Archive for the ‘vikings’ Category

1,000-year-old German dinner reveals long-distance Viking trade routes

August 7th, 2017

Enlarge / A Viking merchant ship carries trade goods far from home, including a special freeze-dried cod called stockfish. (credit: Wikimedia)

More than a millennium ago, people in the Viking Age city of Haithabu dined on a dish of freeze-dried cod and tossed the bones aside. It was a relatively unremarkable meal, except for one thing. The DNA in those bones was preserved into the present day, and scientists in Norway have just sequenced it. What they found has confirmed the truth of stories from the Icelandic sagas about Vikings sailing exceptionally long routes to trade with other groups.

Today, the coastal city of Haithabu is an archaeological site in Germany on the Baltic Sea. But the people who munched on that dried cod roughly 1,000 years ago were living under Danish rule in a cosmopolitan port city. Haithabu was a key stop on a lively sea trade route that brought tasty treats and trinkets like walrus tusks from distant lands. Though there is ample evidence of this kind of trade 800 years ago, University of Oslo environmental biologist Bastiaan Star and his colleagues have pushed that date back at least 200 years, and possibly 400, just by sequencing cod DNA. This dramatically changes our understanding of long-distance trade in Northern Europe during the Viking Age.

In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Star and his team describe how they used DNA analysis to trace the origins of 15 different cod eaten centuries ago in Germany, Norway, and the UK. The group has been studying ancient cod DNA to better understand the way humans have affected the migration routes and populations of this staple fish over time. This new discovery, however, has shed light on international trade. By comparing DNA sequences from ancient cod with modern ones, the researchers found that certain populations of fish have stuck to the same breeding grounds and migration routes for at least 1,200 years. Small mutations in the cod genome reveal which population the individual comes from, and that in turn reveals where they spawned.

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Posted in cod, DNA, environmental science, science, viking age, vikings | Comments (0)

We know Vikings as infamous raiders—was that merely a response to climate change?

August 6th, 2017

Enlarge / Clouds hover above the surrounding geothermal waters at the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik, Iceland in 2008. (credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Beneath their still surfaces, the lakes of some Arctic islands may hide the story of the rise and fall of Viking chiefdom.

Historians still aren’t sure exactly what led to the centuries of Viking raiding and expansion, a period politely known as the Scandinavian Diaspora that ran from the late eighth century to the mid-11th. Population pressures and political rivalries probably played a role, but changing climate around the North Atlantic may also have given the Scandinavians a push.

So far, paleoclimate researchers have mostly focused on warmer climates in the Vikings’ destinations, like Iceland, which might have drawn people to settle there. But those who set sail may have been facing trouble with the crops back home thanks to changing temperatures. A team of researchers hope to find some answers in a new series of sediment cores from ancient lakebeds in a remote Norwegian island chain.

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Posted in climate change, Features, science, vikings | Comments (0)

You saw the Star Wars teaser—but what about this upcoming blockbuster?

April 17th, 2015

OK, yes, Old Han Solo and Chewie are back on the Millennium Falcon and Old Luke is bequeathing lightsabers and force powers left and right—it’s great that we elder nerds might finally get the Star Wars sequels that we’ve lusted after since we were kids. But there’s another amazing trailer/music video combo that has been lost among all the wookie-hugging: Kung Fury. And because Ars Managing Editor Eric Bangeman has taken this Friday off, I can write about it. I can write about anything I want.

Video: The first trailer for Kung Fury.

Filmed piecemeal from across two years by Swedish filmmaker David Sandberg and funded mostly by a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $600,000, Kung Fury is set in one of the most idealized and beautiful visions of the 1980s ever digitally filmed: synth beats fill the hot Miami nights, denim and Power Gloves abound, and a renegade kung fu cop named Kung Fury takes things too far.

After handing in his gun and badge, there’s only one thing left for Kung Fury do: go back in time and kill Adolf Hitler, the “Kung Führer,” the baddest kung fu villain of all time. But even though Fury has the help of a note-perfect ’80s computer nerd sidekick, he goes too far back in time, to an era where Vikings and T-rexes roamed the land.

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Posted in 80s, dinosaurs, hitler, kung fu cops, kung fury, omg i wish it was the 80s again, renegade cops, renegade robot cops, the 80s, The Multiverse, turn in your badge and your gun, vikings | Comments (0)