Viking ‘shipyard’ found on Isle of Skye

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) and marine archaeologists are investigating a 12th century Norse shipbuilding site on the Isle of Skye

Investigations at Loch na h-Airde on Skye’s Rubh an Dunain peninsula have uncovered the remains of a possible medieval shipyard, including boat timbers dating from the 1100s, a stone-built quay, a man-made entrance canal, and a blockage system designed to keep a constant water level in the Loch.

Loch na h-Airde, Rubh an Dunain, Isle of Skye

In the bottom right of the image is Loch na h-Airde on Skye’s Rubh an Dunain pennisula. The Loch – with a man-made canal linking it to the sea – is now believed to be the site of a 12th century Viking ‘shipyard’. (c) Edward Martin

* More about this site

Archaeologists now believe that the site has been a focus for maritime activity for many centuries, from the Vikings to the MacAskill and Macleod clans of Skye. The loch and canal would likely have been used for the secure wintering of boats, along with their construction and maintenance.

Colin Martin, a marine archaeologist specialising in ship wrecks who is investigating Loch na h-Airde said, “This site has enormous potential to tell us about how boats were built, serviced and sailed on Scotland’s western seaboard in the medieval period – and perhaps during the early historic and prehistoric eras as well. There is no other site quite like this in Scotland.”

RCAHMS aerial survey team have been assisting in the investigation with reconnaissance flights photographing the loch and the surrounding area. As well as providing a context for the site in the landscape – helping to explain where and how 12th century mariners lived and worked – the imagery will also be used at high resolution by ground surveyors to identify possible dive sites for ship and other remains.

RCAHMS Aerial Survey Manager Dave Cowley said, “We are now so used to thinking about travelling round Scotland by roads, that it is difficult to visualise how our ancestors might have used the sea as a highway, connecting communities across these maritime landscapes. The aerial perspective gives us an excellent sense of this, showing the inter-relations of land and sea, and helping us to understand how people may have travelled, traded – and fought – on the waters around Scotland’s western isles.”

The ongoing aim of the investigation is to build up the most accurate possible picture of the site’s historical significance to Scotland’s western seaboard, allowing landowners and other heritage bodies to map out a plan for its future conservation and preservation.

Source: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland


Viking Woman’s face has been reconstructed

image shows the reconstructed face from a female skeleton

Academics at the University of Dundee have helped recreate the most accurate picture of Viking life yet as part of a £150k investment at York’s JORVIK Viking Centre.

York Archaeological Trust, owner of JORVIK, has used the most advanced scientific and archaeological research techniques to bring York’s Vikings to life and allow the public to come face to face with the most accurate picture of Vikings at two new exciting exhibitions at the Centre, launched this week.

The Trust has enlisted the skills of academics at the University of Dundee to produce a facial reconstruction of a female skeleton – one of four excavated at Coppergate in York over 30 years ago.

Says Caroline Erolin, Lecturer at the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee, “We laser scanned the skull to create a 3D digital model onto which we could produce the reconstruction. The reconstruction process is carried out utilising specialist computer equipment which allows the user to ‘feel’ what they are modelling on screen. The anatomy of the face is modelled in ‘virtual clay’ from the deep muscles to the superficial.

“I was pleased to be involved in this project as 10 year previous as a medical art student I produced 2D reconstruction artwork of an individual from Fishergate in York as a part of my Masters research project, which ended up on display at JORVIK. It was good to be involved with the attraction again, this time through my post as a medical artist at the University of Dundee.”

Janice Aitken, Lecturer & Researcher at the University of Dundee, took Caroline’s digital reconstruction and added the lifelike finishing touches. Says Janice, “I use the same sort of software as is used to create 3D animations in the film industry. I digitally created realistic eyes, hair and bonnet and added lighting to create a natural look. It is very satisfying knowing that the work we create at Dundee University will be seen by thousands of visitors to JORVIK and being part of a process which can so vividly help people to identify with their ancestors.”

York Archaeological Trust’s new Investigate Coppergate exhibition examines the Vikings’ diet, displays the Viking facial reconstruction and also investigates the diseases from which the Vikings suffered. The concluding The end of the Vikings exhibition looks at the final battles of Viking-age in York that heralded the end of the Viking era and the coming of the Normans. It features skeletal remains showing battle wounds and a full skeleton with evidence of severe trauma, alongside discussion about how they died.

Says Sarah Maltby, York Archaeological Trust Director of Attractions, “Archaeological research capabilities have moved on considerably since the original Coppergate excavations which took place over 30 years ago. The new exhibition areas mark a shift in how archaeological finds are analysed and the techniques available to researchers. We now have a much more accurate and physical image of what Viking life was like, what they ate, what they wore and even what they looked like thanks to Dundee University – all of which is now on display at JORVIK.”

Visit or call 01904 543400 for more information on the new exhibitions at JORVIK Viking Centre.

For more information or interview opportunities please contact Hannah Trinder or Karen Nixon at Partners PR on 01904 610077 / /

Click here to go the JORVIK website

Source: University of Dundee

Beli Mawr

Beli Mawr or Beli ‘the Great’ is Apollo Belenos, Apollo the Bright or Shining One. The earliest Welsh genealogies make his father one Afallach, who as we have seen can be equated with the Irish Ablach of Emain Ablach, the Apple Orchard Otherworld. His mother was ‘Anna’, i.e. the goddess Anu.

In Arthurian romance Beli Mawr is called Pellinore. In the 12th century, Johannes Cornubiensis identified Caer Beli or the Fort of Beli with Ashbury Camp near Week St. Mary in Cornwall. This fort he also termed the ‘Fatale Castrum’ or Deadly Castle. However, this is an error, as Ashbury Camp is an unremarkable hill-fort. Instead, Ashbury, Oxfordshire is the actual site of the original Cair Beli. This is where we find the famous Neolithic chambered tomb now known as Wayland’s Smithy. Wayland was the smith-god of the invading Saxons. The Smithy is near the Uffington White Horse and one of the primary symbols of Belenos in Gaul is the horse.

Beli as Apollo is associated with Stonehenge, as Geoffrey of Monmouth has the Britons slain by the Saxons at this great ritual centre on May 1st or Beltane, the day of ‘Beli’s Fire’. Stonehenge, of course, is just a little south of the Wayland’s Smithy chambered tomb and the Uffington White Horse.

As Stonehenge was a great astronomical observatory concerned primarily with the motion of the sun through the year, a motion which defines our measurement of time, Beli should be invoked for any matter that is time sensitive or requires calculations and computations. He is the horse that unfailingly gallops across the sky 365 days a year. As such, he is also useful for purposes of steadfastness and determination or single-mindedness of purpose. He is a prophet in the sense that like the future, the course of the sun is always predictable. Finally, he is the god of resurrection, as the sun is reborn every Winter Solstice. Archaeo-astronomers have confirmed that the Winter Solstice was observed annually at Stonehenge.

Excerpt from the book The Secrets of Avalon by August Hunt.


Old Norse Women’s Poetry: The Voices of Female Skalds

Following the latest tradition about the Medieval Scandinavian Woman Studies, the new publication detailing in an unprecedented manner the women’s poetry onto this literary sources.

Old Norse Women’s Poetry

The Voices of Female Skalds

Sandra Ballif Straubhaar

The rich and compelling corpus of Old Norse poetry is one of the most important and influential areas of medieval European literature. What is less well known, however, is the quantity of the material which can be attributed to women skalds. This book, intended for a broad audience, presents a bilingual edition (Old Norse and English) of this material, from the ninth to the thirteenth century and beyond, with commentary and notes. The poems here reflect the dramatic and often violent nature of the sagas: their subject matter features Viking Age shipboard adventures and shipwrecks; prophecies; curses; declarations of love and of revenge; duels, feuds and battles; encounters with ghosts; marital and family discord; and religious insults, among many other topics. Their authors fall into four main categories: pre-Christian Norwegian and Icelandic skáldkonur of the Viking Age; Icelandic skáldkonur of the Sturlung Age (thirteenth century); additional early skáldkonur from the Islendingasögur and related material, not as historically verifiable as the first group; and mythical figures cited as reciting verse in the legendary sagas (fornaldarsögur).

About the Author:

Sandra Ballif Straubhaar is Senior Lecturer in Germanic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.


1. Introduction
2. Part 1: Verse Translations and Commentary
3. Real People, Real Poetry
4. Quasi-Historical People and Poetry
5. Visionary Women: Women’s Dream-Verse
6. Legendary Heroines
7. Magic-Workers, Prophetesses and Alien Maidens
8. Trollwomen
9. Part 2: Prose Translations
10. Glossary of Names: Persons and Weapons
11. Time Line
12. Bibliography

Further Details

First Published: 21 April 2011
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843842712
Pages: 158
Size: 21.6 x 13.8
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: D.S.Brewer
Series: Library of Medieval Women
Subject: Medieval Literature

The Thirteen Treasures of Britain

The Treasures of Britain
From the Drawing by E. Wallcousins
It is in keeping with the mythological character of Arthur that the early Welsh tales recorded of him are of a different nature from those which swell the pseudo-histories of Nennius 1 and of Geoffrey of Monmouth. We hear nothing of that subjugation of the countries of Western Europe which fills so large a part in the two books of the Historia Britonum which Geoffrey has devoted to him. Conqueror he is, but his conquests are not in any land known to geographers. It is against Hades, and not against Rome, that he achieves his highest triumphs. This is the true history of King Arthur, and we may read more fragments and snatches of it in two prose-tales preserved in the Red Book of Hergest. Both these tales date, in the actual form in which they have come down to us, from the twelfth century. But, in each of them, the writer seems to be stretching out his hands to gather in the dying traditions of a very remote past.

Tri Thlws ar Ddeg Ynys Prydain

1. Dyrnwyn the sword of Rhydderch Hael; if any man drew it except himself, it burst into a flame from the cross to the point, and all who asked it received it; but because of this property all shunned it. and therefore was he called Rhydderch Hael.
2. The basket of Gwyddno Garanhir; if food for one man were put into it, when opened it would be found to contain food for one hundred.
3. The horn of Bran Galed; what liquor soever was desired was found therein.
4. The chariot of Morgan Mwynvawr; whoever sat in it would be immediately wheresoever he wished.
5. The halter of Clydno Eiddyn, which was in a staple below the feet of his bed; and whatever horse he wished for in it, he would find it there.
6. The knife of Llawfrodded Farchawg; which would serve four and-twenty men at meat all at once.
7. The cauldron of Tyrnog; if meat were put in it to boil for a coward it would never be boiled, but if meat were put in it for a brave man it would be boiled forthwith.
8. The whetstone of Tudwal Tudelud; if the sword of a brave man were sharpened thereon, and any one were wounded therewith, he would be sure to die, but if it were that of a coward that was sharpened on it, he would be none the worse.
9. The garment of Padarn Beisrudd; if a man of gentle birth put it on, it suited him well, but if a churl it would not fit him.
10, 11. The pan and the platter of Rhegynydd Ysgolhaig; whatever food was required was found therein.
12. The chessboard of Gwenddolen; when the men were placed upon it, they would play of themselves. The chessboard was of gold, and the men of silver.
13. The mantle of Arthur; whosoever was beneath it could see everything, while no one could see him.
This version is slightly different from that given by another sources (Jones’ Welsh Bards) which omits the halter of Clydno Eiddyn, but adds the mantle of Tegau Eurvron, which would only fit such ladies as were perfectly correct in their conduct. Jones’ version also included the ring of Luned (whoever concealed the stone of this ring became invisible), by which she effected the release of Owain the son of Urien, as has already been seen in the story of the Lady of the Fountain.

The Eagle

The Eagle will be release 25 March 2011 (UK)

Plot Summary

The Eagle is a 2011 historical epic film directed by Kevin Macdonald, starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, and Donald Sutherland. Adapted by Jeremy Brock from Rosemary Sutcliff’s historical adventure novel The Eagle of the Ninth (1954), the film tells the story of a young Roman officer searching to recover the lost Roman eagle standard of his father’s legion in the northern part of Great Britain. The story is based on the Ninth Spanish Legion’s supposed disappearance in Britain.

Set in the year 140, twenty years after the Ninth Legion disappeared in the north of Britain, Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young Roman centurion, arrives in Britain to serve at his first post as a garrison commander. Aquila’s father was the last to hold the eagle standard of the ill-fated legion, and Aquila hopes to redeem his family’s honor by bravely serving in Britain. Shortly afterwards, only Aquila’s bravery saves the garrison from being overrun by Celtic tribesman. He is decorated for his bravery but honorably discharged due to a severe leg injury.

Living at his uncle’s estate near Calleva in southern Britain, Aquila has to cope with his military career having been cut short and his father’s name still being held in disrepute. Heeding rumors that the eagle standard has been seen in the north of Britain, Aquila decides to recover it. Despite the warnings of his uncle and his fellow Romans, who believe that no Roman can survive north of Hadrian’s Wall, Aquila travels north into the territory of the Picts, accompanied only by his British slave Esca. Esca, the son of a Brigantes chieftain, detests Rome and what it stands for, but also considers himself bound to his master, who saved his life during an amphitheater show.

After several weeks of traveling through the northern wilderness, Esca and Aquila encounter Guern, one of the survivors of the Ninth Legion, who attributes his survival on the hospitality of the Selgovae tribe. Guern recalls that all but a small number of deserters were killed in an ambush by the northern tribes, including Esca’s Brigantes and that the eagle standard was taken away by the Seal People, the most vicious of the tribes. The two travel further north until they are found by the Seal People. Identifying as a chieftain’s son fleeing Roman rule and claiming Aquila as his slave, Esca is welcomed by the tribe. After allowing the Seal People to mistreat Aquila, Esca eventually reveals that his actions were a ploy and helps his master to find the eagle. As they retrieve it, they are ambushed by several warriors, including the Seal Prince’s father, but Marcus and Esca manage to kill them and escape with the eagle standard. With the aid of the Seal Prince’s young son, Esca and Marcus manage to escape the Seal People’s village.

The two flee south to reach Hadrian’s Wall, with the Seal People in hot pursuit. Aquila, slowed by his old battle wound, orders Esca to take the eagle back to Roman territory and even grants the reluctant slave his freedom. Freed, Esca still refuses to abandon his friend and instead heads out to look for help. He returns with the survivors of the Ninth legion just as the Seal People catch up with them. The legionaries, wishing to redeem themselves, accept Aquila as their commander and prepare to defend the eagle standard. As an example to those who would betray their people, the Seal Prince kills his son in front of Esca, Marcus, and the legionaries, then orders his warriors to attack. A battle ensues, in which the Seal Prince and all his warriors are killed, but most of the Ninth Legion soldiers are also killed. After burying the fallen legionaries including Guern, Aquila, Esca, and the few survivors of the Ninth return to Roman territory, where Aquila delivers the eagle to the astonished governor in Londinium. There is talk of the Ninth legion being reformed with Aquila as its commander. Aquila and Esca then wonder what they will do next, and Aquila leaves the decision to his former slave.


– Channing Tatum as Marcus Aquila

– Jamie Bell as Esca

– Donald Sutherland as Aquila’s uncle

– Mark Strong as Guern

– Tahar Rahim as Prince of the Seal People

– Denis O’Hare as Lutorius

– Douglas Henshall as Cradoc

Sagas Artúricas: Versiones Nórdicas Medievales

Prologo de Luis Alberto de Cuenca
Traducción de Mariano Gónzalez Campo
ISBN: 978-84-206-5095-1
Alianza Editorial

La llamada materia de Bretaña, inspirada por las gestas del rey Arturo y otros personajes de su corte, constituyó durante la Edad Media un espejo en cuyas virtudes de honor, respeto al rey y cumplimiento del deber los miembros de las cortes europeas debían mirarse. Las del norte de Europa, especialmente la de Noruega y la de Islandia, no fueron ajenas a esta corriente y, a su manera, también hicieron suyas muchas de estas leyendas, adaptándolas a su tradición y su mentalidad. El presente volumen, ofrece por primera vez en castellano una selección de las más destacadas de las versiones nórdicas de estas Sagas artúricas, impregnadas del inconfundible sabor de las literaturas que tanto atrajeron a autores como Jorge Luis Borges o J. R. R. Tolkien.