Viking skeletons that were found in a churchyard about 30 years ago have finally been dated and identified, thanks to new technology. Scientists now think that the evidence strongly suggests that the skeletons belonged to members of the “Viking Great Army,” a group of Scandinavian warriors who invaded England. The new radiocarbon dating indicates that the skeletons were alive during the ninth century which is when the invasion happened, the Independent reports.
According to the Independent, initial analysis of the remains seemed to suggest that each of the skeletons were from different time periods. But the new research reveals that this was caused by the Viking diet. Vikings ate lots of seafood, and when you do that the carbon from their bodies gets incorporated into your bones. The phenomenon, known as “marine reservoir effects,” means that the carbon in the skeletons was older than them at the time. So this confused the carbon dating tests when they were initially found.
But the new technology is more precise and the new tests factored in the marine reservoir effects. Although the results coincide with the time of the Viking invasion, the researchers say that this does not conclusively prove that these were soldiers in the Viking Great Army. However, it does make it more probable and shows that new technology can answer age-old historical questions.
The Viking Great Army, also known as The Great Heathen Army, invasion of England had a lasting effect. According to the National Geographic, villages that end with the prefix “-by” reveal Scandinavian influence because it stems from their word for village. The lead author of the study, Catrine Jarman from The University of Bristol, added that the army’s presence has been recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of manuscripts that documents several years of English history.
They also found some signs that the skeletons had been waging war while they were alive. They were buried alongside weapons such as knives and axes. A grave that was near to the mass grave also revealed that one of the soldiers was buried with a Thor’s hammer pendant and a sword.
The full text of the research was recently published in the journal Antiquity.