carved a cave to expose layers of ice dating back 6,000 years. Some dark patches turned out to be ancient reindeer droppings — giving off a pungent smell when thawed out.

Ice fields like Juvfonna differ from glaciers in that they do not slide much downhill. That means artefacts may be where they were left, giving an insight into hunting techniques.

On Juvfonna, most finds are “scare sticks” about a meter long. Each has a separate, flapping piece of wood some 30 cm long that was originally tied at the top. The connecting thread is rarely found since it disintegrates within days of exposure.

“It’s a strange feeling to be tying a string around this stick just as someone else did maybe 1,500 years ago,” said Elling Utvik Wammer, a archaeologist on Piloe’s team knotting a tag to a stick before storing it in a box for later study.

All the finds are also logged with a GPS satellite marker before being taken to the lab for examination.

The archaeologists reckon they were set up about two meters apart to drive reindeer toward hunters. In summer, reindeer often go onto snow patches to escape parasitic flies.

Such a hunt would require 15 to 20 people, Piloe said, indicating that Norway had an organized society around the start of the Dark Ages, 1,500 years ago. Hunters probably needed to get within 20 meters of a reindeer to use an iron-tipped arrow.

“You can nearly feel the hunter here,” Piloe said, standing by a makeshift wall of rocks exposed in recent weeks and probably built by an ancient archer as a hideaway.

Original article:

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

JUVFONNA, Norway | Tue Sep 14, 2010

reuters.com

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