Posts Tagged ‘Viking’

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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:

July10, 2013


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When pollen researchers look into a microscope, they can easily distinguish large pollen grains from other grains, even with as little as 100x magnification. This pollen sample from the Shetlands shows one of the large cereal pollen grains. For comparison, the arrow at the bottom points to a dandelion pollen grain. (Photo: Daniela Richter and Kevin Edwards)

Topic pre Viking agriculture

The earliest traces of human life on the Faroe Islands date back to the Viking era. But new pollen analyses suggest that people, and perhaps even agriculture, existed on the islands long before the Vikings arrived.
It has long been speculated that Irish monks may have migrated north to the Faroe Islands long before the Vikings arrived there.
But despite the tireless efforts of many scientists, nothing has yet been found which can prove that people lived on the Faroes before the time around year 800 AD. Until now.

Cereal pollen indicates early farming on Faroe Islands

Over the past few years, scientists from Aberdeen University in Scotland have found something in early Faroese pollen samples that gives them a reason to rethink Faroese prehistory: cereal pollen.
But does finding flower dust from domesticated plants actually prove that anyone lived on the Faroes several centuries before the Vikings arrived there? And that they were farmers?
The answer is maybe. The researchers are sweating over soil samples and archaeological finds to unravel the mystery, but it’s not an easy task.
Kevin Edwards, a professor of physical geography and archaeology at Aberdeen University, tells ScienceNordic about their work:
”One of the main problems with cereal pollen is that it is produced in tiny quantities. Cereal pollen grains are also very large, and that means they don’t spread far with the wind. That’s why it’s so important to find it.”

Scientists want better samples

They have now found cereal pollen in the early samples from the Faroe Islands. There’s just one problem, though: the soil where they found the cereal pollen is far from ideal for accurate pollen analysis:

“It’s problematic that the sites where we found cereal pollen aren’t very good,” says Edwards. “It’s likely that the soil has been cluttered up, partly as a result of soil erosion, where soil from fields on nearby hillsides has fallen down into the low-lying peat bogs.”
Since peat bogs are the sites where the researchers can find samples of preserved pollen, the British research team is very keen to find samples from moors, so they can be sure that there is no clutter in the soil layers.

Now scientists will find cereal pollen if it’s there

In the meantime, they have come up with a way to make it easier to study large amounts of data and find the important cereal pollen – if it’s there to be found at all.
“Normally when you study pollen samples, you magnify them 500 times in a microscope,” says Edwards.
“Then you’ll get a clear view of it all – not only cereal pollen but also pollen from trees and herbs. But since cereal pollen is far larger than the other types of pollen, we can identify them using only 100x magnification.”
He explains that he and his colleagues first do the normal pollen counts with 500x magnification to get an idea of which plants were growing in the area, so they can figure out what the landscape looked like.
They then set the microscope to 100x magnification and go through numerous samples, this time scanning only for the large cereal pollen.
That way they minimise the risk of leaving something out.

Takes forever to count large amounts of pollen

Since even the tiniest samples contain large amounts of pollen, the scientists don’t need to go through vast amounts of material to get a general idea of the appearance of the landscape.
This means that the rare cereal pollen can escape if the researchers are not on their guard, he explains, using an example from the Shetland Islands, located just south of the Faroes:
”On the Shetland Islands we examined an area where the conventional methods did not reveal any traces of local agriculture. But we had archaeological evidence that grains were processed there. So the theory was that the grains were grown at more suitable sites on the islands and subsequently transported to the area which we examined,” he says.

”But with our low-magnification method we could study far more samples. And once we had done that, more cereal pollen popped up. This is how we documented that agriculture was practiced locally, all the way from the Bronze Age right up to the Viking period and beyond.”
Perhaps there really were people and agriculture on the Faroe Islands before the arrival of the Vikings. The pollen finds would suggest so, but further studies and improved samples are required for a conclusive answer to that.

Original article:
By Tania L Jensen

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