Double graves with headless slaves

Article from University of Oslo

In the Viking era, a number of slaves were beheaded and then buried together with their masters. New methods of skeleton analysis reveal more about the life of the poor a thousand years ago.

Science Nordic post reveals more about the diet of everyday people, why individuals in the same household may have had different diets, and why the diet my differ from child to adult.

Interesting read.   Science Nordic article….

“Brithnoth avenge! Now may not go he who thinketh to avenge His friend among the folk, nor mourn for his life.”

The Battle of Maldon, fought in 991 AD near Maldon in Essex, England ended in defeat for the Anglo-Saxons and a victory for the raiding Norsemen. This period of 980-1012 could be considered one of the peaks of the Norse raiding against the English; due to a wane in political strength in English rule under Æthelred the Unready over the previous decade. The English coast again became attractive to Viking raids creating a split in English policy to pay off the invaders -or fight to the last man.

When given the choice of either payment or battle, Earl Byrhtnoth chose to fight what was described in a manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as a force estimated to have been between 2,000 and 4,000 fighting men led by Norwegian, Olaf Tryggvason. How aware was Byrhtnoth that he was facing such a large and experienced force? His men–except for his household guard, were peasants and householders from the area. A source from the 12th century written by the monks at Ely, suggests that Byrhtnoth had only a few men to command: “he was neither shaken by the small number of his men, nor fearful of the multitude of the enemy”, although not all sources indicate such a disparity in numbers.

After a rousing patriotic speech to spur his men on, Byrhtnoth met Olaf as the Vikings waited on an islet for the tide to retreat. Even when this small piece of ground would be exposed, they would be at a disadvantage to Byrhtnoth who could overwhelm them as they crossed. So Olaf asked the Earl nicely if they could cross safely before the battle began. Why Byrhtnoth agreed to Olaf’s request remains debatable. Some scholars’ project it was his pride while others suggest recklessness.

According to the Old English poem, typically called The Battle of Maldon, Byrhtnoth let all the Vikings cross to the mainland where they joined in battle. Then, an Englishman called Godrīc fled the battle using Byrhtnoth’s horse. Seeing this, his brothers Godwine and Godwīg followed, which in turn led to the fleeing of many other Englishmen who thought it was Byrhtnoth himself who was retreating. It was believe that Godrīc had been held in high regard by Bryhtnoth, having received gifts and status from himbut was forever marked as a coward and traitor. After losing many men and his own life, Byrhtnoth’s body was found decapitated on the field where the Vikings claimed victory.

After the defeat at Maldon, Archbishop Sigeric of Canterbury and other aldermen advised the King to pay the attackers the protection money they requested, giving them 10,000 Roman Pounds of silver. This was not enough and over the next decade the Vikings had to be paid increasingly large sums of money. And so, in time, the English people, who were no doubt the ones funding the Danegeld, began to demand that a more permanent solution be taken against the Vikings. In response, King Æthelred proclaimed that all Danes living in England would be executed on St. Brice’s feast day, November 13, 1002. This killing -based on ethnic hatred -would become known as the St. Brice’s Day massacre (St. Brice was the Bishop of Tours in the fifth century).

The Battle of Maldon poem and the battle itself are worth delving into if only because of its many explore-able levels. It may be too easy to simplify such an event that happened so long ago, but with a closer look there remain contemporary beliefs, emotions, and attitudes. It is believed by many scholars that the poem, while based upon actual events and people was created to be less of a historical account and more of a means of enshrining and lifting up the memories of the men who fought and lost their lives on the battlefield protecting their homeland, especially in the case of the English commander of the battle, Byrhtnoth. He (Byrhtnoth) seems to embody many of the virtues that are uplifted in the Anglo-Saxon world, and is compared often by many scholars to the character Beowulf.

Why the Middle Ages?

“There is something odd in the fact that when we reproduce the Middle Ages
it is always some such rough and half-grotesque part of them that we
reproduce . . . Why is it that we mainly remember the Middle Ages by absurd
things? . . . Few modern people know what a mass of illuminating philosophy,
delicate metaphysics, clear and dignified social morality exists in the
serious scholastic writers of mediaeval times. But we seem to have grasped
somehow that the ruder and more clownish elements in the Middle Ages have a
human and poetical interest. We are delighted to know about the ignorance of
mediaevalism; we are contented to be ignorant about its knowledge. When we
talk of something mediaeval, we mean something quaint. We remember that
alchemy was mediaeval, or that heraldry was mediaeval. We forget that
Parliaments are mediaeval, that all our Universities are mediaeval, that
city corporations are mediaeval, that gunpowder and printing are mediaeval,
that half the things by which we now live, and to which we look for
progress, are mediaeval.”

{“The True Middle Ages,” The Illustrated London News, 14 July 1906} – G. K.

Blog Series





THE SCANDINAVIANS AND THE VIKING AGE and other noteworthy bits of information.

what’s that picture over there about? it’s a page from the Lindisfarne folio 27 Manuscript, and a beautiful example of what the monks were creating about the time they were sacked by the Vikings in the late 8th century.

The Vikings!


It is amazing how similar events across the world seem to gravitate in close proximity toward our awareness; showing themselves in a surprising cluster of moments. Cultural forewarnings relay the sinister side of this rationale, such as three on a match or misfortune happening in threes —providing us with the more memorable proof of this. Possibly it has to do with social consciousness, as we all are surely connected in one way or another —or because of our characteristically herd nature. It does not seem to take us long at all to go where someone else is looking—whether it is in science, politics, bargain sales, killing sprees or entertainment —or the simple wearing of pants lower than the hipbone in the more painfully obvious display of how easily we follow any manner of trends. However fortunate, this herd characteristic includes the whole human race, not only one population or natio [Read more…]