The remains of a Viking ship that was 52 to 56 feet (16 to 17 meters) long were found near a medieval church at Edøy, on the island of Smøla in Norway.
by Owen Jarus
The remains of a Viking ship have been discovered on a farm near a medieval church at Edøy, on the island of Smøla, in Norway.
The ship, which is 52 to 56 feet (16 to 17 meters) long, appears to be part of a burial mound, suggesting that it was used to bury someone important, said its discoverers, archaeologists Manuel Gabler and Dag-Øyvind Engtrø Solem, both with the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU).
They don’t know if there is a skeleton or multiple skeletons inside the boat.
The archaeologists used high-resolution georadar mounted on a cart to make the discovery. In fact, it was almost by chance they spotted the ship’s outline.
“We had actually finished the agreed-upon area, but we had time to spare and decided to do a quick survey over another field. It turned out to be a good decision,” Manuel Gabler, an archaeologist with NIKU, said in a statement.
The ship was found near this medieval church by archaeologists using georadar mounted on a cart. (Image credit: NIKU)
The ship dates back more than 1,000 years to the time of the Vikings or even a bit earlier, Knut Paasche, head of the Department of Digital Archaeology at NIKU and an expert on Viking ships, said in a statement.
Radar images had enough resolution to make out what was left of the fore and aft, which had been nearly destroyed in the past by farming plows. The hull seems to be in good shape, according to a news report by Ars Technica. The radar also revealed the remains of two houses, likely part of a Viking settlement, but the archaeologists aren’t sure of the structures’ age. Archaeologists and local authorities hope to do a larger survey of the area around the ship burial. It’s not certain when the ship itself will be excavated, although it won’t be done in the near future, said a spokesperson for NIKU.
The survey at Edøy was done as a collaboration between Møre and Romsdal County, Smøla municipality and NIKU. The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology helped develop the georadar technology used in the survey.
An iron arrowhead, possibly dating back a millennia or more, emerging from an ice patch in the mountains of Norway.
by MICHAEL D’ESTRIES
Ancient artifacts preserved in snow and ice over thousands of years in Norway’s mountains are emerging at an unprecedented rate, and archaeologists are scrambling to collect them all before it’s too late.
The finds are truly remarkable: iron arrowheads dating back to 1,500 years, tunics from the Iron Age, and even the remains of a wooden ski complete with leather binding left behind sometime in the year 700 A.D. Some of the oldest objects were dropped more than 6,000 years ago.
The catalyst behind the sudden emergence of these ancient relics is climate change, with lower winter precipitation and warmer summers dramatically reducing the alpine ice that acts as a time capsule for lost treasures.
“The ice is a time machine,” Lars Pilö, an archaeologist who works for the Oppland County council told Archaeology in 2013. “When you’re really lucky, the artifacts are exposed for the first time since they were lost.”
A ski with leather binding recovered from an ice patch in the Norwegian mountains. Analysis later determined that the artifact dates back to 700 A.D.
Unlike glaciers, which tend to crush and grind objects as they move down a mountain, the majority of artifacts coming out of Norway are being recovered from ice patches. These isolated non-moving accumulations of ice and snow are significant to the archeological record because of their extreme stability, with many containing layers of seasonal snowpack dating back thousands of years.
In 2017, a study of the ice of the Juvfonne snow patch in Jotunheimen, Norway was discovered to be an astounding 7,600 years old.
An Iron Age tunic recovered from the Lendbreen ice patch in August 2011.
Despite their remote setting and scarce visits from modern day humans, ice patches for thousands of years were veritable hot spots for ancient hunters. In the summer, reindeer herds often crowd together on the islands of snow and ice to escape pesky, biting botflies, which have a strong aversion to the cooler temperatures. In the past, hunters would follow, losing or forgetting precious equipment along the way that was later buried and preserved in the winter snows.
Some items, such as the 1,600-year-old knife shown in the video below, look as if they were lost only a few decades ago.
Because ice patches in the past have contracted and expanded due to temperature shifts, many of the objects recovered have likely one time or another been exposed and then reburied by snow and ice. They also have a tendency to be carried by meltwater. As explained on the Secrets of the Ice Facebook page, the 2,600-year-old arrows shown in the image below were washed downslope far from the place they were originally lost.
Arrows discovered in the scree of an ice patch were later determined to date back to 600 B.C.
Some of the most exciting finds are those objects found emerging from the surface of the ice, a sign that they have previously been untouched by melting, according to researchers from the Oppland County Council. These artifacts are generally exceptionally preserved, with organic materials such as leather and fabric still present. It’s also an indication of the severity of anthropogenic global warming, with certain ice patches in Norway estimated to have retreated to levels last seen during the Stone Age.
“It’s very impressive when you can say this melting ice is 5,000 years old, and this is the only moment in the last 7,000 years that the ice has been retreating,” Albert Hafner, an archaeologist at the University of Bernsays Hafner, told Archaeology. “Ice is the most emotional way to show climate change.”
The preserved remains of a 3400-year-old hide shoe discovered on an ice patch in 2006. Over the last 30 years, some 2,000 artifacts have been recovered from Norway’s melting ice fields.
Unfortunately for archaeologists, the rate of ice loss coupled with the extremely small annual windows of opportunity to scour the alpine patches, means some newly exposed items will break down and disappear before anyone has a chance to study them.
“This material is like the library of Alexandria. It is incredibly valuable and it’s on fire now,” George Hambrecht, an anthropologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, told New Scientist.
Archaeologists are in a race against time to discover and preserve ancient artifacts exposed to the elements. Here, a team member searches the edge of a retreating ice patch for potential relics from the past.
Right now you might be thinking, “I want to help find and preserve these incredible artifacts!,” and we agree, it sounds like quite the adventure to take a romp into the Norwegian wilderness and possibly stumble upon a well-preserved Viking Sword (see below). The reality, however, is that field work can sometimes be laborious and uncomfortable, with every day at the mercy of Mother Nature’s fickle moods.
That said, the Oppland County Council did accept volunteers last spring and it’s possible, especially with so many finds emerging from the ice each year, that others may be called upon to assist.
“We may not find much (or we could strike the jackpot, who knows),” Lars Pilø wrote last April in the Secrets blog. “It all depends on the melting conditions, and they develop over the summer and during fieldwork. If we are unlucky, the scenery and the team spirit make up for the lack of finds.”
To learn more about the work underway at Norway’s precious ice patches, visit the Secrets of the Ice blog here: http://secretsoftheice.com/
A Viking sword discovered in 2017, and dating back to c. AD 850-950.
A Norwegian container ship called the Yara Birkeland will be the world’s first electric, autonomous, zero-emissions ship.
With a capacity of up to 150 shipping containers, the battery-powered ship will be small compared to modern standards (the biggest container ship in the world holds 19,000 containers, and an average-size ship holds 3,500), but its launch will mark the beginning of a transformation of the global shipping industry. This transformation could heavily impact global trade as well as the environment.
The Yara Birkeland is being jointly developed by two Norwegian companies: agricultural firm Yara International, and agricultural firm, and Kongsberg Gruppen, which builds guidance systems for both civilian and military use.
The ship will be equipped with a GPS and various types of sensors, including lidar, radar, and cameras—much like self-driving cars. The ship will be able to steer itself through the sea, avoid other ships, and independently dock itself.
The Wall Street Journal states that building the ship will cost $25 million, which is about three times the cost of a similarly-sized conventional ship. However, the savings will kick in once the ship starts operating, since it won’t need traditional fuel or a big crew.
Self-driving cars aren’t going to suddenly hit the streets straight off their production line; they’ve been going through multiple types of road tests, refining their sensors, upgrading their software, and generally improving their functionality little by little. Similarly, the Yara Birkeland won’t take to the sea unmanned on its first voyage, nor any of its several first voyages, for that matter.
Rather, the ship’s autonomy will be phased in. At first, says the Journal, “a single container will be used as a manned bridge on board. Then the bridge will be moved to shore and become a remote-operation center. The ship will eventually run fully on its own, under supervision from shore, in 2020.”
Kongsberg CEO Geir Haoy compared the ship’s sea-to-land bridge transition to flying a drone from a command center, saying, “It will be GPS navigation and lots of high-tech cameras to see what’s going on around the ship.”
Interestingly, there’s currently no legislation around autonomous ships (which makes sense since, well, there aren’t any autonomous ships, either). Lawmakers are getting to work, though, and rules will likely be set up by the time the Yara makes it first fully-autonomous trip.
The ship will sail between three ports in southern Norway, delivering Yara International fertilizer from a production facility to a port called Larvik. The planned route is 37 nautical miles, and the ship will stay within 12 nautical miles of the coast.
The United Nations’ International Maritime Organization estimates over 90 percent of the world’s trade is carried by sea, and states that maritime transport is “By far the most cost-effective way to move en masse goods and raw materials around the world.”
But ships are also to blame for a huge amount of pollution; one study showed that just 15 of the world’s biggest ships may emit as much pollution as all the world’s cars, largely due to the much higher sulfur content of ship fuel. Oddly, shipping emission regulations weren’t included in the Paris Agreement.
Besides reducing fuel emissions by being electric, the Yara Birkeland will supposedly replace 40,000 truck drives a year through southern Norway. Once regulations are in place and the technology has been tested and improved, companies will start to build larger ships that can sail longer routes.
To investigate whether the differences in how men and women navigate are related to our sex or to cultural conditioning, researchers in Norway measured male and female brain activity while volunteers tried to find their way through a virtual reality maze.
Wearing 3D goggles and using a joystick to make their way through an artificial environment, the participants (18 males and 18 females) had their brain functions continuously recorded by an fMRI scanner as they carried out virtual navigation tasks.
In line with previous findings, the men performed better, using shortcuts, orienting themselves more using cardinal directions, and solving 50 percent more tasks than the women in the study.
“Men’s sense of direction was more effective,” said Carl Pintzka, a neuroscientist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). “They quite simply got to their destination faster.”
One of the reasons for this is because of the difference in how men and women use their brains when we’re finding our way around. According to the researchers, men use the hippocampus more, whereas women place greater reliance on their brains’ frontal areas.
“That’s in sync with the fact that the hippocampus is necessary to make use of cardinal directions,” said Pintzka. “[M]en usually go in the general direction where [their destination is] located. Women usually orient themselves along a route to get there.”
Generally, the cardinal approach is more efficient, as it depends less on where you start.
But women’s brains make them better at finding objects locally, the researchers say. “In ancient times, men were hunters and women were gatherers. Therefore, our brains probably evolved differently,” said Pintzka. “In simple terms, women are faster at finding things in the house, and men are faster at finding the house.”
What was most remarkable about the study was what happened when the researchers gave women a drop of testosterone to see how it affected their ability to navigate the virtual maze. In a separate experiment, 21 women received a drop of testosterone under their tongues, while 21 got a placebo.
The researchers found that the women receiving testosterone showed improved knowledge of the layout of the maze, and relied on their hippocampus more to find their way around. Having said that, these hormone-derived benefits didn’t enable them to solve more maze tasks in the exercise.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the study used a fairly small sample size in both of the experiments carried out, so the findings need to be read in light of that. Nonetheless, the scientists believe their paper, which is published in Behavioural Brain Research, will help us to better understand the different ways male and female brains work, which could assist in the fight against diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
“Almost all brain-related diseases are different in men and women, either in the number of affected individuals or in severity,” said Pintzka. “Therefore, something is likely protecting or harming people of one sex. Since we know that twice as many women as men are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, there might be something related to sex hormones that is harmful.”
Earthworms have been raining down from heaven over large areas of southern Norway, leaving biologists and meteorologists scratching their heads.
Biology teacher Karstein Erstad was out for a ski in the mountains outside Bergen on Sunday when he came across the unusual phenomenon.
“I saw thousands of earthworms on the surface of the snow,” he told The Local. “When I found them on the snow they seemed to be dead, but when I put them in my hand I found that they were alive.”
At first he thought that they had perhaps crawled though the snow from the ground beneath, but on reflection, he rejected this idea.
“In many places, the snow thickness was between half a meter and a meter and I think they would have problems crawling through the cold snow.”
Since Erstad’s discovery was reported in Norway’s NRK news channel, corroborating reports have flooded in from across southern Norway, with sightings of worm rainfall in Lindås and Suldal near Bergen, and as far away as Femunden on the Swedish border.
“People have now observed the same phenomenon in many places in Norway,” Erstad told The Local. “It’s very peculiar, I don’t know why so many people have discovered it. I don’t know if there have been some special weather conditions lately.”
Erstad has found reports of the worm rainfall phenomenon taking place in Sweden in the 1920s.
“It’s a very rare phenomenon,” he told The Local. “It’s difficult to say how many times it happens, but it has only been reported a very few times.”