This weekend we visited Leeds for a bit of a reunion with some girls I was in school with. On the Saturday, we went to York as one of my friends wanted to go to the Viking Centre! We booked in advance so we were able to skip the queue, which was already long at 10:30am. We were ushered inside by a man dressed as a viking and went downstairs to where the exhibit began.
The Viking age dates from 800-1050 AD, the Viking people originated in Scandinavia, but travelled to the British Isles, raiding and pillaging at first before settling in areas throughout the country. There is evidence of Viking settlements over a widespread area of the British Isles including the Islands and North of Scotland; Yorkshire; Northumbria and East Anglia. Placenames ending in -by, -thorpe or -toft were founded by Vikings.
York was captured by the Vikings in 866AD. In the 1970s a huge archaeological dig took place which uncovered the remains of buildings, textiles, plants and animal bones. These were preserved by the moist, peaty earth, and usually in a normal archaeological site would have rotted away many years before. In the five years of digging they found over 40,000 items! From the site they could discover how the Viking people lived, worked, ate and socialised.
Jorvik opened in 1984 as a way to showcase these artefacts, as well as educate people about York’s viking history, in a fascinating and entertaining way. Infotainment, if you will. So rather than walk through a museum looking at items in glass boxes, you take your seat on a six-person car which takes you on a ride through the streets of Viking York!
You see rather creepily realistic animatronic models of Vikings, some of whom were designed based on skeletons found during the dig. The characters you meet include a slave trader, hunter, merchants, priest, and more. You can also see recreated houses, to catch a glimpse of how they lived and played. Not only that but the museum even smells like a Viking street! Well I’m not sure how they know what a Viking street smelt like, but the place really is stinky!
After the ride there is a museum area where you can see skeletons and artefacts. There are also members of staff who give talks about the different artefacts they have found.
Jorvik is a fascinating experience for any history lovers and it is created in such a way that kids and adults alike will enjoy it. You really feel as though you have stepped back in time to Viking England.