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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Lady in Blue

The Lady in Blue-Bláklædda Konan: the textiles. National Museum of Iceland.
contributions from Michele Hayeur Smith (textile analysis), Greg Rebis (illustration) and Kevin Smith (dating the grave).

This article is largely co-written by DARC's old friends Michele Hayeur Smith and Kevin Smith. Michele and Kevin are archaeologists with a long history of working in Iceland, and in this article they take on the Lady in Blue. In 2014, some remains of the Lady's body and grave goods were found in the National Museum of Iceland. Throughout 2014 and 2015, an extensive project was undertaken to reconstruct the life, death and identity of this early Icelander.

I found the detailed level of analysis available in the article, and the science that clearly went into it to be fascinating. Some of it goes right over my head, some of it leaves me jealous of the opportunities that Kevin and Michele have to work this close to historical detail! Well written, easy to understand and very carefully analyzed, this article is a great read. I can almost picture the life of the Lady in Blue in early Icelandic history.

The article is available at this site:

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Glassworking at Åhus (Callmer & Henderson)

Glassworking at Åhus, S.Sweden (eighth century AD)
Johan Callmer and Julian Henderson

This article poses some very interesting questions about glass working in terms of skill levels, number of workers and so on.  Although the authors draw some conclusions at the end due to the scarcity of materials I don't think their answers to many of these questions are well supported by the Ahus finds, even though I agree with them in the larger context of Viking Era bead making evidence.

It also adds to the base of knowledge on bead working furnaces by telling us "Two severely damaged ovens were found as well as numerous pieces of completely destroyed ones" (p. 143). Over 71,000 pieces of glass working material were found on site. A solid discussion of the glass material finds is included in the article, including a typology for glass materials. Types of beads, decorations styles, colours are also covered as one would expect from Callmer.

On a social level the authors consider the working staff to have been at least 4 workers.  Two assigned to working with the glass, drawing rods, making reticella, and so on; and two devoted to tending to the furnace itself.

The article also presents preliminary chemical analysis of various glass material allowing at least some of the material to be linked to Roman mosaic sources.

 Link to article

Thursday, February 23, 2017


It occurred to me that it is worth talking a bit about podcasts.  I've been listening to a few lately and I would be interested in hearing about your favorites.


If you aren't already a fan... go there now, download an episode and put it on in the background while you finish reading this blog.  Go on. 

Sagathing is two medieval history profs out of the US (John and Andy).  They are working their way through the family sagas.  Episodes run 60 to 90 minutes.  Usually 1-2 episodes per saga although they are headed into episode 10 about Njal's Saga.  Each saga is summarized and discussed, then judged on a number of criteria including 'best bloodshed' and 'best nickname'.  The interaction between the two podcasters is quite enjoyable.  While I'm sure they have a plan for a given episode I doubt there is a script.  The conversation really makes this a very enjoyable podcast although I miss the ability to talk back to them.  I look forward to each new episode.

Viking Age

I've just started this one. I'm up to episode 10 so although I have heard enough to comment it is certainly possible that as I work through episodes 11-27 that the podcast may change.  This is one host and it very much comes across as a recorded, scripted lecture.  It makes it easy to drift off while he is talking.  The content is reasonable enough and I expect to learn some things as we move forward.  The podcast begins with the settlement of Scandinavia back before 10000 BCE.  The first half dozen episodes (a half hour each give or take) move through the various timeperiods up to an including the iron age.  Episode 7 gets into the viking era.  Worth a listen so far but not at all like Sagathing.

Archaeology Podcast Network

The Archaeology Podcast Network hosts 17 archaeology focused podcasts.  I have listened to one of them so far.  If you have listened to others I'd love to hear your opinion of them.


This podcast has a small team consisting of two Chris' who bring in various guests to talk about specific topics.  Recent podcasts have included drones, VR, and 3D printing.  Episodes run around an hour and the conversation tends to be fun and interactive.

Naked Archaeology

I also listened to a few episodes of this now defunct series of half hour podcasts.  Some fun topics in there, it makes me sad they didn't keep going.

Indiana Jones: Myth, Reality, and 21st Century Archaeology

Like Viking Age this is a single speaker but all of the episodes I have heard have been him interviewing different people.  He isn't the best interviewer I've heard and the interactions come of very stilted.  I have been cherry-picking episodes as I find ones where the topic grabs my interest.  Very focussed on the US archaeology industry.

Alright - your turn. What archaeology or Viking Era podcasts do you listen to and what do you think of them?

Friday, February 17, 2017

An Archaeological Fashion Show (Holtorf)

AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL FASHION SHOW: How Archaeologists Dress and How they are Portrayed in the Media. Cornelius Holtorf  in Archaeology and the Media, Left Coast Press, 2007

I have always been aware of the difference between dirty boots archaeologists and suit and tie archaeologists.  It amused me to no end to find an academic writing on the topic and better yet it refers to other papers on the same topic.

The article is well written with a great sense of humour. The photographs offered so that you can see the three main dress styles used by archaeologists alone are worth a smile.  The article contains quotes from online discussions between different archaeologists, references to Time Team, survey results, and a discussion of why the topic matters at all.  Quick hint - even the vikings knew people judge you by what you wear.

It doesn't add a great deal to the deep discussion of archaeologists fashion sensibility but on the plus side the descriptions of the different styles of Indiana Jones Fedora are invaluable in helping to understand when a particular style is de-rigeur. link

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hotel Valhalla Guide to Norse Worlds

This was a midwinter's gift from my lovely wife and I finally got around to reading it.  Designed to accompany Rick Riordan's "Magnus Chase" books this volume provides additional background information on the Norse afterlife.

It is clearly aimed at a young adult level and its 150 pages don't exactly take a long time to read.  It does review many of the Gods, mystical and fantastical beasts.  These reviews are both light hearted and informative.  Clearly my own research is now out of date as I hadn't known for example that the dwarfs of Nidavellir now accept most major credit cards when purchasing many of the wonderful things they make.

The interviews provided by Snorri Sturlusson of several Gods and beings are certainly up to his normal writing standards.

All in all if you have an hour free this book makes a nice light read that adds a smile and several bits of amusingly fictitious data to your life.

Monday, October 24, 2016

MIA - Snorri : 2000 - 2016

It is with a very heavy heart I have to announce that Snorri, DARC's travelling gnome, is Missing in Action.

Snorri was last seen on Sunday September 11, at the ARTifact's - Pruszkow Archaeological Festival in Poland.

Snorri was easily the most traveled member of DARC. His first voyage with us was to take part in the Norstead demostration at L'Anse aux Meadows Newfoundland in 2000. On that trip he substituted for Thorgrimmir (who could make that trip). Since then he has accompanied many of us in DARC on various adventures. In my company alone he has made several trips back to Vinland, any number of trips throughout Canada, to the USA, Ireland, Scotland, Belgium and finally Poland as his last seen destination. This is hardly the full list of his travels, as he accompanied so many members of DARC on individual voyages.

Snorri supervised my two iron smelting demonstrations at the Pruszkow event:
Snorri examining the remains of the first iron smelt at Pruszkow (The last image of him)
Snorri again supervised the second smelt there that happened on the Sunday. The last time he was clearly seen was at the end of the extraction process that day, about 4 - 5 pm. He had been comfortably sitting on our side work table at that point.
Everyone then gathered away from our work area to assist in the massive effort of dismantling the huge 'Roman' style furnace (1.5 m ID x 2.3 m tall). The team then returned to our station and started to pack up equipment and clean up our equipment.
Honestly, both Kelly and I had thought the other had collected Snorri at the end of that exhausting working day. The next morning, as we packed to leave for our plane out of Poland, Snorri was not to be found...

Some images from Snorri's last trip in our company:
Superivising the Ypres 2016 work.
Hamming it up with the locals in Ypres
Always the Viking - checking 'valuables' in Ypres Cathedral
That's one BIG dog - outside Passendale.
Sharing one last beer (with Dan Nickles) at Ypres 2016
Instructing 'Loki' - Smelt 1 at Pruszkow
You can see that Snorri certainly enjoyed his travels around Ypres as part of the Ypres 2016 project. He continued providing his long experience with many iron smelting experiments at the Pruszkow ARTifacts event.

Snorri has been well known for this roving eye with the ladies. (On more than one occasion in the past he has been known to 'miss the boat' because he has dallied too long with some fair maid!) It is our hope that his absence in Poland is just due to another time he wandered off in the company of some pretty girl.

He most certainly will be missed, and I offer my best wishes to him - where ever he may now voyage...

Extreme apologies to all of DARC, especially to Steve!
I had waited to announce this, because I wanted to double check with the Museum staff hosting the event, and also the other team members working in our area. As it turned out, none of them remember seeing Snorri past late afternoon Sunday either. He certainly was not present when the museum staff returned later the following day to clean the working areas.
Most likely what happened is a member of the public 'jumped the rope line' while the rest of us were occupied with dismantling the large furnace.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Glass beads page updated

Over the years many people have been frustrated by the concept of 'intensity' on the glass beads page.  The page, and all of the bead charts have now been updated to reflect the actual numbers of the beads.  A few new thoughts and ways of looking at the beads have also been added.

Have a look and let us know what you think!