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Horses buried with Icelandic Viking nobles were male, ancient DNA shows

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Archaeologists in Iceland say they have analyzed DNA evidence to show that male horses were killed and then buried alongside Viking settlers who were likely noblemen and their family.

The researchers conducted a genetic analysis of ancient DNA from teeth and bone fragments of 19 horses recovered from sites across Iceland and found that all of them, except one, were male.

“Horses are the most common grave goods found in Viking Age graves,” they said in a scientific paper published this week in the Journal of Archaelogical Sciences.

To date, all analyses of Viking Age horse burials in Scandinavia reflect a preferential sacrifice of male horses over females, the paper said. 

It said that during an Icelandic Viking burial ceremony, healthy horses would be killed by cutting their throats. The animals were believed to be in their prime and not buried because of old age or illness.

The paper said the sex ratio of the horses suggests they were chosen as symbolic representatives of the interred Vikings.

Seen as symbols of power

“It is reasonable to believe that a Viking who received a horse in the grave must have had a certain amount of power and influence,” said Albina Hulda Palsdottir, a PhD student at the University of Oslo and one of the authors.

Human male and female skeletons were equally likely to be buried with a horse. Most of the human skeletons that could be aged were between 35 and 45 years, but two skeletons came from younger individuals and one individual was older than 46.

In addition to the 19 buried horses, the researchers examined the remains of three horses that were found outside graves. All of these were female and were likely eaten, said researcher Sanne Boessenkool.

Horse burials common practice

These kinds of burial sites, which are known for their relatively high occurrence of horse remains, date to the late 9th century to early 11th century.

Author and archaeologist Runar Leifsson, who was one of the collaborators on the paper, weighed in on the reason for choosing male horses.

“It is natural to imagine that the slaughter of the virile and to some extent aggressive male animals must have been part of a burial ritual that was intended to convey status and power,” he said.

Vikings brought horses with them when they travelled from Norway to Iceland in the 9th and 10th centuries, when the island was still uninhabited after the rest of Western Europe had been settled.

Iceland’s horses have been purebred for more than 1,000 years because of laws against importing horses.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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