Boat timber from Late Viking Oslo found

A section of a wooden boat discovered in Oslo is much older than archaeologists thought, and indeed may be Oslo’s oldest boat part. Researchers from the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) discovered on the seabed in Bjørvika, a neighborhood east of the city center of Oslo in an inlet of the fjord. It was Oslo’s harbor from the time of its founding by Norway’s last Viking king Harald Hardrada in 1048 through the 17th century. The area is rife with shipwreck remains. Most of them date to the 16th and 17th centuries; there are a number from the 14th century and only one dating back to the 13th century.

In the 2022-2023 excavation, NIKU archaeologists found a well-preserved piece of finely crafted timber in the thick clay of the seabed. It was found under the equally well-preserved remains of a wooden wharf that was dated to approximately 1300. Archaeologists therefore assumed the ship part would date to around the same time, but the shape of the section gave them pause. It was very different from the other shipwreck remains they’d uncovered in the area. It is curved on one side and has a hole in the center through which the mast for the ship’s sail was attached.

Dendrochronological analysis of a sample from the timber revealed the tree it sprouted in 1035 and was felled between 1087 and 1100. That dates it to the end of the Viking Age when Oslo was still a small town, more than 200 years before the wharf the timber was found under was built.

“There’s an aesthetic quality to the ship part we’ve found that we don’t find in the more roughly hewn parts from cargo ships and work ships made in the Middle Ages,” [NIKU archaeologist Håvard] Hegdal tells

“In older ships, it sometimes happens that the planks in the hull are decorated externally with planed lines. But this ship part has decoration on all sides. Even where it has barely been visible,” he says.

Hegdal emphasises that the ship part from Bjørvika cannot be compared with Viking ships like the Gokstad ship from around the year 890, which features more complex lines and specialised planing.

“It showcases both advanced maritime technology and exquisite aesthetics,” he says.

V&A acquires 12th c. walrus ivory carved Deposition

The rare 12th century walrus ivory carving depicting Joseph of Arimathea taking the body of Christ down from the cross that was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a private sale last year has been sniped by the V&A.

The Romanesque carving was made between 1190 and 1200 probably in York. It was originally part of a much larger altarpiece of scenes from the Passion of the Christ. The carved details — the drapery, poses, the facial expressions — are masterful examples of skill in ivory carving. The English Reformation slashed and burned much of this kind of devotional art. Today the Deposition is widely considered one of the greatest surviving pieces of medieval British carved ivory.

Because of its great rarity, the exceptional quality of the carving and its cultural significance, the UK Arts Minister placed a temporary export bar on the Deposition to allow a local museum the opportunity to match the purchase price and keep the artwork in Britain. There was no question as to which local museum would throw its hat in the ring. The Deposition and a fragment depicting Judas at the Last Supper from the same lost altarpiece were on display together at the V&A from 1982 until 2022. The Judas fragment was donated to the museum in 1949; the Deposition was on long-term loan from collectors John and Gertrude Hunt, and only left the museum when their heirs decided to sell it.

The Deposition was exhibited once at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1970, and the Met was eager to make it part of its permanent collection when it was offered for sale. Sotheby’s negotiated the private sale, but it was clear from the beginning that the sale was contingent on an export license that was very likely to be barred. The Met set a high bar for any British museum to clear, paying £2 million ($2.5 million) for the seven-inch figure.

As soon as the temporary export ban was in place, the V&A launched a fundraising campaign to raise the large sum. Two grants (£700,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and £350,000 from the Art Fund) got them more than halfway to the goal. Other non-profits, the museum’s own budget and donors near and far got the V&A to its goal.

Light conservation is now being conducted on the Deposition and it will go on display in September. It will be shown alongside the Judas fragment, in the V&A’s Medieval and Renaissance galleries.

Silver medieval communion set found in Hungary

An excavation at the site of a medieval Benedictine abbey in Tomajmonostora, eastern Hungary has unearthed a burial containing a silver communion set dating to the 13th or 14th century. The chalice and paten (small plate for the host) were found in the hands of the deceased, placed there at the time of burial.

The National Archaeological Institute of the Hungarian National Museum’s Public Collections Center discovered the remains of the three-nave Benedictine abbey basilica and an earlier round parish church in a trial excavation of the site in October 2023. Archaeologists returned for a more thorough excavation this year and found the burial.

The chalice is in good condition, with only some fragments missing. It has a ring of gilded beads surrounding the node on the stem. The paten is decorated with a perforated cross and wave designs. It too has a small area of silver loss around the bottom of the plate.

This season’s dig also sought archaeological material from the 1596 Battle of Mezőkeresztes, a clash between the forces of Ottoman Empire sultan Mehmed III and the allied Habsburg and Transylvanian forces. Mehmed III ultimately won the day, although it was such a close call at times that he had to be convinced not to flee the field. Several artifacts related to the battle were found and metal detectorist volunteers led by archaeologist Gábor Bakos uncovered 70 silver Viennese pennies from the 13th-14th centuries. They were issued from mints in Vienna, Enns and Bécsujhely and circulated widely before being assembled and buried.

Votive altar dedicated to Basque deity found in medieval well

An excavation of a medieval monastery on Mount Arriaundi, northern Spain, has unearthed a Roman-era votive altar inscribed with a dedication to the Basque deity Larrahe. The altar dates to the 1st century A.D. and is one of only three altars found in Spain with a dedication to Larrahe. It is the only one of the three to have been recovered from an archaeological excavation.

Located five miles northwest of Pamplona in the Gulina river valley near the tiny town of Larunbe, Mount Arriaundi reaches 3100 feet of elevation. From the summit you can see the entire Pamplona Basin and that prime viewing spot is easily defended thanks to an unscalable promontory on the south side. Arriaundi was occupied from the Roman era through the Middle Ages and into the Modern era almost continuously. There was a Roman presence in the Pamplona Basin since the Sertorian War in the 1st century B.C. In the 1st century A.D., the major communication routes were built It overlooked an important road to Pamplona from the Roman era onward, and a monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen was built there in the 11th century.

For ten years, archaeologists and seasonal volunteers have been excavating the summit to uncover the remains of the medieval monastery whose location was lost over the centuries. The excavations have revealed the monastery’s rectangular floorplan with three semicircular apses one end. In 2022, they discovered the opening of a medieval well in the floor of a walled room behind the right apses. Inside the well, they found the stone altar. The presence of a votive altar is evidence that cult worship took place on Arriaundi in the 1st century. The altar would originally have been standing. It was thrown or placed in the well with the inscription facing downwards.

The inscription reads:
VAL(eria) V[i]
M(erito?) LA R
A HE VO(tum)
L(ibens) S(olvit)

This is a standard formula for votive altars that translates to: “Valeria Vitella fulfills her vow to Larrahe freely and deservedly.”

Although archaeological materials from the Roman period such as ceramic fragments, sandal studs and coins have been documented in isolation at the Arriaundi site, the discovery of the altar provides significant advances on the beliefs of the Basques , the area of ​​worship of the deity Larrahe. and the syncretism between the Roman and Basque worlds.

The name of this indigenous god or goddess is only attested in three other altars from the Basque territory, located in the Arga basin and its tributary the Salado River: Muruzabal de Andión (Mendigorria, ancient Andelo), Irujo and Riezu. That of Larunbe is exceptional since it is the piece that has appeared further north and at a higher altitude, and the only one recovered in the context of archaeological intervention . This expands the scope of influence hitherto known for this divinity.

It is therefore an evidently Basque deity, since it has a final part, written -he , which we can probably interpret as the form of the Basque dative, that is, it marks who it is dedicated to: the deity Larra . The Basque name, with its connection to current Basque, leads us to interpret it as a deity related to the field or agricultural territory.

The Larunbe altar extends the territorial range of the written evidence of deities and the Basque language further north. The altar’s find site is on the limits of what could be the Basque heritage territory and its (probably Vardulo) neighbors. The testimony of the altar delimits this range a little more and points us to this area of ​​worship of the Basque divinity at the end of the 1st century AD. It is one more testimony that helps to delve deeper into the origins and evolution of Vasconic languages and Basque.

800-year-old wood water reclamation structure found in Germany

Archaeologists excavating a planned construction site in the historic center of Wiedenbrück unearthed a large amount of wood arranged in a purposeful fashion, likely intended to reclaim land adjacent to a waterway. The wet soil near a waterway had preserved the small logs and branches, and also preserved pottery, animal bones and leather shoe soles. The pottery dates it to the 13th century.

The wooden stakes were laid in two or three rows know as fascines, used to reinforce sloping terrain like a kind of retaining wall. Worked stakes and plain branches run east-west with willow rods woven in between them. South of the rows, thin birch twigs were laid flat on the ground to help secure the subsoil. Archaeologists believe its positioning indicates the network was used to prevent water penetration.

A small town in northwestern Germany’s Westphalia region, Wiedenbrück grew around a church built there in the late 8th century. The earliest archaeological remains in Wiedenbrück are from a basilica built after 900 and within 50 years of that, Wiedenbrück was part of the territory of the Bishopric of Osnabrück, with market and mint rights granted to the bishop by the king of East Francia and future Holy Roman Emperor Otto I. The oldest surviving coins on the archaeological record, however, date to 1230, almost 300 years after the mint rights were granted, around the same time as the wood structure was built.

For the history of the town of Wiedenbrück, the excavation findings open a window into the exciting period of growth around 800 years ago: “The elaborate wooden construction was probably built during the construction of the new town shortly before the middle of the 13th century in order to make use of a peaty depression east of an old arm of the Ems that had always been unsuitable for settlement,” explains Sven Spiong, head of the Bielefeld branch. “Such medieval land reclamation or densification measures in towns can be observed again and again, recently in Minden or Rietberg, for example. When the town grew, previously unused areas were prepared as building land.”

The continued use of the land along the waterway was demonstrated by the embankments that covered the entire structure in the 14th or 15th century, thereby raising the land and making it drier. Finally, the final settlement of the site is evidenced by posts up to two meters long that were driven through the older embankment and the wooden structure underneath. One of these posts turned out to be a reused, slightly charred half-timbered beam. Scientific research is now intended to clarify whether these posts could be part of the first written record of development on the site from around 1500.