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VIKING

Viking treasure looters found guilty

Tuesday saw the conclusion of a groundbreaking trial against five men charged with aggravated crime against relics following the looting of Viking age coins and artefacts on the Baltic island of Gotland.

Viking treasure looters found guilty

The five men who stood accused of the deed were found guilty by the Gotland district court and have been sentenced to up to a year in prison.

“This verdict is unique. It is the first time that anyone has been found guilty of aggravated crime against relics since the law was made more severe on these cases in 1991,“ said Marie-Louise Hellqvist of the County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen) to local paper Gotlands Tidningar.

In November last year the police recovered a silver treasure dating back to the 11th century stolen from a field in Gandarve, Alva on Gotland in 2009.

The treasure comprised over 2,000 silver coins from Germany, England and the Arab world and its value has been estimated at 1.2 million kronor ($198,181).

The county administrative board had discovered the unauthorized dig comprising 250 pits in a field in October 2009.

After a preliminary investigation silver coins and part of an 11th century crucifix was found in the ground near the looters’ dig.

Since traces of looters are usually rained or cleared away, it is often very difficult to both detect and solve these kinds of crimes.

The suspects were linked to the crime scene by the remarkable discovery of the broken crucifix.

Several days after finding the dig, an email was discovered by chance with a photo of a part of a crucifix up for sale.

It was sold to a man from southern Sweden and was later discovered in his home.

The trail led Police back to a well-known coin dealer in Stockholm. And during a raid on his property on Gotland, investigators came across muddy clothes, metal detectors, shovels, backpacks and a car especially equipped with night vision.

After examining computers and GPS equipment, police also found links between the defendants and two other places where looters had struck on Gotland.

Landowners in Sweden that discover ancient artefacts are awarded a finders fee in reward for turning them in to authorities. According to Majvor Östergren, archaeological administrator at the county administrative board, this is very important.

“Scientists from all over the world come to Gotland to study our findings,“ Östergren told daily Dagens Nyheter (DN) at the beginning of the trial.

The court found three of the defendants guilty of preparation of aggravated crime against relics and aggravated crime against relics. One man was found guilty of crime against relics and will have to pay a fine and the fifth man was cleared completely.

Prosecutor Mats Wihlborg is happy with the verdict.

“I am fairly content with the outcome. They were found guilty of the crimes they stood accused of and they will go to prison, even if it for a shorter sentence than I would have hoped for,” he said to local paper Gotlands Allehanda.

According to Marie-Louise Hellqvist of the county administrative board, Tuesday’s verdict is of significant precedential value.

“It is proof that we have been working in the right direction and it will have immense impact on the protection of ancient remains all over the country,” she said to Gotlands Tidningar.

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VIKING

How a Viking king inspired one of our best-known modern technologies

A Swede and American tell the story of how they hatched the idea for the moniker 'Bluetooth' over beers.

A Danish 16th-century paining of Viking king Harald Bluetooth
A Danish 16th-century paining of Viking king Harald Bluetooth. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

At the end of the 1990s, Sven Mattisson, a Swedish engineer working at telecom group Ericsson, and Jim Kardach, an American employed by Intel, were among those developing the revolutionary technology.

In 1998, at the dawn of the “wireless” era, the two men were part of an international consortium that created a universal standard for the technology first developed by Ericsson in 1994.

But prior to that, they had struggled to pitch their wireless products. Intel had its Biz-RF wireless programme, Ericsson had MC-Link, while Nokia had its Low Power RF. Kardach, Mattisson and others presented their ideas at a seminar in Toronto in late 1997.

“Jim and I said that people did not appreciate what we presented,” Mattisson, now 65 and winding down his career at Ericsson, recalled in a recent interview with AFP.

The engineer, who had travelled all the way to Canada from Sweden for the one-hour pitch, decided to hang out with Kardach for the evening before flying home.

“We received a lukewarm reception of our confusing proposal, and it was at this time I realised we needed a codename for the project which everyone could use,” Kardach explained in a long account on his webpage.

‘Chauvinistic story’

To drown their sorrows, the two men headed for a local Toronto bar and ended up talking about history, one of Kardach’s passions. “We had some beers… and Jim is interested in history so he asked me about Vikings, so we talked at length about that,” said Mattisson, admitting that his recollection of that historic night is now somewhat foggy.

Kardach said all he knew about Vikings was that they ran “around with horned helmets raiding and looting places, and that they were crazy chiefs.”

Mattisson recommended Kardach read a well-known Swedish historical novel about the Vikings, entitled “The Long Ships”.

Set in the 10th century – “a chauvinistic story” about a boy taken hostage by Vikings, says Mattisson – one name in the book caught Kardach’s attention: that of the king of Denmark, Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson.

A Bluetooth adapter from 2004. Photo: Stefan Gustavsson/SvD/TT

Unification

An important historic figure in Scandinavia in the 10th century, the king of Denmark’s nickname is said to refer to a dead tooth, or, as other tales have it, to his liking for blueberries or even a simple translation error.

During his reign, Denmark turned its back on its pagan beliefs and Norse gods, gradually converting to Christianity.

But he is best known for having united Norway and Denmark in a union that lasted until 1814.

A king who unified Scandinavian rivals – the parallel delighted those seeking to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link.

And the reference to the king goes beyond the name: the Bluetooth logo, which at first glance resembles a geometric squiggle, is in fact a superimposition of the runes for the letters “H” and “B”, the king’s initials.

Low-cost and with low power consumption, Bluetooth was finally launched in May 1998, using technology allowing computer devices to communicate with each other in short range without fixed cables.

The first consumer device equipped with the technology hit the market in 1999, and its name, which was initially meant to be temporary until something better was devised, became permanent.

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