Culture clash as Viking life is relived in 21st century York

The Vikings have returned to Jorvik.
The Vikings have returned to Jorvik.
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IT IS a clash of cultures like no other: the “Great Heathen Army” of Danish warriors who built a fortress in Viking York are being brought back to virtual life as a 21st century “national centre of excellence”.

In readiness for the reopening next month of York’s Jorvik attraction, a victim of the floods of December 2015, treasures from the British Museum’s collections are being shipped to the city.

They will go on display alongside locally-uncovered artefacts, as part of a gallery which organisers say will become one of the most complete pictures of Viking life in northern England.

York Archaeological Trust released details of the new galleries today. They will form part of a long-term collaboration with the British Museum and other institutions around the UK.

Sarah Maltby, Jorvik’s director of attractions, said the British Museum’s collections of Viking weapons would complement the hoards of artefacts unearthed by archeologists in the Coppergate area of York, and would together create a national centre of excellence for the Viking age.

She said: ““What was uncovered during the excavations of Coppergate was evidence of how the Vikings lived their day-to-day lives – how their houses were built and laid out, what they made and traded, and what they ate, for example – but little evidence was found on this site of the Vikings’ fearsome reputation as warriors and invaders.

“Conversely, the British Museum’s Viking collections are stronger in weaponry and treasures, so these two complement each other wonderfully, enabling us to deliver an even more rounded depiction of the Vikings in Britain and elsewhere.”

Items to be featured include treasures from the Halton Moor Hoard – a collection of 860 silver coins and six gold discs, a twisted silver neck ring and a gilt silver cup dating back to around AD1025-30, in the reign of Canute. The display will also feature coins of Canute as king of both England and Denmark, and a unique die, used to strike coins towards the end of Canute’s reign. Weaponry, including spearheads and a ‘pattern-welded’ sword found near Windsor will also be on display, with axe heads and stirrups of the kind used by Vikings when travelling over land on horseback.

Jewellery was also used to demonstrate Viking wealth, and items from Gotland, off the Swedish coast will also join the displays. Over 700 hoards of silver have been discovered on Gotland, including many Islamic coins from raiding and trading with the Islamic world.

Jorvik Viking Centre reopens to visitors on April 8.