sml logo Dark Ages Re-Creation Company sml logo

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Podcasts - An Update

Almost a year ago I posted about podcasts relating to vikings and archaeology. Time for an update!


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 took a dozen to deal with 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

This podcast has undergone some shifts over the past year. 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 time periods up to an including the iron age. Once he got into the viking age he split off looking at vikings in different countries. This includes backstories like episode 23-27 where he covered the Carolingians. Around episode 32 he got a bit bored and changed things mixing in telling stories of characters like Harold finehair. The main thread over the last few months has been a look at the viking culture itself (law, chieftainships, etc). The Viking History itself hasn't shown up at all lately. Has has stayed with his single voice lecture style. I keep listening, and picking up tidbits, but I'd love to hear the same topics covered in more the style of sagathing.

Norse by Northwest

An interesting podcast. Again a single person speaking but the Scottish accent and delivery style on this fellow make it a more enjoyable listen than the Viking Age Podcast. Very infrequent releases (last one was in Sept) and only 7 episodes so far.

Sadly those represent all the Viking podcasts for which I listened to more than one episode. Does anyone have any other ones that they recommend?

Now on to Archaeology Podcasts

Archaeology Podcast Network

APN is absolutely the right place to begin discussing archaeology podcasts. The Archaeology Podcast Network hosts 17 archaeology focused podcasts. I have become a regular listener to several of them. I'm not going to list all of them - just the ones I actually listen to. By all means though please drop by their main page and have a look at all of their offerings. The APN is the brainchild of Chris Webster and he is all through it. Most podcasts have their own hosts talking about topics that interest them, but Chris also hosts several podcasts.


This podcast has a pair of hosts early on it was two Chris' but now it is Chris and Paul. Some episodes bring in guests others are just the two of them. Recent podcasts have included drones, VR, and 3D printing. Episodes run around an hour every other week and the conversation tends to be fun and interactive. A good way to keep up on changing technology in archaeology.


A daily podcast now moving into its second year. Episodes average around 5 minutes and are just a very brief introduction to topics of interest. That can include specific sites (recently they covered L'Anse aux Meadows for example), but it can also be technologies (a sequence last year covered GPR, Resistivity, etc). A nice fast way to keep a little archaeological learning in your days.

Archaeological Fantasies

For those who enjoy a good debunking or discussion of the 'mysterious' in archaeology this is your podcast. Like many APN podcasts this is an hour every couple of weeks. Recent episodes included the Dighton Rock, Djinn, and Haunted Objects. Drifts between 2 and 3 hosts sometimes with guests. Definitely suffers from "remote podcast" problems. Serra is clearly on the console (good audio) but her co-hosts regularly step on her talking and guests can suffer from that and audio quality problems. The content is a great deal of fun though and each host is worth listening too. The sarcasm can get thick.

The Archaeology Show

This one is all over the place with regards to topics: field schools, Ice Age Art, Museums, you name it. Again two hosts (April and Chris) usually an hour every couple of weeks. Fun to listen to - and always something to learn.

Archaeology and Ale

This is definitely an odd one. This is a recording in the upstairs of a pub of lectures given near the University of Sheffield. Audio quality isn't the best as one might expect, and obviously you can't see the slides. Topics can be all over the place as you might expect. And production is irregular at best (last episode was in August). I listen in when the topics catch my eye.


Kim and guests usually discuss books of (prehistoric) interest. Honestly I wasn't sure about this one but I am finding it rather enjoyable. Again as one would expect it is all over the place. The most recent episode discussed Sutcliffe's fictional "Warrior Scarlet" (1958), but two episodes earlier she and some guests were spending the evening in an iron age hill fort talking about stories they enjoy and public archaeology. Call this one a monthly one-hour podcast even if the idea of "month" isn't overly regular.

Moving off the APN there is:

Audio News from Archaeologica

Running about 10 minutes and coming out weekly this one covers 4 news stories about archaeology from the previous week. A good short "news report" - usually there are a couple of things that I enjoyed hearing about in each broadcast.

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 off very stilted. I have been cherry-picking episodes as I find ones where the topic grabs my interest. Very focused on the US archaeology industry. This one may be dead as the last episode posted is from April.

Finally I am also listening to Medieval History for fun and Profit

Dr. Alice R. and Dr. Alice T. of King's college London take turns being the "host" and "guest" as they answer questions about medieval history. Sex, Pets, Magic, Who is the best Medieval Person - they have certainly done some fun questions. Episodes come out every 2-3 weeks and run about an hour. Well worth a listen.

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Wareham Forge makes the News...

... as in 'ThorNews'

ThorNews describes itself as 'a supplier of Norwegian Culture' - with a very heavy load of Viking Age topics represented.

Author Thor Lanesskog had chosen to use an image of a group of replica spears I had made to help illustrate today's blog post :

The Viking Age Spears – “The Ones Who Stare from a Long Distance”


" The majority of the spears are decorated with fish bone patterns, pattern forged along the middle of the blade " 

I sent back a bit of a clarification :

The 'forged pattern' is the result of welding layers of soft and hard iron metals together, then twisting and welding again, most typically to form the core part of a blade. There are some (unresolved) questions about why this method, called 'pattern welding' in archaeology, was undertaken originally. It can provide functional advantages, especially for long blades (so with swords). It may be as simple as building up a larger block when all the smith had were small pieces. The techniques were also clearly used for their decorative effects. Spears using pattern welding a very good example.
'Wolf's Tooth' actually refers to a specific effect caused by a specific method of working with the starting layered bars. I would refer you to the work of British blacksmith Owen Bush, who I know has investigated how to duplicate those specific patterns. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

DARC at Vinland - seen on ExARC!

Neil Peterson, with additions from DARC members Marcus, Kate and Karen, has had a very complete summary of the group's July 2107 presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC published in the journal ExARC.

To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary and the 20th anniversary of the historical interpretation program at L’Anse aux Meadows, NHSC, Parks Canada invested to extend their regular staff with a 10 day special program. Darrell Markewitz, the designer of the original program, and the Dark Ages Recreation Company (DARC) returned once again to this UNESCO World Heritage site to interact with the staff and public and mount displays of various craft activities.

The article details the public presentations and experimental archaeology projects carried out over the 11 day stay by a total of 14 DARC members.
Mounting such a major display, 3000 km from home base in Ontario, represents a major effort for DARC.

Next up for the group? 

Participating in the Royal Ontario Museum's presentation of 'Vikings' - a traveling exhibit from the Swedish History Museum

Monday, October 9, 2017

Review: Making glass beads from the past

Making glass beads from the past

EuroREA 7 (2010) Jannika GRIMBE
This is a nice little (4 page) article on Jannika's experimental bead making. The first page covers the usual archaeological evidence and background on Viking Era beadmaking. There are a lot of assumptions being made, and statements for which I would love to see citations. For example, the metal plate from Ribe is presented conclusively as a pre-heating plate for glass fragments before adding them to a punty rod. While that is one possible idea there are other suggestions for that plate that have been made over the years. Her final bullet point in the archaeological section mentioned that "Analyses of 'non-glass' rests in the bead holes of beads from Ribe prove the use of separators". Statements like that really do require citations. On the plus side, a citation does appear on page three when the point is repeated.

The second page begins with a discussion of the furnaces. Sadly, she begins her discussion with "Since there is no knowledge about what the prehistoric furnaces looked like". This is simply false. The hearths from Ribe have published shapes and dimensions. Any effort to re-create the furnaces must begin with an understanding of that basic fact. If your furnace design is going to deviate from those bases you need to explain why you chose to do so.

The practical experiments were quite interesting as she worked heavily with punty rods. This isn't something we have done a lot of work with ourselves but is certainly a reasonable area to explore. I am happy to see someone exploring it. A method she did not try for working with a punty rod, which we have done, and is done today by Turkish beadmakers is to use a crucible to collect and melt the fragments. The rod can then be inserted into the crucible and the glass collected on it for future use. See for example The experimental sequence involving resists ("rests" according to the article),  is very much worth the read. Some good basic options of clay and salt are tested and discussed. Overall a good experimental summary.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

the Galloway Hord...

At the National Museum of Scotland - Edenburgh :

Lower groupping of arm 'rings'

Upper grouping of ingots and worked strips

Revealed in the two cases above :
- Several of the ingots were clearly made in the same top poured mould. There was a distinctive knob feature seen, from a deeper cut to one end of the mould.
- The arm rings were all considerably thicker in cross section than I previously thought. (Exact L x W x H x weight is rarely indicated.)
- Seeing the ingots and the arm rings side by side certainly suggested that the arm rings were made by simply hammering flat the ingots. The sizes of the bracelets was very uniform, and the volume of metal from ingot into ring was very consistent.
- You also can see that all of the 'rings' are in fact flattened strips - not formed into C shapes at all.
This might easily have been done to keep the package of silver small for burial. That many of the bracelets have been deliberately turned over and squished flat on one or both does suggest that all the silver, worked or ingot, was only intended as silver weight.

Pair of fine silver hinged strap orniments - considered very unusual for VA finds

These large glass pieces were described as 'beads'
The large flattened disks were roughly 3 - 4 cm in diameter, with hole diameters approaching 1 cm.
The largest, to the lower right, was almost double even that mass of glass.
Taken together, this huge size suggests to me that these might easily have been intended as spindle whorls.

Not everything from the Hord was on display. Especially most of the more 'unusual' objects (likely still under preservation work).
For more images - go to the Galloway Hord at the NMS

We have to raise £1.98 million to save the Hoard, and in addition we need  to raise additional funds to properly conserve, research and prepare the Galloway Hoard for display, (NMS web site)
 The Hoard was uncovered by a single individual, so it would fall under Scottish 'Treasure Trove' law. It appears that although technically all  such finds revert 'ownership' to the Scottish Crown, in practice, an independant pannel determines a 'market value', which museums normally pay to the original finder.

Images :
The National Museum of Scotland allows for full photography in all its galleries.
All the images above were taken by myself on August 9, 2017
Although captured as photographs, the copyright to the text panels really rests with the NMS.

Cross Posted from 'Hammered Out Bits'

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Adventures of 'Snorrette'

Well, here I am at the Crannog.
Sorry that I'm such a mess - I still can't seem to find all my clothes!

The iron smelt here was a bit of a mess, mainly from rushing things and limited tools to fix problems as they happened. If you want to see any of that, do check the blog post.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Iron Smelt at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC

This is a fast report on the bloomery iron smelt undertaken by a Parks Canada team, with some assistance from DARC, on Sunday July 16, 2017 - at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC.
This was in conjunction with 'Historic Sites Day' - and in turn part of the ongoing Canada 150 events.

This is only the second time in the modern era that iron has been smelted at LAM, since Leif Eirikson and his crew undertook the process some time about 1000 AD.

This iron smelt was a very long one.

The 'smelt master' was Mark Pilgrim ('Little Ragnar'). He and I started at 7:00 am with the organization and pre-heat.
Main sequence start with ungraded charcoal at 10:45
(from here on constant bellows work by Ian / Kevin / 'Thorstien')
First ore (DD2 Analog) at 12:00
A bit of mix up there, poor communications / instruction (?) resulted
in the first charge being a full 2 kg , followed by a more normal 1 kg
Burn times ran an average of about 20 minutes each (fastest = 17 /
slowest = 29)
Total of 29 kg ore was charged, last addition at 5:36

Although the normal burn down to ready for extraction was finished at
6:45, the extraction was delayed to about 7:30 to allow the visiting
group from C-3 to assemble.
The end result of this was that the furnace interior had cooled, the
normally white hot bloom had shifted down to at best a bright orange.
This in turn resulted in great difficulty separating the bloom from
the slag bowl - and the slag bowl becoming completely frozen to the
furnace walls.
Mark undertook the extraction process, but in the end had to break the
furnace apart to free the mass.

Top of Bloom - showing 'scoop' from air blast.

The end result was a 5.5 kg bloom. Yield = 19 %

This is still a bit lacy on the outside, due to initial compaction
being undertaken well below the normal welding heat. Still the bloom
looks and feels quite solid under the hammer. This a marked contrast
to the crumbly texture of the 2010 results.

Cut (and broken) along the mid line. Top 'half' is to left.

Impressive work by all involved!