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Historical Tidbit Thursdays - Vikings - Runes and Rune Stones - #TidbitThursday

Howdy! This week I'm delving into those fascinating markings the Vikings left behind - Runes.

During this time period, most histories were passed along orally from one generation to the next.

Futhark or the Runic alphabet was developed over 2000 years ago. It was originally made up of 24 characters. The characters were straight and could be carved into stone or wood.

Short messages could be carved into rune-sticks and passed along.

Most Vikings were literate and could read and write runes but only a select few became poets or Lawspeakers.

Rune stones often depicted major events or to honor the memory of an exhalted warrior or deceased family member. This one in Jelling (dating around 965) commemorated the conquest of Denmark and Norway by Harald Bluetooth and the adoption of Christianity in Denmark. This image of Christ is the oldest from Denmark.

This example from Prastgatan in Sweden of a stone containing Christian symbology.

And this fine example is from Lingsberg.

The majority of existing rune stones can be found in Sweden. Some can also be seen in Denmark and Norway. A few have also been found in the UK. Many of the stones are found near Christian churches (which invokes a very different imagine than the heathenistic warrior who raped and pillaged along the coasts).

A fun rune stone walk in Sigtuna - http://destinationsigtuna.se/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Runornas-Sigtuna-eng.pdf

Picture References:
Lingsberg Runestone - https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2287417
Jelling Stone - https://en.natmus.dk/historical-knowledge/denmark/prehistoric-period-until-1050-ad/the-viking-age/the-monuments-at-jelling/the-jelling-stone/
Prastgatan Stone - http://destinationsigtuna.se/en/attraktion/runic-stones/
Futhark Alphabet - http://viking.archeurope.info/index.php?page=runes

Viking Archaeology - http://viking.archeurope.info/index.php?page=viking-rune-stones
National Museum of Denmark - https://en.natmus.dk
Sigtuna (Swedish Travel Info Site) - http://destinationsigtuna.se/en/attraktion/runic-stones/
"Everyday Life in Viking Times" by Michael Gibson, ISBN#0-7500-1472-5

Historical Tidbit Thursdays - Vikings - Longships - #TidbitThursday

Howdy! I'm veering off the Old West trail for the next few weeks to focus on another favorite - Vikings!

This week I'm investigating the infamous long boats, the very device which allowed them to not only sail far from their home but also allowed them to make quick raids along their journey thanks to ingenious designs.

Vikings actually had several different types of ships and their building technology evolved over time. All their ships used a square sail and, when there was no wind, oars.

Smaller ships, mostly used for fishing, were called faering and were propelled by up to four oars.

A knarr was a merchant ship and was built for longer journeys with wider and deeper hulls. They travelled as far south as the Black Sea and west to Vinland or North America.

Longships were the larger ships and most well-recognized. They could accommodate up to 32 oars. They were long, flat boats with a tall prow at the front (usually carved into mythical creatures) and a keel which allowed them to slice quickly through the water but shallow enough to allow them close access to land. The ships were usually painted bright colors and their sides might be decorated with shields.

Interestingly, high-ranking Vikings were buried with a ship. One famous burial ship discovered in a giant burial mound was the Oseberg ship, named after the farm it was found at. It was over 70 feet long and almost 17 feet wide.

Picture References:
Longship - https://www.britannica.com/technology/longship
Longships - https://www.foxnews.com/science/amazing-viking-longship-discovery-radar-reveals-mysterious-ship-grave
Faering - https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2494412 Knarr - https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1618125

Viking Ship Museum - https://www.vikingeskibsmuseet.dk/en/
"Everyday Life in Viking Times" by Michael Gibson, ISBN#0-7500-1472-5

"The Vikings" by Robert Nicholson and Claire Watts, ISBN#0-590-46120-6
Viking Combat Training and other research - http://www.hurstwic.org

Video Review - Travel Channel - Legendary Locations - Salem Witches

Josh Gates hosts several interesting series on the Travel Channel. This particular series focuses on locations that are steeped in myths, legends, or famous events. Today, we're taking a look at the Salem Witch Trials in this episode titled "Rock and a Hard Place".

Legendary Locations - Rock and a Hard Place

Season 2 - Episode 2


Josh Gates explores stories of perseverance, including a tragic Salem witch trial case that led to a lasting change in the United States justice system and an old Mexican folk tale that's still celebrated in a festival today.

17th century, Salem, Massachusettes becomes a hotbed for witch trials.

Over 25 women died at these so-called trials.

The strict Puritan religion forbids things of supernatural nature (considered devil's magic).

For those who survived a small pox epidemic, they were easily accused of witchcraft.

Rebecca Nurse and her husband, Francis, owned over 300 acres. She was a pious grandmother and had taken ill. Because she hadn't been seen at church for awhile, the parishoners became suspicious. They accused her of witchcraft while she was in her bed.

12 year old Ann Putnam accuses over 62 women of witchcraft. Rebecca Nurse had accused Ann of fortune telling and was in dispute with Ann's father over some land boundaries, so they retaliate and accuse her of witchcraft. Ann's father was also the trial scriber so he embellished the court documents.

June 1692, the jury decides Rebecca was not guilty, but Ann throws a fit and they find her guilty. She is hung to death and buried in an unmarked grace.

Despite the myth, witches weren't burned at the stake in America - this was mostly done in Europe.

During this time, something called "spectral evidence" was in place whereby a witness could claim that a witch's spirit or spectral shape appeared to them in person or in a dream (while their actual body was somewhere else). After 19 people were hanged and 5 died in jail, this law was finally repealed.

In 1957, three hundred years later, the state finally offered its victims a formal apology.

Check out the Legendary Locations site on the History Channel

You can also check your local library to see if they have copies of the video.

Historical Tidbit Thursdays - The California Gold Rush - Sutter's Mill - #TidbitThursday


Welcome to Historical Tidbit Thursdays. Today I wanted to share with you some interesting tidbits I learned about Sutter's Mill during the infamous California Gold Rush! Hope you enjoy!

Johann August Sutter, born on February 15, 1803 in Germany, he was unsuccessful in his businesses in Switzerland and declared bankruptcy before leaving his family behind for America. He changed his name to John Sutter.

On April 31, 1848 he was given a land grant of 50,000 acres in California on the Sacramento River. He established a colony Nueva Helvetia (New Switzerland).

He builds Sutter's Fort to protect settlers from the local Indians. He partners with James W. Marshall, a carpenter, with the intention of getting rich off lumber. They build a saw mill at the junction of the American River with the intent to float and lumber down the river and then ship it out.

The mill was actually built on Indian lands. At this time, individuals were not allowed to trespass Indian lands but John ignored that and went ahead with his plans.

Marshall dams up the stream so he can repair their mill and when he releases the water, he finds gold. The workers deserted. The local store owner, Sam Brannan, went to San Francisco to spread the news and to sell gold-searching equipment (becoming California's first millionaire).

The land around the mill was not legally Sutter's so he could not reap any payments from all those squatters and gold-seekers. In fact, they caused a lot of destruction and stole his livestock. Eventually Sutter moved out.

Hundreds of millions of dollars were extracted from that area but no one got rich (except those that sold supplies).

Source: The American Heroes Channel - "What History Forgot" series; episode 2 "Making America; What History Forgot series website.

Photo Credits:
Sutter's Mill - https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=484
Johann August Sutter - https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Sutter
Sam Brannan - https://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/people/a_c/brannan.htm

Video Review - Travel Channel - Legendary Locations - John Thompson

Josh Gates hosts several interesting series on the Travel Channel. This particular series focuses on locations that are steeped in myths, legends, or famous events. Today, we're taking a look at John Thompson, a simple mailman in this episode titled "About Time".

Legendary Locations - About Time

Season 2 - Episode 7


From a cursed clock in Prague to a death-defying rescue in the snowy Sierra Nevada Mountains, Josh Gates explores six legendary locations that have withstood the test of time.

1850's Sierra Nevada Mountains, site of the infamous Donner party crossing, is where native Norwegian John Thompson operates as a mailman.
To get through the snowy places, John used a single ski of oak longboards that measured 9 feet long and 1.5 inches thick as well as a long pole that he held horizontally for balance. This getup earned him the nickname "Snow Shoe Thompson".
December 1856, John finds a nearly frozen fur trapper, James Sisson. He carries him to Mormon Station. Due to the frozen condition, the doctor needs to amputate, but the doctor has no antiseptic.
So John skis to Placerville but the druggist is out of antiseptic.
This time John rides a horse over 40 miles to Sacramento, California. He is able to get the antiseptic and rides all the way back to Mormon Station.
Thankfully, James Sisson survives the amputation of his legs.

See info on the series here - TravelChannel.com

Check your local listings for showtimes, your local library for copies, or watch on Amazon:

Video Review - Travel Channel - Expedition Unknown - The Legend of Jesse James

Josh Gates hosts this interesting series, Expedition Unknown, where he travels to places around the world and investigates significant historical and/or archaeological finds. Today, I'm reviewing Episode #4 from Season #1, "The Legend of Jesse James".

Expedition Unknown - The Legend of Jesse James

Season 1 - Episode 4


Jesse James and his gang came into possession a Mexican gold train but it's gone missing and ever since treasure hunters have been trying to locate it.

Jesse James was born at a farm house in Kearney, Missouri. His father went to California to do some gold mining and got sick. He died when Jesse was 3 years old.

When Jesse was 14 years old, his older brother, Frank, went to fight in the Civil War.

Oklahoma, 1875 - Jesse James ambushes a train of pack mules carrying tons of gold buillon coming out of the Mexican territory.

That winter was a bad one so they decide to bury the gold and mark the spot with a Burro's shoe nailed to a tree and shooting 6 rounds of ammo into another tree.

Seven years later, Jesse is assassinated by a member of his own gang.

1907 - Frank James dug up a portion of the trasure ($6000).

1932 - a copper map was found.

1933 - a brass bucket containing coins was found near the Wichita Mountains. On the side of the bucket a contract was hammered/carved into the material.

People have found symbols like "JJ", turkey tracks, a cross, a hook, and an arrow shown on maps and carved into things in the general area of Robber's Cave, OK. But so far nothing has been uncovered. Were they red herrings?

Western Word of the Week - The Whole 9 Yards - #WesternWordoftheWeek #WesternWednesdays


Thanks for returning to our Western Word of the Day column. The next few weeks I'm drifting a little bit away from what we think of as truly "western" words to focus on some other vocabulary term that I've learned and wanted to share.

The Whole 9 Yards - everything; a whole lot; all the way

Origin of the term: Hellcat fighters had trays nine yards long that held 400 rounds of 50-caliber ammunition; when they used all the ammunition they "gave them the whole 9 yards"

History Channel, "America's Secret Slang" video series

Western Word of the Week - Basket Case - #WesternWordoftheWeek #WesternWednesdays


Thanks for returning to our Western Word of the Day column. The next few weeks I'm drifting a little bit away from what we think of as truly "western" words to focus on some other vocabulary term that I've learned and wanted to share.

Basket Case - soemone who was emotionally or mentally unstable

Origin of the term: Soldiers with post traumatic syndrom would weave baskets as therapy

History Channel, "America's Secret Slang" video series

Western Word of the Week - No Man's Land - #WesternWordoftheWeek #WesternWednesdays


Thanks for returning to our Western Word of the Day column. The next few weeks I'm drifting a little bit away from what we think of as truly "western" words to focus on some other vocabulary term that I've learned and wanted to share.

No Man's Land - land that is unoccupied or disputed

Origin of the term: During World War 1, soldiers would dig trenches on either side of a battlefield. For anyone to jump up out of the trench and move forward would be risking their life. Therefore, that space between the trenches became a deadzone or a no man's land.

History Channel, "America's Secret Slang" video series