iStock
iStock

Archaeologists Discover Rare Viking Tools in Danish Fortress

iStock
iStock

Archaeologists have discovered the contents of an ancient Viking toolbox, buried at a Danish ring fortress called Borgring. According to Science Nordic, the rare iron tools are the first direct piece of evidence that people lived in the fortress. And since Vikings often melted down abandoned tools for scrap metal, very few of them survived the centuries—making these devices some of the only known artifacts of their kind.

Borgring is more than 1000 years old, and was discovered in 2014 near the town of Køge, on the Danish island of Zealand. Previously, experts had believed that only four Viking forts remained in Denmark.

Excavation leader Jens Ulriksen told The Local DK he hoped the new archaeological site—the first of its kind to be discovered in 60 or so years—would “provide new and crucial knowledge of the enigmatic fortresses and the Viking Age.” However, Borgring didn’t immediately provide experts with any new insights. In fact, initial excavations of the fortress only yielded a single glass bead.

Experts didn’t know when or why the fortress was built, or whether anyone lived there—but the newly discovered tools might help answer the latter question. The artifacts are also historically significant, as Viking Age tools are elusive. The roving warriors prized iron, and any discarded metal objects would have been re-purposed into new equipment.

Archaeologist Nanna Holm and her colleagues dug up the tools, buried under Borgring’s east gatehouse, after amateur archaeologists detected them with metal detectors. The gatehouse may once have served as either a workshop or as housing space. Experts theorize that the toolbox’s owner may have abandoned his equipment (and his residence) after the aging structure collapsed.

In all, 14 tools were found. Their placement indicated that they were likely stored in a box that rotted away. Among them, archaeologists discovered spoon drills used to drill holes in wood, and a drawplate used to make wire bracelets. Holm believes the tools may have belonged to a carpenter.

A CT scan provided archaeologists with a more detailed image of the tools, but some of them were too poorly preserved, or contained too little iron, to be fully captured onscreen. Holm hopes to x-ray them, and eventually, the artifacts will be preserved and put on display. Until then, you can watch Science Nordic journalist Charlotte Price Persson help Holm excavate the tools in the video below.

[h/t Archaeology]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Drought Reveals Ancient Sites in Scotland That Can Only Be Spotted From the Air
iStock
iStock

Typically rainy Scotland is in the middle of an unusually dry summer—and local archaeologists are taking advantage of it. As the BBC reports, the drought has revealed ancient sites, including Roman camps and Iron Age graves, that have been hidden by farm soil for years.

Historic Environment Scotland has been conducting aerial surveys of the country's landscape since the 1930s, but it's in seasons like this, when the crops recede during dry weather, that the buried remains of ancient structures are easiest to spot. Conditions this summer have been the best since 1976 for documenting archaeological sites from the sky.

Aerial view of field.
Historic Environment Scotland

The crescent-shaped crop mark in the photo above indicates a souterrain, or underground passageway, that was built in the Scottish Borders during the Iron Age. The surveyors also found remains of a Roman temporary camp, marked by straight lines in the landscape, built in modern-day Lyne—an area south of Edinburgh already known to have housed a complex of Roman camps and forts.

Aerial view of field.
Historic Environment Scotland

In the image below you'll see four small ditches—three circles and one square—that were likely used as burial sites during the Iron Age. When crops are planted over an ancient ditch, they have more water and nutrients to feed on, which helps them grow taller and greener. Such crops are especially visible during a drought when the surrounding vegetation is sparse and brown.

Aerial view of field.
Historic Environment Scotland

Historic Environment Scotland has a team of aerial surveyors trained to spot the clues: To date, they've discovered more than 9000 archaeological sites from the air. HSE plans to continue scoping out new areas of interest as long as the dry spell lasts.

It's not just in Scotland that long-hidden settlements are coming to light: similar aerial surveys in Wales are finding them too.

[h/t BBC]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Billion-Year-Old Rocks Reveal the First Color Ever Produced by a Living Thing
iStock
iStock

Billions of years ago, before there were plants and animals on Earth, there were rocks, tiny organisms, water, and not much else. It’s hard to envision what our barren planet looked like back then, but scientists now have some idea of what colors dominated the landscape.

As Vice reports, a team of researchers from Australian National University (ANU) were able to pinpoint the oldest colors ever produced by a living creature: purple-red hues dating back more than 1.1 billion years. The pigments, which appear pink when diluted, were found in molecular fossils of chlorophyll that had been preserved in rocks beneath the Sahara desert. A billion years ago, though, this area was “an ancient ocean that has long since vanished,” Nur Gueneli of ANU said in a statement.

Chlorophyll may very well be green, but these pinkish pigments are a result of "fossilized porphyrins, a type of organic compound that forms an atomic ring around a magnesium ion to form a chlorophyll molecule," Vice explains.

While this provides an interesting visual, the color itself is less important than what it reveals about some of the earliest life forms on Earth. Scientists determined that the chlorophyll was produced by ancient organisms called cyanobacteria, which derived energy via photosynthesis and ruled the oceans at that time, researchers wrote in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Larger planktonic algae—a potential food source for bigger life forms— were scarce, which may explain why large organisms didn’t roam the Earth a billion years ago. That kind of algae was about a thousand times larger than the cyanobacteria.

“The cyanobacterial oceans started to vanish about 650 million years ago, when algae began to rapidly spread to provide the burst of energy needed for the evolution of complex ecosystems, where large animals, including humans, could thrive on Earth," ANU associate professor Jochen Brocks said.

So the next time you encounter algae, you can thank it for helping you secure a spot on this planet.

[h/t Vice]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios