There is one site that I have not yet brought up for us to explore, and frankly I’m quite surprised I haven’t done so. Our archaeological site for today is Coppergate, in York. So significant is this site that it has radically changed our view on Viking life…. And it all began with a shopping centre!
Yes, in the 1970s a new shopping centre was built, which of course had to be surveyed first, as it is well known that York is extremely rich in archaeology. Indeed, after digging through layers of the moist, spongy earth, archaeologists from the York Archaeological Trust found the remains of preserved Viking homes, clothes, games and goods. They found incredible evidence of Viking cottage industry, including metalworking, jewellery making, and the craft that gave Coppergate its name – wooden cups and bowls! It may seem a bit odd that Coppergate was named after wooden bowls and cups, but ‘Coppergate’ does actually have nothing to do with copper, it simply means ‘street of the cupmakers’.
An astonishing 40,000 items were excavated between 1979 and 1981. One of the most amazing finds was that of the York Helmet, the finest and best-preserved piece of Anglo – Saxon craftmanship ever discovered.
Other parts of Jorvik (as the site is known, Jorvik is an old name for York) may not seem quite as exciing, but they are very important, as they are a snapshot of life on the site. They show ordinary life, as it really was, not as the inhabitants wanted it to seem. The helmet was a fantastic find, but it shows only a tiny part of life.
When the site was first excavated, timber buildings were found, with workshops, fences, animal pens, pits and wells, all mixed around with materials like pottery, metal slag, bones, leather, wood, and plant and animal remains. Together, this built up a picture of Jorvik that has been replicated in an amazing display on the site at Jorvik Viking Centre. I have been several times, and it never ceases to amaze and surprise.
Definitely a trip worth taking when you can!