World News in brief: Viking colonies, a Bronze Age hillfort, and Byzantine medicine

A round-up of some of the latest archaeological news from across the globe.

Vikings in North America

It was believed that the Norse settlement of L’Anse aux Meadows in modern-day Newfoundland, Canada, had been occupied for around a decade before its abandonment c.AD 1000. But evidence derived from a new approach to radiocarbon dating, which can date objects to an exact year, suggests that Vikings were present in the area in AD 1021.

Photo: M Kuitems.

Archaeologists analysed samples from pieces of fir and juniper wood scrap bearing Viking tool marks, which still had their bark edges. After locating dendrochronological evidence of a cosmic radiation event known to have occurred in AD 993 (which led to a radiocarbon spike in the atmosphere), the researchers determined the exact year the trees were felled by counting the number of rings present between the anomaly and the bark (or waney) edges of their samples.

The results could indicate either that the site was occupied c.20 years later than previously thought, or that it was occupied sporadically over a longer period. The findings were published in Nature.

Bronze Age hillfort found in France

Most Late Bronze Age hillforts in France average just 4ha, but excavations near Gannat have uncovered the mammoth remains of a hillfort covering c.30ha, fortified with stone walls and a double set of ramparts. The site was found to contain an exceptional number of metal objects, which appear to have been deliberately deposited, perhaps during ritual activity linked to the settlement’s foundation or abandonment.

The hillfort was excavated by archaeologists from the University of Toulouse–Jean Jaurès in 2020 and 2021, and c.800 objects have been recovered from the site. These include two decorated ceramic vases containing dozens of carefully placed bronze items, such as weapons, jewellery, and chariot parts. Other finds included a collection of items inside a pot covered by a plate, and a number of axe blades arranged in a pit.

Gold-standard Byzantine medicine

A 14th-century warrior who was decapitated by the Ottoman army when they captured the fort of Polystylon in Greece in the mid-1380s may have had his jaw wired shut with gold, recent research has suggested.

The study indicates that the warrior’s jaw was fractured around ten years before his death, and the lack of copper staining or discoloration associated with silver suggests a higher-grade metal could have been used to repair his injury. The research also draws attention to the advanced level of medical care the warrior received, which indicates he was a high-status individual, perhaps even the fort’s commander.

The article was published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry.