800-year-old graves found in Sicily; Archaeologists believe these are descendants of the Vikings

Statue of Viking Ingolfur Arnarson
Statue of Viking Ingolfur Arnarson Pixabay

What will come to your mind first, if you hear the name 'Vikings'? While some of you will find the answer from history books, there will be many who still remember the Viking claps by the Iceland football fans during UEFA Euro 2016 and 2018 FIFA World Cup. But there is a good news for the historians, as some archaeologists claimed that they have found some burials, which could belong to the Normans, who are the descendants of the Vikings.

The research project, which was published in Science in Poland, stated that Polish archaeologists have accidentally discovered 800-year-old burials near a medieval church of San Michele del Golfo, located near Palermo in Sicily.

The research leader Prof. Sławomir Moździoch from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Wroclaw said that some of these bodies, which were buried in the cemetery "were undoubtedly members of the elites or the clergy, as the form of some of the graves indicates."

Among all the discovered graves, the excavation team found three graves of women and two graves of children, but as of now, they failed to identify remaining skeletons. The archaeologists said that a document from the 12th century added some details about the association between the cemetery and the church hospital but, during the excavation, they could not find any medical equipment, which would be helpful to testify the document.

Later, the researchers claimed that they have found several signs, which indicates that those dead people were residents of western Europe or northern France and they were Normans, who earlier used to live in Scandinavia and they are known as the descendants of the Vikings.

But, this fact did not surprise the researchers, as Prof Moździoch said that the local anthropologist claimed that "the tallness and massive build of skeletons of people buried here indicate this origin." He added, "In the second half of the 11th century, the island was recaptured from the Arabs by a Norman nobleman, Roger de Hauteville."

The lead author also explained that before the Muslim rulers captured the nearby city of Palermo, the construction of the church was already started and that is why, it was built on a hill, which is a strategic place.

But, more than the interesting history about the Normans or the Vikings something else has triggered the interest among these polish researchers. They have a result of the first DNA analysis made by Prof. Wojciech Branicki from the Jagiellonian University of some dead bodies, which were found last year.

Prof Moździoch said that the last year findings and the results were "consistent with our concept of the +northern+ pedigree of the church and the deceased buried here because they show that the deceased had a lighter shade of skin, hair and eyes compared to the then dominant communities in Sicily."

The head of the recent excavations also believes that discovered coins "minted in Champagne and Lucca, indicate that its builders and users could have come from Normandy and the north of the Apennine peninsula."

"Our research has changed the previous theories concerning the church structure. It indicates that its form referred more to the western European churches of the 11th and 12th centuries than to the buildings of this type erected in Sicily during that period. To put it simply, the concept of construction was directly transferred from the north by the craftsmen brought from there," he concluded.

This article was first published on July 18, 2018
Related topics : Archaeology