Lesson #90: The Viking Slaughter and Freeze

Autobiographical note: One half of the contingent of my Swedish friends are arriving later today to spend St. Paddy’s Week here. We’ll try not to get caught up in the riots this year. Don’t expect another post until Thursday or Friday.

Archaeologists doing excavation work in London ahead of the 2012 Olympics ran into a mass grave recently…that happens to belong to a captured band of Vikings the Anglo-Saxons tortured and murdered. Archaeology is awesome!

Originally, the archaeologists thought it might be a grave belonging to Britons who fought the Romans at Maiden Castle, but radiocarbon dating dated the bones a full millenium too late to be Briton or Roman, between 910 and 1030, which suggested an Anglo-Saxon/Viking connection. The bones in the pit belonged to men who were, for the most part,  in their late teens to mid-twenties and isotopes in their teeth revealed they were from Scandinavia.*

As for the freeze, a recent study of mollusk shells has uncovered that there was a significant freeze in Greenland and Iceland around 870 that may have led to a famine, affecting the Norse colonies that had been established there. The Sagas of the Icelanders record that there were several famines in the first years after colonization and the new study indicates a six degree (celcius) drop in temperature.**

*Read more about the gruesome nature of the Viking executions here. The Saxons, it turns out, were not exactly skilled butchers.

**That here.

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