A Treasure Trove of Viking Stuff Discovered

Climate change is terrible news for just about everyone but one upshoot is that it’s doing wonders for archaeology. The Lendbreen glacier in Norway’s Breheimen national park has been melting at a terrifying rate and now measures just 30 percent of what it was 30 years ago. A decade ago, the area caused a sensation among archaeologists when a 4th century wool tunic was discovered, largely intact. This may have been removed by some poor soul at the moment of freezing to death, when paradoxically the body feels very warm.

Since then, a treasure trove of finds have been made. These span the period from the 3rd century to the end of the Middle Ages, peaking at around the year 1000 at the height of the Viking Age. The artefacts are assumed to be from a mountain pass which connected various parts of Norway and perhaps places further afield. The Cambridge Review of World Archaeology says:

“That the dates cluster in the Viking Age, particularly around AD 1000, is unlikely to be coincidental as it was a time of high mobility, emerging urbanism and increasing political centralisation in Scandinavia, and a period in which markets around the Irish, North and Baltic Seas were growing.”

Perhaps an ancient trade route of the Eastern Vikings has been discovered? In any case, archaeologist Lars Pilø has recently discussed the six most interesting items in Artnet News. Among these are a Viking Age tinderbox, a horse snowshoe and a strange kitchen item which may also have been used as a tent peg. The route was abandoned in the late Middle Ages, perhaps as a cause of worsening climate or the Black Death. Covid-19 has made it difficult to travel to the site lately, so it can be said that climate change and pandemics connect our times with those of the finds in more ways than one.

The top six items:

A Viking Archaeologist Shares 6 of the Most Fascinating Finds From a Slew of Recent Discoveries Made in Melting Ice (artnet.com)

The full story from Cambridge:

Crossing the ice: an Iron Age to medieval mountain pass at Lendbreen, Norway | Antiquity | Cambridge Core

Saga Heroes in Byzantium

Professor Sverrir Jakobsson is interviewed in Morgunblaðið this week about his new book The Varangians: In God’s Holy Fire. He also talks about the Legends of the Eastern Vikings project and says that the Icelandic Sagas, including the Varangians, has been his main interest for the past 30 years, or more or less since he started university. Already in secondary school, Sverrir was known in Iceland for participating on his school team in the annual quiz show Gettu Betur alongside his twin brother Ármann, himself a now professor of Icelandic literature. The competition was broadcast on TV and needless to say, they won.

In the interview, Sverrir talks about the connections between the Icelandic Sagas and the Varangians. Among famous Saga personalities that served at the court of the Eastern Emperor are Kolskeggur (which translates as Blackbeard), who was the brother of the main hero Gunnar in Njáls’ Saga, and Bolli, one of the main protagonists of Laxdæla Saga, was a renowned Varangian too.

Interestingly, while the Byzantine Emperor’s Nordic troops are called “Varjagi” in Slavic chronicles, the term is not used in the oldest Icelandic sources from the 12th century, although veterans from Constantinople are mentioned. The moniker “Væringjar” first seems to come into use in the 13th century in Iceland, at a time when the Varangians, or at least their Nordic element, was in decline in Constantinople and the cohort was increasingly being constituted of Englishmen. The term “Varjagi” can be found in later Arabic sources, but comes later into the old Norse being used in Iceland at the time.

Morgunblaðið newspaper is of a rather later vintage but is Iceland’s oldest functioning newspaper and was founded in 1913. The full interview can be found (in modern Icelandic) on mbl.is.

“Áhugamál mitt í næstum þrjátíu ár.” Þriðjudagur, 19. janúar 2021.

Heathens Against Trump

As the Trump presidency reaches its final minutes, it’s time to remember the storming of the Capitol that took place a mere two weeks ago. One of the most notable figures in that event was Jake Angeli, also known as the QAnon shaman. It’s hard enough for anyone to make sense of the QAnon world view, but as well as Christian and Wild West imagery, Angeli was seen sporting symbols supposedly representing a valknut, Thor’s hammer and even the world tree Yggdrasil.

Pagan associations in the US were at pains to disassociate themselves from Angeli or anything to do with the attack on the Capitol the very next day, who does not seem to have ties to any of them. The Icelandic Asatru society has not seen any reason to comment.

Heathens respond to “Q-Shaman” and Norse Imagery in Capitol Riot | News, Paganism, Politics, U.S. (wildhunt.org)

Happy New Year (again)

It’s the third day of the New Year, at least for those who follow the Julian calendar like the orthodox church does. The Julian calendar, named for Julius Caesar, was used throughout Europe until 1582 when it was found to be two weeks out of step with the lunar calendar and the changing seasons. Western Christianity went with the new calendar, but the old one was retained in orthodox lands until the 1917 revolution.

In the Soviet Union, Christmas was found to be too Christian for an atheistic country and probably Santa Claus became too capitalist. The new New Year which began at midnight on January 1st was free of religious connotations and hence became one of the main events of the year, Father Frost and the Snow Girl arriving and bearing gifts.

However, for the orthodox church, Christmas Day remains on the 6th of January and hence New Year’s Day is on the 14th. The orthodox New Year’s is not so much a time for celebration as for reflection. All of this should be good news for those who feel that the beginning of 2021 has been…well, weird. The first two weeks don’t really count. And if the second half of January gets even weirder, we can look forward to another reset on February 12th when the Year of the Ox begins according to the Chinese calendar.

Hey Pandas, What's Your Favorite Meme So Far In 2021? (Closed) | Bored Panda