Valhalla opens its gates
A new exhibition exploring Viking burials across the British Isles opens tomorrow (21 July) in York.
Curated by York Archaeological Trust, in collaboration with York Minster and Manx National Heritage, Valhalla: examining Viking burials in the British Isles brings together some of the latest archaeological findings to examine how Vikings commemorated and celebrated their dead.
Artefacts will shed light on boat burials, grave goods, and headstones – including the ornate York Minster stones, some of the finest examples of Viking Age stone sculpture in Britain, and a rare example of gravestones from this period found in situ above their original burials.
Visitors will also be able to see a replica of Thorwald’s Cross from the Isle of Man, which gives intriguing insights into the cultural transition from paganism to Christianity in the early Medieval period and appears courtesy of Manx National Heritage.
The Vikings themselves will also be present, in the form of two skeletons uncovered during excavations at Hungate in York, and new pathological research conducted by York Osteoarchaeology will reveal more about the lives these people led.
Sarah Maltby, Director of Attractions at York Archaeological Trust, said: ‘Through pathological and osteological analysis, we can tell the sex, age and height of a person, depending on how much of the skeleton was preserved in the ground. The research can also give us clues as to how that person may have died – whether from disease, injury or from natural causes.
She added: ‘Looking at this evidence, alongside artefacts found throughout the British Isles, helps tell a more accurate story of Viking Britain and our Viking ancestry.’
Other displays include the story of a Viking man buried in the Balladoole ship burial on the Isle of Man. Aged around 45, he died in around AD 950 and visitors will be able to meet him face to face thanks to state-of-the-art facial reconstruction.
Allison Fox, Curator of Archaeology at Manx National Heritage, said: ‘In archaeology, it’s through the dead that we can recreate the living, and talking about the rites and rituals of the Vikings can go some way to understanding the people themselves. We can even, quite literally, put a face to the dead in the case of the Viking burial at Balladoole, here on the Isle of Man.’
She added: ‘We’re really pleased to be part of this exciting exhibition, and we’re sure that visitors will be fascinated by the beliefs held by our Viking ancestors.’
Valhalla: examining Viking burials in the British Isles is at 10 Coppergate, York, YO1 9NR, until 5 November 2012. For more information, visit www.jorvik-viking-centre.co.uk.
For more on the Viking archaeology of Hungate, see CA 225