Archive for the ‘Project related’ Category

Mannen med hull i hodet

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Denne mannen levde i Trondheim p√• 1200-tallet. Han har en h√łyst interessant sykdomshistorie¬†og den har jeg skrevet litt¬†om, samtidig som jeg gj√łr meg noen tanker om hva dette kan si om¬†middelaldersamfunnet i Trondheim. Du kan laste ned historien her (pdf.): Mannen med hull i hodet

SK259_RBG 20cm


The project has ended but continues. Article published!

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

It’s been a long time since I posted something here and the project has officially ended in the meantime. That the project has¬†finished means that I no longer get paid for doing this research, but the work continues nonetheless as there is¬†still a lot of potential left in this project. There are papers to be written, a conference proceedings which is planned published by the beginning of next year, and there is a museum exhibition opening¬†during the last weekend of September at Bryggens museum. I will get back to most of this in later posts and concentrate on two things now.

Firstly, on the same day as the project ended I gave a presentation at the Christie Conference in Grieghallen in Bergen. Being invited to speak at this conference was an honour and an excellent way of ending the project. My talk was well received and if you’re interested, you can watch it here (it’s in Norwegian). A couple of days before the conference I had an article published in Aftenposten covering much the same¬†as the conference speech. You’ll find this newspaper article her (also in Norwegian).

Secondly, the first major scientific¬†article from this project¬†has finally been published and it deals with the results of the stable oxygen isotope investigation of the skeletons in Trondheim.¬†It’s been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, and it’s been published “open access” so everybody can read if free of charge, if¬†they wish to do so. You’ll find the article here.


Two lectures on ancient DNA

Friday, August 7th, 2015

My two DNA colleagues from the¬†Institut f√ľr Gerichtliche Medizin der¬†Medizinischen Universit√§t Innsbruck will be visiting and have agreed do give two lectures dealing with different aspects of ancient DNA. The lectures will last approximately half an hour each and it will be open for questions afterwords. The lectures are open for everyone, so, if this sounds interesting you’re most welcome.


Location: Seminarrom 1 which is located on the ground floor of √ėysteinsgate 3.

Date: Thursday 20th August

Time: 09.30


The lectures:

Professor Walther Parson¬†will give the folowing lecture: “The Russian Tsar family,¬†Mozart and Friedrich Schiller: What can DNA from old bones tell us about historic¬†persons?”


Petra Kralj, PhD candidate,¬†will give the following lecture “How ancient DNA¬†analysis uncovers history. Migrations in medieval Trondheim”.



A short update from Leiden

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

I’ve been in Leiden for¬†two months now and it’s rather enjoyable. The town is very nice and the same can be said about the university. It’s a university which put focus on archaeology as is evident from the fact that a whole faculty has been devoted to it. There is also a¬†department for osteology and funerary archaeology with several times more osteologists than in the whole of Norway, so, for me, this is¬†an excellent place to be. I’ve even gone slightly Dutch since I’ve been here. The last time I went Dutch was at Sandown Park.¬†I’m riding a bike to work and I’ve started to make sounds previously unfamiliar to me during conversations. The Dutch language is, indeed, an interesting one, and quite good fun to try¬†to learn.

With views like these along the way, the ride to work is quite pleasant.



Over to something more serious and project related. I’ve got a slightly busy, and hopefully quite exciting,¬†week ahead of me. On Monday I’m going to Trondheim to attend the yearly¬†SAMKUL conference and seminar. ¬†There I will meet project leaders and participants in the¬†other SAMKUL funded projects and learn more about the¬†other research projects within this NRC program. My stay in Trondheim will, however,¬†be a rather short one and already the next day I’ll be leaving for Innsbruck where I will meet with the Walther Parson and Petra Kralj from the¬†GMI. This is something I’ve been waiting for for a long time and will be very important for the project. The rest of the week we will go through the results of the DNA¬†analyses and¬†I don’t really have any idea of what’s been found, so, needless to say, these are exciting times.

I have also had some time to look at the isotope data¬†and there is a good mixture of exciting and expected results. It is evident that the studied population was quite a mobile one, with people moving to and from the¬†area, and some moving away and later back again. I can’t go into too much detail as the interpretation of the data hasn’t finished and it will also have to be properly published before I can share every detail here on the blog. With regard to the further interpretation of the isotope data, I am pleased to announce that I will be cooperating with Val√©rie Daux at Universit√© de Versailles in France. I am very hopeful that this cooperation will be¬†a great asset for project and I’m looking forward to our first meeting in a couple of weeks’ time.

I’m back from leave and the project has progressed well

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

It’s been quite a while since I last put out a post on this blog and the main reason for that is that I haven’t been at work most of the time. The last five months have been spent as a full time dad, first twelve weeks paternity leave and quickly followed up by my summer holidays. Anyway, I’m back at work and things have been progressing while I’ve been away.¬†Most of my isotope samples have been analysed. I have received the results for the analysis of all the water samples and all the enamel samples and, according¬†to my latest information, the results for the bone samples will be ready within a couple of weeks. The analyses in¬†the DNA lab is also progressing well and results from this work is also expected within the very¬†near future. Although, the timing of¬†my leave was purely coincidental,¬†it couldn’t have happened at a better time¬†as the project has been progressing so well without me with all the lab work¬†being done.

So, what’s next?

Until I get the final isotope results I have a fair bit I have to read up on to be as prepared as I can manage¬†for the¬†interpretation of the results. To be able to make the best possible interpretation of the isotope data it is important that I have the best possible understanding of the limitations of the methodology and also that I have the best possible understanding of the historical and archaeological context¬†for the skeletons from which the samples were taken. This is, of course, not something I’ve just started reading about, but, as you probably know, the amount of information is endless and there is always new¬†books and articles to read and new angles to explore.

In about¬†four weeks I will be going to the Netherlands where I will stay until the end of November. I’ll be¬†visiting Leiden University as a visiting researcher. I am looking forward to spending some time in the Netherlands and¬†I believe being part of the¬†Faculty of¬†Archaeology at¬†the University of Leiden, with its extensive and varied expertise,¬†will do the project a lot of good.

I will be back with more, possibly exciting, information during the autumn when the results are being interpreted.

Trip to Innsbruck

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

A few weeks ago I went to Insbruck to meet with professor Walther Parson and Petra Kralj, who are responsible for carrying out the DNA analyses for my project, and to give a talk to the staff at GMI about my research. Walther Parson is supervising the work but it is Petra Kralj (PhD candidate at GMI) who are actually doing the DNA extractions. The meeting went well and we talked about the results from the first batch of extractions. As expected, the amount and quality of the DNA extracted, varied between the bone samples but the overall picture is promising. There is no doubt the extractions are of such a quality that the further analyses will be very interesting.

It was nice to meet Petra who gave me a presentation of what is actually happening to the bones samples. The process of extracting DNA from bone is meticulous one and below I want to show you what Petra showed me. The following presentation is written by Petra Kralj and the photos are hers as well (reproduced here with persmission).

Every single piece of bone will go through this process. Every photo, corresponding information and results will follow the bone fragment and the related skeleton for future use. All information will be made available for other researchers shortly after this project is finished.


Description of what happens to the bone samples from Trondheim, by Petra Kralj.

A cardboard box containing Trondheim bone samples and reference material for comparison was delivered to the Institute of Legal Medicine in Innsbruck (Austria) for the study of mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid (mtDNA) and autosomal Short Tandem Repeats (STRs, microsatellites) on July 16th 2013. After some detailed photographs of the outer surface of the shipment and its contents had been taken, the contents were unpacked, described and thoroughly photo-documented. The 63 double labelled cup containers, each containing one piece of the femur (or tibia) bone of an individual, could be divided into five groups by the label (sample name) and further into two groups by the estimated age.

The bone samples were weighed, photographed from all four sides and measured (length, width, thickness). Furthermore they were sawn into two similar sized pieces, both of which have been weighed again and stored separately into sterilised double labelled cup containers for further DNA analyses. In the next step, the first batch of bone samples (sample halves) was mechanically and chemically cleaned and subsequently powdered using a ball mill. After powder lysis and demineralisation DNA was extracted. The amount of DNA was determined using a real-time DNA quantification method (Niederstätter et al 2007, Bauer et al 2013). The mitochondrial DNA control region was analysed according to (Berger and Parson, 2009).

Positive and negative controls were used through-out the process.


Photos 1 and 2: Photo-documentation of the shipment contents 

1 2


Photo 3: Sample cup container



Photo 4: Sample container with the sample



Photo 5: Inner surface



 Photo 6: Outer surface



Photo 7: Left cut end



Photo 8: Right cut end



Photo 9: Bone sample halving



Photo 10: Mechanical cleaning



Photo 11: Chemical cleaning


Photo 12: Grinding by means of a bone mill


Photo 13: The hybridization oven for demineralisation of bone powder


Photo 14: DNA extraction


Photo 15: DNA extract


Some plans for the autumn

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

It’s been a while since my last post but¬†my excuse is that is has been a quiet summer and there haven’t been any major developments in the project. That said, I haven’t had my vacation yet and have actually¬†spent much of the summer in the office, so a few things have been done.¬†An article and a book chapter have been finished and hopefully this will be published in not too long. Probably not until the first half of next year though, things take time. Otherwise I’ve done some reading about immigration in the middle ages,¬†and done different¬†preparations for the autumn. Contrary to normal, I have a somewhat busy autumn ahead of me with a¬†fair bit¬†of travelling. I will be giving two talks about my project, one in Innsbruck at the GMI and one in Oslo. The talk in Oslo is part of an initiative by the Norwegian Research Council where they want the SAMKUL research to reach a wider audience by offering talks at¬†different ministry departments. The idea is that a department can choose from a list of SAMKUL topics to be presented to them when they¬†find it appropriate. I have signed up for this initiative, so now it’s only to see if anyone books a talk about my immigration project. Otherwise, I’ll be going to Denmark to do the last of the enamel sampling, to Madrid with the institute, and to London for a seminar. I¬†will probably¬†write about these¬†different events when the time comes. It should be a¬†good autumn and I’m also¬†hoping the first¬†analysis results will come in during the coming months, something I’m very much looking forward to.

But first I’m off to Italy¬†for three weeks with the family. The panama is packed and I’m praying for some¬†sun and¬†better temperatures.

Samples have been shipped

Monday, July 8th, 2013

The first samples have been shipped today. One packet containing 10 water samples was sendt to GNS Science in New Zealand and another cardboard box containg 63 bone samples has been shipped to GMI in Innsbruck, Austria. Buccal swabs from the ones who took the bone samples have also been included in the shipment to GMI. This is done to get the DNA from us who worked with the sampling on file, to avoid problems if we contaminated the samples.

DNA pr√łver1

The containers with the bone samples are on their way to Innsbruck.

Buccal swab

To take a buccal swab you brush the tip of this device on the inside of your cheek and put the felt tip into a vial filled with isopropanol (see picture below).

DNA samples

The vials containg the DNA samples from each of us who did the sampling has been shipped to GMI together with the bone samples.

A short video

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Charles Utvik sendt me this vidoe clip. He did a bit of filming on the last day we worked in Trondheim. We never took the time to film during the skeletal examinations and sampling, but this is a nice clip showing me preparing the samples and equipment for shipping. It also shows the room we worked in, and all the cardboard boxes in the background contain the skeletons.


Three weeks with the skeletons

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

One of the individuals examined and sampled from.

I’ve spent the last three weeks in Trondheim and this post will be a quick summary of what happened. The purpose of being in Trondheim was to examine the skeletal material and to collect bone and teeth samples for DNA and isotope analyses.

Firstly, I want to say that I’m greatfull that Vitenskapsmuseet had decided to employ a person to assist with the work. Charles Utvik was easy to work with and as we shared the work between us, doing different tasks simultaneously, we managed to work very efficiently. If I would have had to do it on my own (as I originally thought) I am sure the work would have taken at least two weeks longer. It should also be said that having company also made the work more enjoyable.

Some of the teeth were too worn to be sampled from. This photo shows the right half of a mandible (lower jaw) and as you can see, the crown on first molar (the second tooth from the left) is so worn that there is no enamel left.

During the first week we looked through all the material to make the final decision about what skeletons to include. I ended up with a sample which was pretty much as I had decided on beforehand, but a few changes were made. As it turned out, we only managed to find 98 individuals worth including as opposed to the originally planned 100. This is, however, no major problem. A few of the skeletons also didn’t have all the teeth I wanted, or they were too worn to sample from. This means that I didn’t get a full set of samples from every individual. Although I would have liked a complete dataset, it is no surprise it worked out this way. This is basically how it is to work with archaeological material. This is also no real problem, it’s just a matter of working around these issues when doing the analyses.



The following two weeks were spent taking bone and teeth samples. All the DNA samples were taken during the second week, while the samples for the isotope analyses were taken during the last week.

Every skeleton was photographed to document what samples had been taken.

The containers with the samples were carefully labeled.














Bj√łrn Frengstad next to the water collector at NGU.

I also visited NGU when I was in Trondheim. Bj√łrn Frengstad has been collecting precipitation samples each month since January, and will continue for the rest of the year. I picked up the water samples for the first five months and they will be shipped off to the GNS Science¬†laboratory in a few days.









The three cardboard boxes containing the bone and teeth samples.


When the work was finished, all the samples were securely packed and made ready for being shipped to Bergen.








Immigration and mobility in mediaeval and post-mediaeval Norway
Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion, University of Bergen

Site last updated November 22, 2016 @ 12:39 pm