Colorful New Finds at Iron Age Site in Ørland, Norway

An apparently wealthy Iron Age settlement has been found in Ørland, Norway. Archaeologists in Norway have long suspected that Ørland may yield notable new finds—the site is between three notable bodies of water—but they have not had access to the site. This situation has recently changed. New facilities have been ordered to make room at the Ørland Main Air Station for recent acquisitions by the Royal Norwegian Air Force (Luftsforsvaret) and Norwegian laws requires that an archaeological survey must be conducted before construction can begin.

The suspicions of archaeologists were confirmed when the digs began and a settlement from around 500 CE was discovered. Both the size of the site and the workforce used for the dig are notable—the area to be examined is sizable and around 20 individuals will be working in the field. Archaeologists have 40 weeks to work at the site.

The site has already yielded a variety of notable finds, including colorful glass items. Gemini reports:

"Synne H. Rostad operates a standing sieve to sift out smaller bones and objects from the dirt." Photo by Åge Hojem, NTNU University Museum, via Gemini press release.

This, Ystgaard says, is a bonanza, because the size of the area allows archaeologists to see how different longhouses, garbage pits and other finds relate to each other.

“We’re really able to put things in context because the area is so big,” she said. The size of the dig also means there are lots of archaeologists at work, and for a long time.

... the team has also found lots of old animal and fish bones – mainly because the soil in the area is made from ground-up seashells, which isn’t very acidic. Normally, soil in Norway tends to be more acidic, and eats away at bones.

“Nothing like this has been examined anywhere in Norway before,” Ystgaard said.

There are enough bones to figure out what kinds of animals they came from, and how the actual animal varieties relate to today’s wild and domesticated animals, she said. The archaeologists have also found fish remains, from both salmon and cod, and the bones from seabirds, too.

The middens have also provided others surprises.  One was a delicate blue glass bead and several amber beads, too, suggesting the former residents liked their bling. Another was the remains of a green drinking glass that was characteristic of imports from the Rhine Valley in Germany.

This last is also a testament to how well off the former residents of this area were, Ystgaard said. “It says something that people had enough wealth to trade for glass."

Julius Caesar's Massacre of the Usipetes and Tencteri and Recent Archaeological Developments

The Tusculum Portrait, a copy of a contemporaneous portrait of Julius Caesar. Photograph via Wikimedia Commons.

Recent discoveries in the Netherlands have shed new light on a massacre ordered in 55 BCE by Roman general Julius Caesar.

The massacre remained obscure until December of 2015, when a group of archaeologists at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam announced that they had discovered the site of the massacre in the present-day Netherlands. The discovery has led to significant media attention. For example, the Guardian reports:

The tribes were massacred in the fighting with the Roman general in 55BC, on a battle site now in Kessel, in the southern province of Brabant.

Skeletons, spearheads, swords and a helmet have been unearthed at the site over the past three decades. But now carbon dating as well as other historical and geochemical analysis have proved the items dated to the 1st century BC, the VU University in Amsterdam said.

“It is the first time the presence of Caesar and his troops on Dutch soil has been explicitly shown,” said Nico Roymans, an archaeologist at the institution.

A report at Past Horizons features photographs of items from the excavation sites.

In chapters 13 and 14 of book 4 of his Commentarii de Bello Gallico, Julius Caesar describes how he ordered a massacre of the children and women of the Usipetes and the Tencteri during a truce. These two peoples had fled the territory of the Suebi, a large confederation of Germanic peoples. Plutarch records that Roman statesman Cato the Younger—a contemporary and major critic of Julius Caesar—responded to news of the massacre by saying that Rome should turn Caesar over to the remaining Usipetes and Tenchtheri (see chapter 51 of Plutarch's biography on Cato the Younger).

This, of course, didn't happen—history would certainly have turned out differently if it somehow had!—and Caesar went on to play a pivotal role in the conversion of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. Whether the Usipetes and the Tencteri were Germanic or Celtic peoples (or both) is unclear. While Caesar describes them as Germanic and they lived among the Suebi, their names appear to be Celtic.