Category Archives: DENMARK

2,000 Years of Genetic History in Scandinavia: Unraveling the Viking Age to Modern Times

2,000 Years of Genetic History in Scandinavia: Unraveling the Viking Age to Modern Times

A new study published in the journal Cell on January captures a genetic history across Scandinavia over 2,000 years, from the Iron Age to the present day.

This look back at Scandinavian history is based on an analysis of 48 new and 249 published ancient human genomes representing multiple iconic archaeological sites together with genetic data from more than 16,500 people living in Scandinavia today.

Among other intriguing findings, the new study led by Stockholm University and deCODE genetics (Reykjavik) offers insight into migration patterns and gene flow during the Viking age (750–1050 CE). It also shows that ancestries that were introduced into the area during the Viking period later declined for reasons that aren’t clear.

“Although still evident in modern Scandinavians, levels of non-local ancestry in some regions are lower than those observed in ancient individuals from the Viking to Medieval periods,” said Ricardo Rodríguez-Varela of Stockholm University.

“This suggests that ancient individuals with non-Scandinavian ancestry contributed proportionately less to the current gene pool in Scandinavia than expected based on the patterns observed in the archaeological record.”

“Different processes brought people from different areas to Scandinavia,” added Anders Götherström, Stockholm University.

The researchers hadn’t originally planned to piece together Scandinavian history over time and space. Rather, they were working on three separate studies focused on different archaeological sites.

“When we were analyzing the genetic affinities of the individuals from different archaeological sites such as the Vendel period boat burials, Viking period chamber burials, and well-known archaeological sites like the Migration period Sandby borg ringfort, known for the massacre that occurred there in 500 CE, and individuals from the 17th-century royal Swedish warship Kronan, we start to see differences in the levels and origin of non-local ancestry across the different regions and periods of Scandinavia,” Rodríguez-Varela explained.

“Initially, we were working with three different studies,” Götherström said. “One on Sandby Borg, one on the boat burials, and one on the man-of-war Kronan. At some point, it made more sense to unite them to one study on the Scandinavian demography during the latest 2,000 years.”

The goal was to document how past migrations have affected the Scandinavian gene pool across time and space to better understand the current Scandinavian genetic structure.

As reported in the new study, the researchers found regional variation in the timing and magnitude of gene flow from three sources: the eastern Baltic, the British Irish Isles, and southern Europe.

British Irish ancestry was widespread in Scandinavia from the Viking period, whereas eastern Baltic ancestry is more localized to Gotland and central Sweden.

In some regions, a drop in current levels of external ancestry suggests that ancient immigrants contributed proportionately less to the modern Scandinavian gene pool than indicated by the ancestry of genomes from the Viking and Medieval periods.

Finally, the data show that a north-south genetic cline that characterizes modern Scandinavians is mainly due to differential levels of Uralic ancestry. It also shows that this cline existed in the Viking Age and possibly even earlier.

Götherström suggests that what the data reveal about the nature of the Viking period is perhaps most intriguing. The migration from the west impacted all of Scandinavia, and the migration from the east was sex-biased, with the movement primarily of female people into the region.

As the researchers write, the findings overall “indicate a major increase [in gene flow] during the Viking period and a potential bias toward females in the introduction of eastern Baltic and, to a lesser extent, British-Irish ancestries.

“Gene flow from the British-Irish Isles during this period seems to have had a lasting impact on the gene pool in most parts of Scandinavia,” they continued.

“This is perhaps not surprising given the extent of Norse activities in the British-Irish Isles, starting in the 8th century with recurrent raids and culminating in the 11th century North Sea Empire, the personal union that united the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and England.

The circumstances and fate of people of British-Irish ancestry who arrived in Scandinavia at this time are likely to have been variable, ranging from the forced migration of slaves to the voluntary immigration of more high-ranking individuals such as Christian missionaries and monks.”

Overall, the findings show that the Viking period in Scandinavia was a very dynamic time, they say, with people moving around and doing many different things. In future work, they hope to add additional genetic data in hopes of learning more about how the ancestries that arrived during the Viking period were later diluted. They’d also like to pinpoint when the north-south cline was shaped based on a study of larger ancient datasets from the north.

“We need more pre-Viking individuals from north Scandinavia to investigate when the Uralic ancestry enters this region,” Rodríguez-Varela said. “Also, individuals from 1000 BCE to 0 are very scarce, [and] retrieving DNA from Scandinavian individuals with these chronologies will be important to understand the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age in this part of the world.

Finally, more individuals from the Medieval period until the present will help us to understand when and why we observe a reduction in the levels of non-local ancestry in some current regions of Scandinavia.”

“There is so much fascinating information about our prehistory to be explored in ancient genomes,” Götherström said.

Human Genome Recovered From 5,700-Year-Old Chewing Gum

Human Genome Recovered From 5,700-Year-Old Chewing Gum

The piece of Birch tar, found in Denmark, also contained the mouth microbes of its ancient chewer, as well as remnants of food to reveal what she ate.

A 5,700-year-old piece of birch tar, chewed as gum, contains the genome, mouth microbes, and even dietary information about its former chewer.

Modern chewing gums, which often contain polyethylene plastic, could stick around for tens or even hundreds of years, and perhaps much longer in the right conditions. Some of the first chewing gums, made of birch tar and other natural substances, have been preserved for thousands of years, including a 5,700-year-old piece of Stone Age gum unearthed in Denmark.

For archaeologists, the sticky stuff’s longevity can help piece together the lives of ancient peoples who masticated on the chewy tar. The ancient birch gum in Scandinavia preserved enough DNA to reconstruct the full human genome of its ancient chewer, identify the microbes that lived in her mouth, and even reveal the menu of a prehistoric meal.

“These birch pitch chewing gums are kind of special in terms of how well the DNA is preserved. It surprised us,” says co-author Hannes Schroeder, a molecular anthropologist at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. “It’s as well-preserved as some of the best petrous [skull] bones that we’ve analyzed, and they are kind of the holy grail when it comes to ancient DNA preservation.”

Birch pitch, made by heating the tree’s bark, was commonly used across Scandinavia as a prehistoric glue for attaching stone tools to handles. When found, it commonly contains toothmarks. Scientists suspect several reasons why people would have chewed it: to make it malleable once again after it cooled, to ease toothaches because it’s mildly antiseptic, to clean teeth, to ease hunger pains, or simply because they enjoyed it.

The gum’s water-resistant properties helped to preserve the DNA within, as did its mild antiseptic properties which helped to prevent microbial decay. But the find was also made possible by the conditions at the site, named Syltholm, on an island in southern Denmark, where thick mud has perfectly preserved a wide range of unique Stone Age artifacts. Excavations began at the site in 2012 in preparation for the construction of a tunnel, affording the Museum Lolland-Falster a unique chance for archaeological field work.

No human remains have yet been found at Syltholm—unless you count the tiny strands of DNA preserved in the ancient gum Schroeder and colleagues described today in Nature Communications.

The discarded gum yielded a surprising amount of information about its 5,700-year-old chewer. She was a female, and while her age is unknown, she may have been a child considering similar birch pitch gums of the era often feature the imprints of children’s teeth.

From the DNA, researchers can start to piece together some of the ancient woman’s physical traits and make some inferences about the world she lived in. “We determined that she had this striking combination of dark skin, dark hair, and blue eyes,” Schroeder says. “It’s interesting because it’s the same combination of physical traits that apparently was very common in Mesolithic Europe. So all these other ancient [European] genomes that we know about, like La Braña in Spain, they all have this combination of physical traits that of course today in Europe is not so common. Indigenous Europeans have lighter skin color now but that was apparently not the case 5,000 to 10,000 years ago.”

An artist’s illustration of what the Scandinavian person who chewed the ancient piece of gum may have looked like.

The gum-chewers’ family ties may also help to map the movement of peoples as they settled Scandinavia.

“The fact that she was more closely related genetically to people from Belgium and Spain than to people from Sweden, which is just a few hundred kilometers farther north, tells us something about how southern Scandinavia was first populated,” Schroeder says. “And it looks like it was from the continent.”

This interpretation would support studies suggesting that two different waves of people colonized Scandinavia after the ice sheets retreated 12,000 to 11,000 years ago, via a southern route and a northeastern route along today’s Norwegian coast.

The individual was part of a world that was constantly changing as groups migrated across the northern regions of Europe. “We may expect this process, especially at this late stage of the Mesolithic, to have been complex with different groups, from south, west or even east, moving at different times and sometimes intermingling while perhaps other times staying isolated,” Jan Storå, an osteoarchaeologist at Stockholm University, says via email.

Additional archaeological work has shown that the era was one of transition. Flaked stone tools and T-shaped antler axes gave way to polished flint artifacts, pottery and domesticated plants and animals. Whether the region’s turn to farming was a lifestyle change among local hunter-gatherers, or spurred by the arrival of farming migrants, remains a matter of debate.

“This is supposed to be a time when farming has already arrived, with changing lifestyles, but we find no trace of farmer ancestry in her genome, which is fairly easy to establish because it originated in the Near East. So even as late as 5,700 years ago, when other parts of Europe like Germany already had farming populations with this other type of ancestry present, she still looked like essentially western hunter-gatherers, like people looked in the thousands of years before then,” Schroeder says.

“The ‘lack’ of Neolithic farmer gene flow, at this date, is very interesting,” adds Storå, who wasn’t involved in the research. “The farming groups would probably have been present in the area, and they would have interacted with the hunter-gatherer groups.”

The era’s poor oral hygiene has helped add even more evidence to this line of investigation, as genetic bits of foodstuffs were also identifiable in the gum.

Presumably not long before discarding the gum, the woman feasted on hazel nuts and duck, which left their own DNA sequences behind. “The dietary evidence, the duck and the hazel nuts, would also support this idea that she was a hunter-gatherer and subsisted on wild resources,” Schroeder says, noting that the site is littered with physical remains which show reliance on wild resources like fish, rather than domesticated plants or animals.

“It looks like in these parts maybe you have pockets of hunter-gatherers still surviving, or living side-by-side with farmers for hundreds of years,” he says.

Scientists also found traces of the countless microbes that lived in the woman’s mouth. Ancient DNA samples always include microbial genes, but they are typically from the environment. The team compared the taxonomic composition of the well-preserved microbes to those found in modern human mouths and found them very similar.

Satisfied that genetic signatures of ancient oral microbes were preserved in the woman’s gum, the researchers investigated the specific species of bacteria and other microbes. Most were run-of-the-mill microflora like those still found in most human mouths. Others stood out, including bacterial evidence for gum disease and Streptococcus pneumoniae, which can cause pneumonia today and is responsible for a million or more infant deaths each year.

Epstein-Barr virus, which more than 90 percent of living humans carry, was also present in the woman’s mouth. Usually benign, the virus can be associated with serious diseases like infectious mononucleosis, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple sclerosis. Ancient examples of such pathogens could help scientists reconstruct the origins of certain diseases and track their evolution over time, including what factors might conspire to make them more dangerous.

“What I really find interesting with this study is the microbial DNA,” Anders Götherström, a molecular archaeologist at Stockholm University, says in an email. “DNA from ancient pathogens holds great promise, and this type of mastics may be a much better source for such data than ancient bones or teeth.”

Natalija Kashuba, an archaeologist at Uppsala University in Sweden, and colleagues have also extracted human DNA from ancient birch gum, from several individuals at a 10,000-year-old site on Sweden’s west coast.

“It’s really interesting that we can start working on this material, because there’s a lot of it scattered around Scandinavia from the Stone Age to the Iron Age,” she says, adding that gums may survive wherever birches were prevalent—including eastward toward Russia, where one wave of Scandinavian migration is thought to have originated.

The fact that the discarded artifact survived to reveal so much information about the past isn’t entirely due to luck, Kashuba says. “I think we have to thank the archaeologists who not only preserved these gums but suggested maybe we should try to process them,” she says. “If it hadn’t been for them, I’m not sure most geneticists would have bothered with this kind of material.”

7,000-Year-Old Forest and Footprints Uncovered in the Atlantis of Britain

7,000-Year-Old Forest and Footprints Uncovered in the Atlantis of Britain

Ancient footprints as well as prehistoric tree stumps and logs have become visible along a 200-meter stretch of a coastline at Low Hauxley near Amble, Northumberland, in what is believed to be Doggerland, the Atlantis of Britain.

The Daily Mail reports that the forest existed in the late Mesolithic period. It began to form around 5,300 BC, and it was covered by the ocean three centuries later.

The studies proved that at the time, when the ancient forest existed, the sea level was much lower. It was a period when Britain had recently separated from the land of what is currently Denmark.

The forest consisted mostly of hazel, alder, and oak trees. Researchers believe the forest was part of Doggerland, an ancient stretch of a land, which connected the UK and Europe.

Doggerland: Stone Age Atlantis of Britain

Located in the North Sea, Doggerland is believed to have once measured approximately 100,000 square miles (258998 square kilometers). However, the end of the Ice Age saw a great rise in the sea level and an increase in storms and flooding in the region, causing Doggerland to gradually shrink.

Doggerland, sometimes called the Stone Age Atlantis of Britain or the prehistoric Garden of Eden, is an area archaeologists have been waiting to rediscover.

Finally, modern technology has reached a level in which their dreams may become a reality. Doggerland is thought to have been first inhabited around 10,000 BC, and innovative technology is expected to aid a new study in glimpsing what life was like for the prehistoric humans living in the region before the catastrophic floods covered the territory sometime between 8000 – 6000 BC.

The area, which would have been home to a range of animals, as well as the hunter gatherers which stalked them, became flooded due to glacial melt, with some high-lying regions such as ‘Dogger Island’ (pictured right, highlighted red) serving as clues to the regions ancient past.

Sunken Land Reveals its Secrets

The latest research was made by a group of archeologists and volunteers led by a team from Archaeological Research Services Ltd , which previously performed some other projects related to the Northumberland.

The works were possible due to the lower level of water. The major excavations involved a total of 700 people and uncovered part of an Iron Age site dating from around 300 BC near the Druidge Bay.

Clive Waddington, project director of Archaeological Research Services Ltd at the prehistoric archaeological dig at Low Hauxley near Amble, Northumberland

Ancient Footprints

Waddington maintains that his team also discovered the evidence of humans living nearby. They found footprints of adults and children. Due to the results of the analysis of the footprints, it is believed that they wore leather shoes.  Animal footprints of wild boar, brown bears and red deer also had been found.

Fossilized Forests

The remains of the forest of Doggerland do not belong to the oldest known forest. The oldest fossilized forest was discovered by a team from the Binghamton University in the town of Gilboa in upstate New York.

The Gilboa area has been known as a tree fossil location since the late 19 th century. However, the first researchers arrived there in the 1920s. The most recent research started in 2004, when Linda VanAller Hernick, paleontology collection manager, and Frank Mannolini, paleontology collection technician, uncovered more intact specimens.

According to the article published in 2012 by William Stein, associate professor of biological sciences at Binghamton, the fossils discovered in this area are between 370 to 380 million years old.

Unearthing the 1,000-Year-Old Story of a Rare Viking Toolbox

Unearthing the 1,000-Year-Old Story of a Rare Viking Toolbox

The discovery of a rare 1,000-year-old Viking toolbox containing 14 unique iron tools caused excitement during recent excavations at an old Viking fortress.

The toolbox was unearthed in a small lump of soil at Denmark’s fifth Viking ring fortress: Borgring. It is the first direct evidence that people actually lived at the site.

Journalist Charlotte Price Persson became an archaeologist for a day and joined the team of researchers to help clear away the dirt and expose the iron tools.

The soil containing the artifacts was removed from the site of one of the four gates at Borgring. The researchers suggest that the tools could have belonged to people who lived in the fortress. It contains an amazing collection of tools which were used around the 10 th century AD.

Lead archaeologist Nanna Holm decided to take a better look before excavation began on the tools. As she told Science Nordic: “We could see that there was something in the layers [of soil] around the east gate.

If it had been a big signal from the upper layers then it could have been a regular plough, but it came from the more ‘exciting’ layers. So we dug it up and asked the local hospital for permission to borrow their CT-scanner.”

The scans allowed the researchers to see the shapes of the tools and they realized that the toolbox itself was gone – the wood had rotted away over time. However, the placement of the objects suggests that the wooden box was replaced with soil.

The discovery is exceptionally rare. Tools made of iron were very expensive and precious to the Vikings. It is strange that nobody had found them before and melted the objects down to repurpose the iron.

CT Scan of the Viking toolbox.

The archaeologists believe that an analysis of the artifacts will help them to understand what type of craftsman owned them.

For now, they suppose that the spoon drills and drawplate could have been used to produce thin wire bracelets. But, this kind of drill was also used to make holes in wood – suggesting that it could have also been a carpenter’s toolbox.

Moreover, the location of the artifacts by the eastern gate of the fortress provides more information on the tools’ history.

They could have been used after a fire that torched the fortress’ north and east gates in the second half of the 10th century.

The team also found a room near the gate which could have been a workshop or used for housing a craftsman. It measures about 30-40 square meters (322-430 sq. ft.), and had its own fireplace.

The researchers speculate that the tools were buried underground when the gate collapsed – explaining why the recovery of the valued iron objects would have been difficult.

Aerial photo of Vallø Borgring. This is an edited version of a satellite photo with added hill shade. The arrow is pointing at a site which has a clear circular form.

Now the researchers want to scan the tools by X-ray. That should help Holm’s team to identify exactly what the tools are. She already has some ideas, for example, that one of the spoon drills may be a pair of pliers or tweezers.

It is planned that the tools will be put on display next year, although the artifacts need conservation work before they will be ready to be exhibited.

Vikings thank you for the skis and for the combs-6 things they invented

Vikings thank you for the skis and for the combs-6 things they invented

With the ‘never ending’ global technological revolution it is hard to imagine how our predecessors spent their time. And even harder to imagine that we still use things they created for which we should be grateful.

The Vikings dominated European territories for nearly three centuries and were tireless and curious sailors who reached to the territories of Russia and North America. From what they created and traded here are just a few things that we should be grateful to them.

1. Shipbuilding and Navigation

The Gokstad ship, on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway and Oseberg ship head post.

Perhaps the most extraordinary Viking creation is their ships were known as drekar or dragon-headed long ships. Their ships were made with nothing but an axe; it’s just that they weren’t using it as a lumberjack would, but rather an artist, in a very sophisticated way.

They used ‘clinker’ technique to build their ships which mean that the planks of the ship were overlapping at one edge and riveted together, rather than the conventional way of building the inner skeleton first. These ships were long and very light which enabled them to sail fast and then they could be easily pilotage with oars for reducing the speed.

This was ideal for their hit-and-run attacks on undefended towns and monasteries. The Vikings weren’t proficient only in shipbuilding techniques but they were also great navigators who used the sun compass calcite crystals known as “sunstones” to determine the positions of the sun.

Ships were a very important part of Viking society and tradition, not only as a means of transportation but also for the prestige that it conferred on her owner and skipper. Their ships permitted the Vikings to embark on their voyages of trading, of raiding, and of exploration.

A modern replica of a Viking ship. This ship is of the Snekkja longship type.

2. Viking influence on the English language

The Vikings shared not only farming and trading activities with their neighbors from England but also marriages and hence their languages mixed. So the modern English we know today and which belongs to the German group of languages contains a number of words that originate from the Old Norse language.

Words as anger, awkward, cake, die, egg, fog, dream, husband, give mistake, root, skin, sky, ugly, want – are all borrowed from the Old Norse language and got mingled with the Old English language. Many English words beginning with the and most words beginning with sk are Norse in origin.

3. Dubh Linn (“Black Pool”)

Back in the year 795, Vikings of Norwegian origin raided islands off the coast of Ireland for the first time. In the year 837, sixty Viking ‘Dragon’ warships appeared at the mouth of the Liffey and by 841 they founded the first recorded settlement on the south bank of the River Liffey.

The harbor of what is today known as Dublin was taken by the Vikings, under the command of King Turgesius. The Vikings gave it the name Dubh Linn which means “Black Pool” and it became the hub of one of Europe’s largest slave markets.

They had control of the city for nearly three centuries until they were defeated by the Irish High King Brian Boru in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. In addition to Dublin, the Irish cities of Wexford, Waterford, Cork and Limerick also began as Viking settlements.

They also settled in other UK places as Islands off the coast of Scotland – Shetland, Orkney and The Hebrides; Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Stamford, and Lincoln; The Isle of Man etc.

Satellite image showing the River Liffey entering the Irish Sea as it divides Dublin into the Northside and the Southside.

4. Skis

Fragments of ski-like objects, discovered by 1960s archaeologist Grigoriy Burov, date back to 6000 BC in northern Russia and they are mentioned for the first time in documents from the China’s Han Dinasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220). However, what we consider as skiing today originates from the Vikings. And the word we use “ski” comes from the  Old Norse “skío.”

Skis were in regular use by Scandinavian farmers, hunters, and warriors throughout the Middle Ages. The Norwegian army held skill competitions involving skiing down slopes, around trees, across level snowfields and while shooting in the 1760’s and by the 18th century, units of the Swedish Army trained and competed on skis.

All these is linked to the Viking’s tradition of using skis for both recreation and transportation. The Norse goddess Skadi and god Ullr were often depicted on skis or snowshoes.

Skadi Hunting in the Mountains.
Ullr with his skis and his bow. From the 18th century Icelandic manuscript.

5. Combs

There are many common objects as tweezers, razors, and ear spoons (for scooping out wax) found in the Viking graves, but according to what is found in the archeological digs, their favorite one had been the bristled comb.

The combs were originally made out of antlers, most often deer antlers. The Vikings would use every last piece of the carcass so they would not waste it. The combs were used more by men than women helping them brush their unkempt hair. This means that even longhaired, bearded Viking warriors took their personal grooming very seriously.

The Vimose Comb from the island of Funen, Denmark.

6 Sagas

An illustration from an 18th-century Icelandic manuscript depicting Huginn and Muninn sitting on the shoulders of Odin.

Most of the information we have today about the Vikings comes from written stories known as sagas. In these stories is mostly written about ancient Nordic and Germanic history, about early Viking voyages, the battles that took place during the voyages, about migration to Iceland and of feuds between Icelandic families.

They were written in the Old Norse language, mainly in Iceland. Most historians today agree that these stories are “Viking fiction literature”, but through their fantasies, creativity and imagination we have learned many things about their society.

The sagas are filled with graphic depictions of the situations described in the texts. These stories are probably the early form of today’s soap operas.

Archaeologists Discovered Grauballe Man, A Preserved Bog Body From The 3rd Century B.C

Archaeologists Discovered Grauballe Man, A Preserved Bog Body From The 3rd Century B.C

Two years after the discovery of the Tollund man, another bog body was found on the 26 of April 1952, by local peat cutters in the nearby bog, Nebelgard Fen, situated near the town of Grauballe, Denmark.

Around the time of Grauballe man’s discovery, it was argued that the body belonged to that Red Christian, a local peat cutter that mysteriously vanished in the area around 1887.

Longest-lasting missing person The Grauballe Man

It was trusted that Red fell into the bog after drinking too much alcohol, as it was said that two drunk Englishmen from Cheshire suffered the same fate by falling into Lindow moss in 1853. It was not long before the body was sent to the Prehistory museum at Aarhus for examination and preservation.

Visual Examination:

Once the body of Grauballe man was fully revealed, many wondered at how well the body was preserved. A brisk examination of the Body at the site revealed that Grauballe man was naked and had no items or belongings with him.

When Grauballe’s man was analyzed in more detail at the museum, it was revealed that he was around 30 years old at the time of his death. It was also revealed that the body of Grauballe man was 1.75 m in Height, and still had hair about 5 cm long as well as stubble on his chin. Grauballe man’s hands and fingers, when closely inspected, showed no signs of manual labor.

Scientific Investigation:

So, we know, based on a VISUAL examination, that Grauballe man was 30 years of age, was 1.75 m in Height, still had hair and his hands showed no sign of no physical work.

But how could we know his age? How did we know that his hands showed no sign of labor? The basic answer is that ‘we’ use Science.

When Grauballe man was scientifically inspected, through a wide array of techniques, numerous features were revealed, such as what Grauballe man ate and what wounds he sustained. The scientific examination of Grauballe man has been listed below.

Radiocarbon dating. Used to date the age of the body, which was around 310 B.C – 55 B.C. Placing the Grauballe man in the late Iron age. Scanning Electron microscope. Utilized for a closer examination of the body. Scientists and Archaeologists worked out that Grauballe man was not a very hard worker by using the microscope to Determine his fingerprints, which were relatively smooth.

It was also used to show what Grauballe man had eaten. Results from an examination of the stomach uncovered that Grauballe man’s last meal consisted of porridge made from corn, seeds from more than 60 different herbs, and grasses which were uncovered to contain traces of poisonous fungi, known as fungi ergot.

Grauballe man is believed to have died in winter or early spring as there is a lack of FRESH herbs and berries in his stomach.

Forensic analysis. Used to determine the wounds that the body sustained, which consisted of a cut to the throat that extended from ear to ear, and cracks to the skull and right tibia, which was believed to be caused by a weapon, however when the body was re-examined again it was in fact caused by the pressure in the bog.

It has also been noted that there were 4 missing lumbar vertebrae. Forensics has also been able to reconstruct the face of Grauballe man, as well as numerous other faces from various bodies.

Templates from the x-rays of the skull were utilized and the skull was sculpted from clay over these templates. CT scanning and Computer Generated imagery was also used to help modify the facial reconstruction.

Cause of Death:

There are many speculations associated with Grauballe’s man’s death. The cut on the throat is said to be the cause of Grauballe’s man’s death.

It is believed that Grauballe man was a criminal who paid the cost of death. But how would we know this? Based on the written sources of Tacitus, the Roman historian, the clans of northern Europe had a very strict society. So if one broke the law or committed an offense, they would be put to death.

A criminal or a prisoner of war would fit this description. But, what about his hands? As said before, Grauballe man’s hands showed no sign of manual labor, recommending that he was used for sacrificial purposes. Tacitus mentions that the clans of northern Europe have a connection to mother earth.

He says that during spring she visits these clans and upon departing, a selection of people are sacrificed. Based on the wounds, and the hands of the Grauballe man, as well as sources to back it up, this seems to be the Grauballe man’s likely cause of death.

But what about the poisonous fungi found in his stomach? New data suggests that if this fungus was to make Grauballe man sick, then it would of more than likely make him incapable to work.

It would have also caused agonizing symptoms which are historically known as St. Anthony’s Fire. Symptoms of this disease include convulsions, hallucinations and burning of the mouth, feet and hands. It is more than likely that Grauballe mans ingested the fungus by natural means.

If there was any bad luck in the village then the Grauballe man would be at the forefront of the allegations, which would regard him as being the cause of these woes and mishaps.

He would be seen as someone corrupted by an evil spirit, and therefore put to death and deposited in a bog far from town. The exact cause of death is however, a mystery and therefore there is no single explanation of how Grauballe man died.

Well-Preserved 3,000-Year-Old Pre-Viking Sword Unearthed in Denmark is Still Sharp

Well-Preserved 3,000-Year-Old Pre-Viking Sword Unearthed in Denmark is Still Sharp

Two locals from Zealand, Denmark’s largest island, decided to walk around the field in the remote west city of Svebolle in the evening.

The decision was fortuitous to take their metal detector with them because it would allow them to uncover a major find

The two amateur archeologists began digging after the device alerted Ernst Christiansen and Lis Therkelsen to something beneath the ground.

The visible decorations on the hilt of the sword.

Around 30 cm down, they spotted what looked like the tip of a spear. Christiansen and Therkelsen contacted Museum Vestsjælland — a group of 11 local museums that cover the archaeological excavation and conservation of regions in the area — who revealed that the discovery was a 3,000-year-old sword from the Nordic Bronze age. 

It was also a testament to the craftsmanship of the people in Scandinavia at the time.

“The sword is so well-preserved that you can clearly see the fine details. And it is even sharp,” the museum wrote in a press release.

Museum inspector Arne Hedegaard Andersen holds the discovery

Museum inspector Arne Hedegaard Andersen, who joined Christiansen and Therkelsen on the day following the discovery, reaffirmed how incredibly maintained the sword was.

The Nordic Bronze Age, circa 1700-500 BC, was sandwiched between the Nordic Stone Age and the pre-Roman Iron Age. During this time period, bronze imported from Central Europe replaced previously popular materials like flint and stone.

The impressively preserved bronze sword, which predates the Vikings by around 1,000 years, remained untouched since the Bronze Age. About 32 inches long and still fairly sharp, the museum believes that it dates to phase IV of the Bronze Age, or between 1100 and 900 BC.

Though the leather that made up the sword’s grip had long rotted, the pommel and hilt show intricate bronze work, clearly decorated by skilled workers.

The details suggest that it was an expensive piece of weaponry, likely used to indicate status rather than in actual battle. Additionally, warriors during this time tended to use clubs, spears, or axes for fighting purposes.

Though the Scandinavian people joined the Bronze age through trade relatively late compared to other European nations, the local workmanship was of a higher standard.

So although the religion, ethnicity, and language characteristics of the people during this time period are largely unknown, they left behind a rich archaeological legacy.

Museum inspector Arne Hedegaard Andersen holds the discovery

One of the main ways we know about life in Scandinavia during the Bronze Age is through rock carvings called petroglyphs, which depict images of daily life, great events, and supernatural beliefs of the time.

There have been several exciting archaeological discoveries in Denmark in recent years.

In June 2016, the team of three archaeologists who call themselves Team Rainbow Power uncovered the largest-ever find of Viking gold.

In October 2016, the discovery of a 5,000-year-old stone map shed light on ancient farming and topography.

In 2015, a trove of 2,000 mysterious-looking gold spirals also from the Bronze Age was discovered on Zealand

“Vikings: Beyond the Legend” display sails into Cincinnati with four ships, and around 500 artifacts

“Vikings: Beyond the Legend” display sails into Cincinnati with four ships, and around 500 artifacts

On November 11th  Viking Ships will sail into the Cincinnati Museum Center.Vikings are invading once again, but not in their usual violent way. The ships will enter the Union Terminal on November 11th to celebrate the opening of the newest special exhibit, featuring the Scandinavian seafarers.

People most likely picture burly, bearded barbarians with horned helmets whenever Vikings are mentioned, yet experts now state this to be inaccurate. The “Vikings: Beyond the Legend” exhibit aims to combat the stereotype by showcasing four ships and around 500 artifacts that highlight the skilled craftsmanship the Vikings possessed.

Viking Ship Museum

The exhibit will feature four large ships on an interactive, hands-on display. There will also be more than 500 artifacts on loan from the Swedish History Museum.

These original artifacts display the craftsmanship of the people, who used bone, silver, iron, bronze, wood, textiles, leather, and ceramics to create everyday items and ceremonial objects.

Guests will be able to virtually excavate the Viking ships layer by layer, uncovering rich finds like animals, tools, and weapons just like the archaeologists did. You can also test your own strength using a model Viking sword, and compete in unique Viking games.

On Wednesday, around a dozen people had to maneuver two replica ships into a warehouse which will hold them before their transfer to the Museum Center later this month.

The Krampmacken is a replica of a 26-foot Viking trading boat that was discovered on Gotland Island, Sweden, in the 1920s. The Karls is a reconstruction of a 21-foot sailing vessel.

The exhibit will feature two more ships that have not yet been moved to Cincinnati. One is a unique “Ghost Ship”, made with original iron rivets supporting the spots they would have been placed before the oak hull deteriorated over the course of 1,000 years.

Possibly the most astonishing ship is the 122-foot Roskilde 6, a partly intact Viking long ship that was uncovered from the Roskilde Fjord, Denmark in 1997. This is the only artifact on loan from the National Museum of Denmark.

This Viking warship was one of their fastest due to its long, narrow shape. Several rowers and a shallow draft helped it navigate Scandinavian and Northern European ports, as well as sail up the rivers and deep inland. The ship has never been on display in America, for the reason that not many museums have the capacity to house such a large artifact.

A news release from the museum states the exhibit burst the myth of a culture that was devoted to war and destruction. Vikings actually were explorers, traders, and artisans who contributed to literature, navigation, and religion.

Silhouette of an original Viking ship

The Vikings were originally from Scandinavia, the area that today encompasses the countries of Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Yet they also inhabited land throughout northern and eastern Europe. Between 750 and 1100 CE they also went through North America, Iceland, and the British Isles.

While they were definitely warriors, and some did raid and plunder towns, even as far as the Mediterranean and northern Africa, they were also storytellers, merchants, and farmers.

Their source of status was land ownership instead of brute strength. With the plundering aside, they engaged in trade through a large part of Europe. They favored their knowledge of sea current and the winds as alternative navigational tools for travelling between their trading centers.

The Vikings also worshiped Norse gods like Thor, Freya, and Odin, but accepted several aspects of Christianity. Unlike their European counterparts, women were the heads of their households and had great influence in Viking society.

Discounted tickets for museum members went on sale October 3rd. General admissions tickets are on sale November 1st. Tickets will cost $19.50 for adults, $12.50 for children, and $17.50 for seniors.

“Viking: Beyond the Legend” is a combined venture between The Swedish history Museum and the Museum’s Partner located in Austria. The Rokilde 6 is a display of a joint venture between the National Museum of Denmark and it’s Partners.

The Ill-fated Elling Woman: An Iron Age Sacrifice to Appease the Gods?

The Ill-fated Elling Woman: An Iron Age Sacrifice to Appease the Gods?

Elling Woman is the name given to a well-preserved bog body that was discovered in Denmark during the first half of the 20th century. By then, this type of remains had already been found in Denmark’s bogs for at least a century.

For instance, one bog body, unearthed in 1835, was thought to have belonged to a legendary Viking queen from the 8th century AD by the name of Gundhilde. Subsequent research on bog bodies, however, have shown that this practice had existed at an earlier period of time. In the case of Elling Woman, for example, it was found that she had lived during the Iron Age of northwestern Europe.

Discovering the Elling Woman

Elling Woman was discovered in 1938, when a farmer by the name of Jens Zakariassen was in the process of digging peat. This occurred in a pit bog in Bjældskovdal, a bog area which lies to the west of the city of Silkeborg, in the central part of Denmark.

The Upper body of the Elling Woman.

At least two other bog bodies have been found in this area, one having been discovered in 1927 (which was reburied when the peat bank collapsed over it), and another being the famous Tollund Man, which was discovered 12 years after Elling Woman was found, and separated from her by a distance of less than 100 meters (328 ft.).

Tollund Man on display at Silkeborg Museum.

Initially, the farmer thought that he had found the remains of an animal that had drowned in the bog. He only realized that these were human remains when he noticed the woolen belt around the body’s waist.

As he recognized that this may be of archaeological importance, he contacted the National Museum of Denmark. Subsequently, the body was removed from the bog, and was transported to Copenhagen to be analyzed.

Beginning to Decipher the Elling Woman’s Past

With the level of technology at that time, there was not very much that could be done to study Elling Woman. Nonetheless, it was observed that whilst the back of this bog body was well-preserved, its front was not, which made it difficult to identify whether the body belonged to a male or female.

Apart from that, the body was found to have been dressed in a skin cloak, and a blanket / cloak of cowhide was wrapped around her legs. Furthermore, the body’s hairstyle, which was a long pigtail formed by an intricate pattern of plaiting, and tied into a knot, was noted. A skin rope was also found with the body. Elling Woman was then kept in a storage room in the museum.

The Elling Woman’s hairstyle

New Details on the Elling Woman Emerge

It was only later, during the 1970s, that more information was extracted from Elling Woman, thanks to technological advancement. For example, the sex of the body was determined using x-ray and examination by a forensic dentist.

It was also determined that Elling Woman was about 25 years old at the time of her death. Radio carbon dating also suggested that Elling Woman lived during the Iron Age of northwestern Europe, between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC.

The Elling Woman on display at the Silkeborg Museum, along with the skin rope found with her body.

Based on the skin rope that was found with her, it has been established that Elling Woman was hanged to death. This rope has a sliding knot, which made it suitable for hanging. In addition, Elling Woman’s neck has got a furrow left from the hanging, further supporting this point of view.

Whilst some scholars have suggested that bog bodies belonged to executed criminals, others are more inclined to regard them as evidence of human sacrifice. In the case of Elling Woman, it is possible that she was living in an age when the climate was experiencing unusual changes.

This would have had a negative impact on the community she was living in, and they may have decided to offer her as a sacrifice to the gods in the hopes of appeasing them.

In more recent times, women around the world have taken an interest in the mystery of the Elling Woman and also found inspiration in her Iron Age hairstyle. Videos and tutorials on how to recreate her ancient hairstyle can be found across the internet.

Reconstruction of hairstyle and skin cape of the bog body Elling Woman near Silkeborg, Denmark.

The Surprising and Iconic Bronze Age Egtved Girl: Teenage Remains Tell a Story of Trade and Travel

The Surprising and Iconic Bronze Age Egtved Girl: Teenage Remains Tell a Story of Trade and Travel

One of the best-known Danish Bronze Age burials, the well preserved Egtved Girl was found in a barrow in 1921. Her woolen clothing, hair, and nails were perfectly preserved, but all her bones were missing. Scientists studying the ancient teenager’s remains in 2015 made the surprising discovery that the Egtved Girl traveled great distances before her death, and wasn’t from Denmark at all.

A study published in the journal Nature details the results of modern tests done by scientists. Strontium isotope analysis on Egtved Girl’s molar, hair, and fingernails, combined with examination of her distinctive woolen clothing, have revealed she was born and raised hundreds of miles from her burial site in Egtved, in modern Denmark.

Findings show she likely came from The Black Forest of South West Germany, and she traveled between the two locations via ship frequently in the last two years of her life.

The Egtved Girl

According to LiveScience, the Egtved Girl’s oak coffin was uncovered in 1921 from a Bronze Age archaeological site near Egtved, Denmark. The grave was found within a burial mound of dense peat bog, and has been dated to 1370 BC. 

The clothing worn by the Bronze Age teenager, Egtved Girl. Credit: National Museum of Denmark

Inside the coffin, the 16 to 18-year-old girl was buried. She is believed to have been of high status. The teenager had been laid on an ox hide and covered by a rough woolen blanket. The contours of where her dead body had lain are still visible, pressed into the ox hide beneath her.

She was of slim build, with mid-length blonde hair, and her clothing—a short string skirt and small, midriff-baring, sleeved top—caused a sensation when revealed in the 20s. Around her waist she had worn a large, spiked bronze disc decorated with spirals. Even now people recreate the stylish Bronze Age fashion .

Other grave goods included bronze pins, a sewing awl, and a hair net. Local flowers decorated the top of the coffin (indicating a summertime burial), as did a small bucket of beer made of honey, wheat, and cowberries.

The Egtved Girl’s coffin during excavations in 1921. Credit: National Museum of Denmark

Another body was found with Egtved Girl in her coffin. Ashes and bones comprised the cremated remains of a small child recovered near Egtved Girl’s head. The identity of the child, who was about five or six years old when he or she died, is not known. No DNA could be recovered from either sets of remains, so their relationship is a mystery.

Well-Preserved Remains

Scientists found that the soil composition of the grave worked as a microclimate, preserving some items and destroying others. Rainwater seeped in to the hollowed-out, oak-trunk coffin, but it was starved of oxygen. These conditions decayed the bones completely away, but left behind excellently-preserved fingernails, hair, scalp, a small part of her brain, and clothing.

Senior researcher Karin Margarita Frei, from the National Museum of Denmark and Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen analyzed the Bronze Age girl’s remains, according to Science Daily .

Hair and clothing found in the coffin of the Egtved Girl. Credit: Karin Margarita Frei, National Museum of Denmark

Trade and Travel

Analysis of the high-status teenager’s remains, as well as the cremated bones of the young child, showed that the pair had spent much of their lives in a distant land, thought to be Schwarzwald (the Black Forest) in Germany.

“If we consider the last two years of the girl’s life, we can see that, 13 to 15 months before her death, she stayed in a place with a strontium isotope signature very similar to the one that characterizes the area where she was born.

Then she moved to an area that may well have been Jutland. After a period of c. 9 to 10 months there, she went back to the region she originally came from and stayed there for four to six months before she travelled to her final resting place, Egtved. Neither her hair nor her thumb nail contains a strontium isotopic signatures which indicates that she returned to Scandinavia until very shortly before she died.

As an area’s strontium isotopic signature is only detectable in human hair and nails after a month, she must have come to ‘Denmark’ and ‘Egtved’ about a month before she passed away,” Karin Margarita Frei told Science Daily.

The exceptionally-preserved hair of the Egtved Girl. Her burial dates to 1370 BC. Credit: Karin Margarita Frei, National Museum of Denmark

This movement makes sense to researchers. Kristian Kristiansen of the University of Gothenburg told Science Daily, “In Bronze Age Western Europe, Southern Germany and Denmark were the two dominant centers of power, very similar to kingdoms.

We find many direct connections between the two in the archaeological evidence, and my guess is that the Egtved Girl was a Southern German girl who was given in marriage to a man in Jutland so as to forge an alliance between two powerful families.”

The bronze belt disc found on Egtved Girl may have come to the area via the busy trade routes of the day.  The spiral decorations are said to be related to a Nordic solar cult, and the bronze is thought to have originated somewhere in the Alps.

Further, the wool that made up her clothing came from sheep outside of Denmark. The ‘fashionable’ Egtved Girl and her mysterious tiny companion have captivated people since their discovery in 1921. Modern research brings the life and death of the prehistoric girl to light in amazing detail, and gives us a better understanding of early European people.

But she is not the only teenage girl found in Denmark that has created a stir in the last few years. In 2017, it was announced that another famous Bronze Age burial of a teenage girl, this time found in Jutland, Denmark was also a traveler from faraway lands. Strontium analysis of the 16- to 18-year-old Skrydstrup woman suggests she originally came from Germany, the Czech Republic, France, or Sweden.

As archaeologist Karin Frei of the National Museum of Denmark told ScienceNordic, “We can’t say with 100 per cent certainty where she [the Skrydstrup woman] came from, and we may never be able to, but she definitely wasn’t Danish.

It gives us so many new perspectives. Now we know that Egtved Girl was not an isolated case.” These studies show that early European mobility was more dynamic that previously believed; Bronze Age people were trading and traveling long distances, quicky.