Wednesday, March 8, 2017
The Oseberg ship (Norwegian: Osebergskipet) is a well-preserved Viking ship discovered in a large burial mound at the Oseberg farm near Tønsberg in Vestfold county, Norway. This ship is commonly acknowledged to be among the finer artifacts to have survived from the Viking Era. The ship and some of its contents are displayed at the Viking Ship Museum at Bygdøy on the western side of Oslo, Norway.
The Oseberg burial mound (Norwegian: Oseberghaugen ved Slagen from the Old Norse word haugr meaning kurgan mound or barrow) contained numerous grave goods and two female human skeletons. The ship's interment into its burial mound dates from 834 AD, but parts of the ship date from around 800, and the ship itself is thought to be older. It was excavated by Norwegian archaeologist Haakon Shetelig and Swedish archaeologist Gabriel Gustafson in 1904-1905.
The ship is a Karve, clinker built almost entirely of oak. It is 21.58 m long and 5.10 m broad, with a mast of approximately 9–10 m. With a sail of c. 90 m², the ship could achieve a speed up to 10 knots. The ship has 15 pairs of oar holes, which means that 30 people could row the ship. Other fittings include a broad steering oar, iron anchor, gangplank, and a bailer. The bow and stern of the ship are elaborately decorated with complex woodcarvings in the characteristic "gripping beast" style, also known as the Oseberg style.
During the debate on whether to move the original ship to a new proposed museum, thorough investigations were made into the possibilities of moving the ship without damaging it. During this process, very thorough photo scans and laser scans of both the outside and inside of the ship were made.
In 2004, an attempt to build a copy of the Oseberg ship was launched. A collective effort of Norwegian and Danish professional builders, scientist and volunteers engaged in this new attempt with the photo scans and laser scans made available for free to the enthusiastic builders. During this new attempt it was discovered that during the initial restoration of the ship a breach in one of the beams was made and the ship was therefore inadvertently shortened. This fact had not been discovered prior. It is believed this is perhaps the prime reason why several earlier replicas sank: previous attempts at working replicas had failed due to lack of correct data.
In 2010, a new reconstruction was started titled Saga Oseberg. Using timber from Denmark and Norway and utilizing traditional building methods from the Viking age, this newest Oseberg ship was successfully completed. On the 20th of June 2012 the new ship was launched from the city of Tønsberg. The ship floated very well and in March 2014 it was taken to open seas, with Færder as its destination, under full sail. A speed of 10 knots was achieved. The construction was a success, the ship performing very well. It demonstrated that the Oseberg ship really could sail and was not just a burial chamber on land.
The skeletons of two women were found in the grave with the ship. One, probably aged 60–70, suffered badly from arthritis and other maladies. The second was initially believed to be aged 25–30, but analysis of tooth-root translucency suggests she was older (aged 50–55). It is not clear which one was the more important in life or whether one was sacrificed to accompany the other in death. The younger woman had a broken collarbone, initially thought to be evidence that she was a human sacrifice, but closer examination showed that the bone had been healing for several weeks. The opulence of the burial rite and the grave-goods suggests that this was a burial of very high status. One woman wore a very fine red wool dress with a lozenge twill pattern (a luxury commodity) and a fine white linen veil in a gauze weave, while the other wore a plainer blue wool dress with a wool veil, possibly showing some stratification in their social status. Neither woman wore anything entirely made of silk, although small silk strips were appliqued onto a tunic worn under the red dress.
Dendrochronological analysis of timbers in the grave chamber dates the burial to the autumn of 834. Although the high-ranking woman's identity is unknown, it has been suggested that she is Queen Åsa of the Yngling clan, mother of Halfdan the Black and grandmother of Harald Fairhair. Recent tests of the women's remains suggest that they lived in Agder in Norway, as had Queen Åsa. This theory has been challenged, however, and some think that she may have been a völva. There were also the skeletal remains of 14 horses, an ox, and three dogs found on the ship.
According to Per Holck of Oslo University, the younger woman's mitochondrial haplogroup was discovered to be U7. Her ancestors came to Norway from the Pontic littoral, probably Iran. Three subsequent studies failed to confirm these results, however, and it is likely that the bone samples contain little (if any) original DNA or have been contaminated through handling.
Examinations of fragments of the skeletons have provided more insight into their lives. The younger woman's teeth showed signs that she used a metal toothpick, a rare 9th century luxury. Both women had a diet composed mainly of meat, another luxury when most Vikings ate fish. However, there was not enough DNA to tell if they were related, for instance a queen and her daughter.
The grave had been disturbed in antiquity, and precious metals were absent. Nevertheless, a great number of everyday items and artifacts were found during the 1904-1905 excavations. These included four elaborately decorated sleighs, a richly carved four-wheel wooden cart, bed-posts, and wooden chests, as well as the so-called "Buddha bucket" (Buddha-bøtte), a brass and cloisonné enamel ornament of a bucket (pail) handle in the shape of a figure sitting with crossed legs. The bucket is made from yew wood, held together with brass strips, and the handle is attached to two anthropomorphic figures compared to depictions of the Buddha in the lotus posture, although any connection is most uncertain. More relevant is the connection between the patterned enamel torso and similar human figures in the Gospel books of the Insular art of the British Isles, such as the Book of Durrow. More mundane items such as agricultural and household tools were also found. A series of textiles included woolen garments, imported silks, and narrow tapestries. The Oseberg burial is one of the few sources of Viking age textiles, and the wooden cart is the only complete Viking age cart found so far. A bedpost shows one of the few period examples of the use of what has been dubbed the valknut symbol.The conservation of the wooden artifacts is an ongoing problem. On May 3, 2011, thirteen years after debate began over the disposition of the ship, Norwegian Minister of Education Kristin Halvorsen stated that the ship will not be moved from Bygdøy.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
The Hawker Typhoon (Tiffy in RAF slang), was a British single-seat fighter-bomber, produced by Hawker Aircraft. It was intended to be a medium–high altitude interceptor, as a replacement for the Hawker Hurricane but several design problems were encountered and it never completely satisfied this requirement.
The Typhoon was originally designed to mount twelve .303 inch (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns and be powered by the latest 2000 hp engines. Its service introduction in mid-1941 was plagued with problems and for several months the aircraft faced a doubtful future. When the Luftwaffe brought the formidable Focke-Wulf Fw 190 into service in 1941, the Typhoon was the only RAF fighter capable of catching it at low altitudes; as a result it secured a new role as a low-altitude interceptor.
Through the support of pilots such as Roland Beamont it became established in roles such as night-time intruder and long-range fighter. From late 1942 the Typhoon was equipped with bombs and from late 1943 RP-3 ground attack rockets were added to its armoury. With those weapons and its four 20mm Hispano cannon, the Typhoon became one of the Second World War's most successful ground-attack aircraft.
The Typhoon was first produced with forward-opening "car door" style cockpit doors (complete with wind-down windows), with a transparent "roof" hinged to open to the left. The first 162 Typhoons featured a built-up metal-skinned dorsal fairing behind the pilot's armoured headrest; the mast for the radio aerial protruded through the fairing. From mid- to late 1941 the solid metal aft dorsal fairing was replaced with a transparent structure (later nicknamed "The Coffin Hood"), the pilot's head armour plate was modified to a triangular shape and the side cut-outs were fitted with armoured glass; the first production Typhoon to be fitted with this new structure was R7803. All earlier aircraft were quickly withdrawn and modified. From early 1942 a rear-view mirror was mounted in a perspex blister moulded into the later "car-door" canopy roofs. This modification was not very successful, because the mirror was subject to vibration. Despite the new canopy structure, the pilot's visibility was still restricted by the heavy frames and the clutter of equipment under the rear canopy; from August 1943, as an interim measure, pending the introduction of the new "bubble" canopy and cut-down dorsal fairing, the aerial mast and its associated bracing was removed and replaced with a whip aerial further back on the rear fuselage.
Starting in January 1943, R8809 was used to test a new, clear, one piece sliding "bubble" canopy and its associated new windscreen structure which had slimmer frames which, together with the "cut-down" rear dorsal fairing, provided a far superior all-around field of view to the car-door type. From November 1943 all production aircraft, starting with JR333, were to be so fitted. However, the complex modifications required to the fuselage and a long lead time for new components to reach the production line meant that it took some time before the new canopy became standard. In order to have as many Typhoons of 2nd TAF fitted before "Operation Overlord" conversion kits were produced and Gloster, Hawker and Cunliffe-Owen modified older Typhoons still fitted with the car-door canopy.