Focus on Archaeology

Around the year AD 500, long before the Viking era began in the second half of the eighth century, a chieftain on the island of Vestvågøy, in Norway’s Lofoten Islands above the Arctic Circle, built himself a house worthy of his status.

It was an enormous longhouse, 221 feet long, with turf walls and (probably) a wood-shingled roof. It stood on a hill with a sweeping view over the countryside. It could be seen from a distance, which is one of the reasons it was built where it was. It...

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by Julie Skurdenis

Three of the most remarkable ships from the Viking Age rest together in an Oslo museum. Although discovered and excavated separately between 1867 and 1904, the three ships share much in common. All date from the ninth century AD. All were found on the Oslofjord, south of Olso. All once actually sailed Norway’s coastal waters or the open sea. And, finally, all were used later on as “coffins” for burial of presumably important Viking-era individuals.

Each of...

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by Julie Skurdenis (Third of three parts)

For my husband, Paul, and me, this was the last part of a 22-night trip through Tunisia that began in the north of the country in Carthage, one of Tunisia’s prime archaeological sites, and ended on the island of Jerba in the Mediterranean just off the coast of Tunisia.

The first two weeks of our trip had been full of Numidian, Phoenician, Roman and Byzantine archaeological sites as well as medinas, souks and museums interspersed with...

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by Julie Skurdenis (Second of three parts)

The following describes the middle part of an odyssey that began in Sidi Bou Said, a suburb of Tunis, capital of Tunisia, and at the nearby archaeological site of Carthage.

During the first seven days of our 22-night private guided trip, my husband, Paul, and I visited seven archaeological sites (three of them UNESCO World Heritage Sites) plus the picture-postcard village of Sidi Bou Said, overlooking the Gulf of Tunis; the world-...

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by Julie Skurdenis (First of three parts)

This was not my first trip to Tunisia. I had visited the country twice before years ago, but both trips had been brief additions to other trips. I had waited a long time for the opportunity to revisit this relatively small North African country wedged between two much larger neighbors, Algeria and Libya. I also wanted to share Tunisia with my husband, Paul, who had never visited before.

We carved out the time from our schedules,...

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by Julie Skurdenis

July 6, 2009, marked the apogee of a yearlong celebration of Lithuania’s 1,000th anniversary. It was in 1009 that Lithuania was first mentioned in a written source, a German manuscript called the Quedlinburg Chronicle. In honor of the occasion, Vilnius had been selected as a Cultural Capital of Europe for the year.

To cap it all off, the reconstruction of the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania had just been completed. July 6th, a national holiday in...

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by Julie Skurdenis

In Lake Mälaren, 18 miles west of Stockholm, Sweden, lies the small island of Björkö. Its size belies its importance in the Viking world of 1,100 years ago. On this island are the ruins of the town of Birka, which, together with the towns of Hedeby in Denmark and Kaupang in Norway, was one of the most important trading centers in Scandinavia during the Viking Age.

Founded around AD 790, Birka was part of a royal strategy to control trade in the Baltic through...

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by Julie Skurdenis

Coudenberg was one of the most important palaces of its time, comparable to the great royal residences in other European countries. On a hill overlooking Brussels, the Dukes of Brabant built a small castle in the 11th century. By 1250 that castle had become their main ducal residence as Brussels emerged as the political center of Brabant in what is now Belgium.

As the power of the dukes grew, especially after Philip the Good inherited Burgundy, so did their...

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