Vikings brought their dogs and horses to England, bones confirm | UK News
Vikings brought dogs and horses to Britain, new evidence has been found.
Researchers from Durham University and the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels made the discovery while examining human and animal remains at Britain’s only known Viking cemetery at Heath Wood, Derbyshire.
They found, in the context of their archaeology, that an adult human and a number of animals almost certainly came from the Baltic shield area of Scandinavia, which includes Norway and parts of Sweden, but died shortly after arriving in Britain.
Scientists believe this indicates that the Vikings brought animals from Scandinavia and stole them upon arrival.
The remains in question were found in the remains of the same pyre, leading scientists to believe that the adult human from Scandinavia might have been someone important and capable of bringing a horse and dog to Britain.
Tessi Loeffelmann, PhD student from the two universities and lead author of the project, said: “This is the first solid scientific evidence that Scandinavians are almost certainly increasing our knowledge of the great Viking army as early as the 9th century.
“Our most important primary source, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (a collection of annals in Old English chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons), states that the Vikings took horses from the local people of East Anglia on arrival, but this was clearly not the whole story, and they most likely transported animals along with people on ships.
“It also raises questions about the importance of certain animals to the Vikings.”
The team also examined the rations of strontium in the remains of two adults, a child and three animals on site – an element found naturally in rocks, soil and water before making its way to plants.
When these plants are eaten, strontium replaces the calcium in teeth and bones, acting as a geographic fingerprint due to the different ratios in different parts of the world.
It was discovered that one of the adults and one child could be from the area around Heath Wood, southern or eastern England or Europe – including Denmark and south-west Sweden, which are outside the Baltic Shield region.
However, the remains of the other adult and the three animals (a horse, a dog, and possibly a pig) contained rations of strontium commonly found in the Baltic Shield area.
Researchers suspect that the pig fragment was a piece of game, or possibly another talisman from Scandinavia, rather than a live pig.
Research co-author Professor Janet Montgomery of Durham University’s Department of Archaeology, said: “Our study suggests that people and animals with different mobility histories are buried at Heath Wood and that if they were part of the great Viking army, it consisted of people from different parts of Scandinavia or the British Isles.
“This is also the first published strontium analysis of early medieval cremated remains from Britain and demonstrates the potential this scientific method has to shed more light on this historical period.”
The research also involved archaeologists who excavated the cemetery between 1998 and 2000 from the University of York and a team from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
Professor Julian Richards of the University of York Institute of Archaeology, said: “The Bayeux Tapestry shows Norman cavalry disembarking horses from their fleet before the Battle of Hastings, but this is the first scientific demonstration that Viking warriors were transporting horses to England 200 years earlier .
“It shows how much the Viking leaders valued their personal horses and dogs, that they brought them from Scandinavia and that the animals were sacrificed to be buried with their owners.”
The results are published in the journal PLOS One.