Great heathen army arrived in England with the animals

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists from the UK and the Netherlands analyzed the isotopic composition of strontium in the bones of three people, a horse, a dog and, apparently, a pig, which were found during excavations at the Heath Wood burial mound.

As a result of this work, they found out that the Great Heathen Army of the Viking Age arrived in England in the second half of the 8th century along with animals.

At the same time, the studied people themselves could come from different regions of Scandinavia, as well as from the territory of the British Isles.

The time from the end of the 8th to the middle of the 11th century in European history is traditionally referred to as the Viking Age.

One of the well-known episodes of this period is the campaign of the so-called Great Pagan Army to England, as reported in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

According to this written source, in 865 the Scandinavians landed in the east of England and raided different kingdoms for many years.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in 873 the Vikings set up a winter camp in the modern county of Derbyshire. Archaeological excavations have confirmed this.

So, in Repton, scientists discovered the remains of a settlement and a large collective burial, which contained the remains of at least 264 adults.

In addition, near Ingleby, the burial mound Heath-Wood, created by the Scandinavians, was explored. In total, archaeologists have identified 59 burial mounds here, 20 of which have been excavated.

At the same time, not all of them contained the cremated remains of people. Perhaps some of the structures are cenotaphs.

Great heathen army arrived in England with the animals 2
Location of the Heath Wood burial mounds and the movement of the Great Pagan Army across Britain

Tessi Löffelmann from Durham University, together with colleagues from Belgium and the UK, decided to use the analysis of the isotopic composition of strontium to find out the origin of people and animals whose remains were found in the Heath Wood burial ground.

To do this, they selected the cremated bones of three people, two of whom died between the ages of 18 and 45, and one more under the age of seven.

In addition, for research, scientists took the bones of a horse, a dog, and, probably, a pig, found along with the remains of an adult in one of the barrows.

The ratio of the isotopes of strontium-87 and strontium-86 indicated that the adult man and animals from mound No. 50 clearly do not originate from the region where their remains were found.

Although a similar isotopic composition may reflect life in parts of the British Isles, scientists believe that, given the archaeological context, humans and animals most likely arrived in England from the Baltic Shield (most of Norway, central and northern Sweden, and part of Finland).

Great heathen army arrived in England with the animals 3
Plan of the Heath-Wood burial mound

At the same time, another adult and a child, judging by the isotopic composition of strontium, could grow up in the vicinity of the Heath Wood burial ground.

According to the researchers, they may have grown in the south or south-east of England, although they could well have arrived here from Denmark or south-western Sweden.

Scientists believe that the results obtained may reflect the different origins of people from the Great Pagan Army.

This military unit may have included individuals from various parts of Scandinavia and/or the British Isles, which is consistent with studies of other Viking Age sites.

At the same time, the data obtained represent the first direct evidence that not only the Vikings crossed the North Sea in the 9th century, but also their animals.


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