Vikings took their animals with them to Britain 1,000 years ago, research finds

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When Vikings crossed the North Sea to reach Britain in the 9th century, they brought their dogs and horses with them, according to new research.

Archaeologists discovered what they believe is the first scientific evidence of this Viking practice while analyzing remains from a Viking burial ground called Heath Wood in Derbyshire, England.

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Heath Wood consists of 59 tombs, 20 of which have been studied. Although the remains in the cemetery were cremated, bone fragments linger and serve as missing pieces of the puzzle, revealing information about who was there and when.

The researchers analyzed the femur bones and skull bones, which were assigned to two adults, a juvenile and three animals, including a horse, a dog and possibly a pig. Cremation was standard practice at the time for Scandinavians, while the British buried their dead. But to determine the true origin of the people and animals in Heath Wood, scientists have taken their analysis one step further.

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The researchers tested the bone fragments for strontium, a natural element found in rocks, soil and water, which ends up in plants. When animals and humans eat plants, strontium gets into their bones and teeth. Strontium exists in different proportions around the world, acting as a geographic marker for the origins of various species.

An adult and child cremated at Heath Wood were likely locals to the area. But the bones from another adult, as well as those from the animals, had different strontium ratios, which suggest they originated in the Baltic Shield area of ​​Scandinavia, which included Norway and central and northern Sweden.

The adult and animals likely died shortly after crossing the North Sea to reach Britain. The fact that they were included in the same cremation pyre suggests that the adult was someone important, who brought his horse and dog with him – and the animals may have been sacrificed when the person died.

It is possible that the pig bone was a preserved food source or a symbol brought from home, rather than a live pig that was transported.

A study detailing the findings was published on Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

New Science and Old Viking Stories

Previous work at Heath Wood used carbon dating to determine that the cremation of the remains took place between the 8th and 10th centuries, but the origins of the people and animals cremated were unclear. The area is also interesting because the Great Viking Army wintered at Repton, which is close to the burial ground, in the year 873.

The army, which included warriors from different populations across Scandinavia and possibly the British Isles, invaded Britain in 865.

The new findings offer distinct insights when compared to the primary source material used by the researchers, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, an annual record of events compiled around the year 890 and written in Old English.

“Basically, it deepens our understanding of the Great Viking Army when it first arrived on British shores in East Anglia,” said lead study author Tessi Löffelmann, a doctoral researcher in the University of Durham’s department of archeology and department of chemistry. from the Vrije Universiteit of Brussels.

“Our main primary source at the time, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, reports that the army seized horses from the local population in Britain, but our isotopic evidence shows that this was not the only story – they also brought animals with them from their land. christmas.”

The journey across the North Sea would have been “wet, cold and uncomfortable for all parties involved” as the ships carried animals and humans together, Löffelmann said.

The Vikings likely used a combination of their long, sleek ships as well as larger ships with deep cargo space in their fleets crossing the North Sea. The Great Viking Army traveled by land and sea, with camps strategically placed on rivers where mounted warriors could obtain supplies from the slower moving fleet, according to the study.

The medieval Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts William of Normandy’s famous conquest of England in 1066, provides researchers with an idea of ​​what this might have looked like. It is believed that he brought 10,000 men and 2,000 to 3,000 horses across the English Channel.

“The Bayeux Tapestry depicts Norman cavalry disembarking horses from their fleet before the Battle of Hastings, but this is the first scientific demonstration that Viking warriors transported horses to England two hundred years earlier,” said study co-author Julian Richards, professor at the University of York’s Department of Archeology and co-director of the Heath Wood excavations, in a statement.

“It shows how much Viking leaders valued their personal horses and dogs, so much so that they brought them from Scandinavia and the animals were sacrificed to be buried with their owners.”

Animals played a key role in Norse mythology, including gods who could turn into animals, Löffelmann said.

“In the 9th century, Scandinavia was not yet Christian and there was a strong oral tradition – only a few centuries later these stories were written down, but they tell us that animals had an important role to play in society,” says Löffelmann about the e- mail.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the person buried at Heath Wood wanted to bring along a prized hound and a personal mount, just to have the animals accompany them in death, she said.

Source: CNN Brasil

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