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Danish Vikings ‘may have made their own wine’

New research suggests the Vikings indulged in a bit of viticulture.

Danish Vikings 'may have made their own wine'
Photos: Iris

Studies of grape pips point to wine production in Denmark during the time of the Vikings.

The Vikings liked alcohol, but while it is easy enough to grow crops and produce beer in the Danish climate, wine is a different challenge and was thought to have always been imported from southern parts of Europe to northern countries.

But new research has showed that at least one of the two oldest grape cores found in Denmark was grown locally, reports science news site Videnskab.dk.

Results of the analysis could be the final piece of evidence needed to prove that wine was produced in Denmark during the Viking era, says the report.

 “This is the first discovery and sign of wine production in Denmark, with all that that entails in terms of status and power. We do not know how [the grapes] were used – it may have been just to have a pretty bunch of grapes decorating a table, for example – but it is reasonable to believe that they made wine,” archaeological botanist and museum curator Peter Steen Henriksen of Denmark’s National Museum told Videnskab.dk.

READ ALSO: Famous Bronze Age Dane was 'immigrant': research

Henriksen himself discovered the two centuries-old wine pips in a sample of earth at the site of a Viking settlement at Tissø. Analysis of the pips found one to date from the Viking era and the other from the Iron Age.

No evidence of grapes in Denmark prior to the Middle Ages was previously known.

Henriksen sent the pips to the National Museum, where they underwent strontium isotope tests similar to those that confirmed Danish preserved bodies the Skydstrup girl and the Egtved girl originated from geographical areas further south in Europe.

The tests showed that the Viking era grape was probably grown on Zealand, reports Videnskab.dk.

“Before we only had suspicions, but now we can see that they actually had grapes and therefore the resources to produce [wine] themselves. Suddenly it all becomes very real,” professor Karin Margarita Frei of the National Museum told Videnskab.dk.

The Tissø settlement is one of the richest Viking locations in Denmark and was home to a dynasty that stretched from the early Iron Age to the late Viking period, reports Videnskab.

Production of wine in the area may have been a way of expressing status, say researchers.

Although it is also possible that the grapes were grown to be consumed as fruit, the Vikings are known to have come across wine on their voyages abroad, and Roman wine cups and other remnants of wine have been found in Scandinavia. The climate in the region was also similar to the present-day climate, making it possible to grow grapes.

VIKINGS

Danish treasure discovery could yield new knowledge of pre-Viking people

An amateur archeologist has found 22 gold objects with sixth century symbols that could yield new details about pre-Viking peoples in Denmark, the museum that will house the treasure said on Monday.

Danish treasure discovery could yield new knowledge of pre-Viking people
An unrelated illustration photo from an earlier discovery showing Saxon, Ottonian, Danish and Byzantine coins. STEFAN SAUER / DPA / AFP

Some of the objects have runic motifs and inscriptions which may refer to the rulers of the time, but also recall Norse mythology, Mads Ravn, director of research at the Vejle museums in western Denmark, told AFP.

“It is the symbols on the items that makes them unique, more than the quantity found,” according to Ravn, who said the treasure weighed about one kilogram.

One piece even refers to the Roman emperor Constantine from the early 4th century, said Ravn.

“The find consists of a lot of gold items, including a medallion the size of a saucer,” Ravn added.

According to initial examinations, the treasure could have been buried as an offering to the gods at a chaotic time when the climate in northern Europe dramatically turned colder after a volcanic eruption in Iceland in 536 sent ash clouds into the sky.

“They have many symbols, some of which have not been seen before, which will enable us to enlarge our knowledge of the people of this period,” he said.

The treasure was found near Jelling in southwestern Denmark, which historians say became a cradle for kings of the Viking-age which lasted between the 8th and 12th centuries.

The treasure will be on display at the museum in Vejle from February 2022

The amateur archeologist using a metal detector found the treasure about six months ago but the news was only disclosed now.

READ ALSO: DNA analysis reunites Viking relatives in Denmark after 1,000 years 

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