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ANDREW JONES: One of the reasons why we have a rather romantic view of the Vikings, fearful wolves from the sea, is that there are very few hard facts about them.The buildings were made of wood and turf, which have either been burnt down or rotted away.Microscopic analysis of tiny charcoal fragments reveals the kinds of trees used to build Viking homes and workshops.But the Birka team also relies on traditional methods, carefully digging and recording every discovery. ANDREW JONES: Sieving is one of the really important activities that goes on on archeological excavations.It is impossible to sieve the whole site, so people take samples from selected areas, areas like house floors, post hole fills, maybe a small amount of soil from most pits will be sieved, but not everything.And here we have it going on, and we find all sorts of bits and pieces. NARRATOR: Among the many finds sifted from Birka's soil were hundreds of fragments of ancient ceramic casting molds, which shaped beautiful jewelry like this silver pendant of a Viking woman.This program is funded in part by Northwestern Mutual Life, which has been protecting families and businesses for generations. And this image has lasted consistently for the last 1,000 years, because it was established by the people who were literate, by the people who created history.And they were precisely the people who were the first targets of the Viking raids.
Cuthbert's were enjoying their quiet routine of prayer and study. They would push the boundaries of the western world, venturing across the Atlantic to America.One peaceful day in June, from across the sea, a band of strangers approached the holy shrine. The pagan invaders from the north grabbed everything of value: gold and silver chalices, silk vestments and altar cloths. This is the classic image of the Vikings - brutal barbarians, skilled in murder and mayhem. In the east, they would help found the Russian empire.And they slaughtered anyone who stood in their way. But the truth about the Vikings is more complex - and more elusive. Today, scientists are digging deeper into the soil of Scandinavia, Ireland, North America, and the former Soviet Union - uncovering long-lost secrets of the Viking Age.Major funding for NOVA is provided by the Park Foundation, dedicated to education and quality television. Starting in the late 8th century, Viking ships struck all along the coasts of Europe and the British Isles. THOMAS Mc GOVERN: The Vikings have had a really negative public image.CNET.com, helping you choose the right technology product. And by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. NARRATOR: 1200 years ago, small bands of men from an obscure land in the north took the western world by storm. They're the people who come around and burn down your house and run off with your daughter and wife, and probably your son, too.