World News: Norway, Indonesia, Spain

Viking ship burial in Norway

A Viking ship burial was recently discovered at Gjellestad, Norway, during a ground-penetrating radar survey. It is now being excavated by the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.

The ship is just one part of a massive burial complex at the site, which includes 15 other monumental mounds and at least five buildings. Preliminary findings from the excavation suggest that the ship may have been at least 21m in length, making it one of the largest ship burials ever recovered.

photo: Margrethe K H Havgar, Museum of Cultural History
Photo: Margrethe K H Havgar, Museum of Cultural History

Dendrochronological evidence indicates that the timber for the keel was felled after AD 732, so the burial itself probably dates to between the late AD 700s and the beginning of the 900s. This is in keeping with similar burials in the region, which all date to the 9th or early 10th centuries AD.

Rare burial in Indonesia

Recent analysis of a child burial found in Makpan Cave on Alor Island in south-eastern Indonesia has shed some interesting new light on burial practices in this region during the early to mid-Holocene, around 8,000 years ago.

The skeleton was found near the entrance to the cave during excavations in 2016. It was not found in an anatomically correct position, however, suggesting either that this was a secondary burial or, if it was a primary burial, the child was probably buried after a long period of decomposition. Evidence of ochre was found on the bones of the child’s face and head, indicating that the paint was either transferred from the skin to the bone over time or that the paint had been applied directly to the bone.

Dating a decorated cave

Some of the cave paintings found on the walls of the Sala de las Pinturas in the Ojo Guareña cave in Burgos, Spain, have been successfully radiocarbon dated, confirming that they were created during the Upper Palaeolithic. The oldest paintings appear to have been made using charcoal and date to c.13,000 years ago.

But not all of the artwork was painted at the same time. It seems that the cave continued to hold significance for groups throughout the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, and medieval periods, with artwork continually being added to the walls of the cave. The most recent paintings date to c.1,000 years ago.