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THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER & THE TIMES HISTORY BOOK OF 2021
‘Astonishing and compelling’ Bernard Cornwell
‘Replete with witches, human sacrifice, Greek fire and funeral orgies… one of the most thrilling works of archaeological detective work I have ever read’ William Dalrymple, FT
Follow bioarchaeologist Cat Jarman – and the cutting-edge forensic techniques central to her research – as she uncovers epic stories of the Viking age and follows a small ‘Carnelian’ bead found in a Viking grave in Derbyshire to its origins thousands of miles to the east in Gujarat.
‘This superb book is like a classical symphony, perfectly composed and exquisitely performed’ THE TIMES Books of the Year
Dr Cat Jarman is a bioarchaeologist, specialising in forensic techniques to research the paths of Vikings who came to rest in British soil. By examining teeth that are now over one thousand years old, she can determine childhood diet, and thereby where a person was likely born. With radiocarbon dating, she can ascertain a death date down to the range of a few years. And her research offers new visions of the likely roles of women and children in Viking culture.
In 2017, a carnelian bead came into her temporary possession. River Kings sees her trace its path back to eighth-century Baghdad and India, discovering along the way that the Vikings’ route was far more varied than we might think, that with them came people from the Middle East, not just Scandinavia, and that the reason for this unexpected integration between the Eastern and Western worlds may well have been a slave trade running through the Silk Road, and all the way to Britain.
Told as a riveting story of the Vikings and the methods we use to understand them, this is a major reassessment of the fierce, often-mythologised voyagers of the north, and of the global medieval world as we know it.
'Cat Jarman will transform the way you think about the Vikings' Dan Snow 'A bead was discovered in a Viking warrior's grave, and that discovery led Cat Jarman on an amazing journey which is described in this extraordinary story. That bead, in Cat Jarman's hands, taught me more about the Vikings than a score of history books. River Kings is an astonishing and compelling triumph!' Bernard Cornwell 'This fresh look at the Vikings is a thrilling read. Cat Jarman's brilliant forensic deductions take us from a burial ground in England's Midlands, along the Silk Road to Baghdad and on to India, in a voyage of discovery that illuminates Viking culture in an utterly intriguing new light' Charles Spencer 'An extraordinarily imaginative conjuring of the Viking world, resting on the amazing advances made in archaeology ... This is not archaeology as dry stones and bones, but as the lived lives of the people of the past brought to life with verve, style and sympathetic imagination. Beautifully written ... You'll never see the Viking Age in the same way again' Michael Wood 'Starting with an enigmatic carnelian bead, Cat Jarman reveals how her own research has contributed to a completely new understanding of the Vikings ... A brilliantly, beautifully told story' Alice Roberts
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