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Vikings at Anglesey

In 1992, the National Museum of Wales received some interesting artifacts found on the island of Anglesey (located off the northwest coast of Wales).  Digging deeper, archeologists made some unexpected discoveries.

A defensive wall, with a very wide base, had likely been built in the ninth century.  Why?  Against whom were the locals defending themselves? 

Then ... in 1998, researchers uncovered five skeletons - two men, one woman and two children - known as the "Llanbedrgoch skeletons."  One of the males likely had his hands tied behind his back.  All were apparently tossed into a pit, not buried by people who loved them.  Who were they?

Sparse surviving records indicate that Vikings attacked Anglesey in 855.  Did the skeletons belong to victims of a Viking raid? 

Although contemporary chronicles documenting Viking issues are rare in England, Scotland and Wales, the Irish Annals help to shed light on Viking raids in Britain.  Some attacks, in England, are only documented in the Irish records.  An entry from 794, for example, notes "devastation" in England (due to Vikings). 

In 798, Ireland was also vexed by "heathens" who burned places and violently attacked locals.  Tunnels, previously thought to be storage areas, may actually have served as places for people to hide from Vikings.

Scholars believe that such attacks may have been launched from the Viking port of Kaupang, in Norway.  Significant archeological discoveries reveal Viking "loot" at Kaupang.  Christian treasures from monasteries and other such places - such as gilt mounts for holy books - have been uncovered together with Norse artifacts.

Who were the Vikings?  Although they left no written records of their own, they did bury an entire ship - likely belonging to a queen - which provides us with a treasure-trove of information. 

Built around 820, the Oseberg ship was uncovered in a burial mound (known as Oseberghaugen) near Tønsberg (in Vestfold County), Norway.  It is well-preserved and answers many questions about how the Vikings built their coastal-voyage vessels. 

Made mostly of oak, its bow and stern are beautifully decorated.  Powered both by oars (fifteen per side, operated by thirty people) and a sail (measuring approximately ninety square meters), the ship likely traveled around ten knots per hour.  Scholars do not believe the Oseberg ship was used to cross the North Sea.

See, also:

Vikings Invade England

Viking Ships

Vikings and Their Settlements


Media Credits

Clip from the 2001 BBC series - "Blood of Vikings" ("First Blood" episode), presented by Julian Richards - online courtesy BBC Worldwide Channel at YouTube.  Copyright, BBC, all rights reserved.  Clip provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the series.

 

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