The Historic City of York - Jorvik and York's Viking Past

in travel •  6 months ago

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Jorvik - York's Viking Past

The city of York's viking history stretches as far back as 866 when an army Led by Halfdan and Ivar the Boneless,1 attacked the city of Eoforwīc on All Saints Day, November 1st of that year. Eoforwīc is the Anglo-Saxon name for York, which translates as wild-boar town2. The sacking of Eoforwīc, on All Saints Day, was a tactical master-stroke, showing the level of sophistication that the vikings possessed in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their enemies. There understanding of Christian custom and practice, aided by the somewhat blinkered attitudes of the church at the time, allowed the vikings to ambush the town on a festival day with minimum casualties.

The town was used as a viking garrison for a short time before being taken back by the English and then retaken by viking forces in 867. The city changed hands multiple times until a large viking army took Eoforwīc in March 867 killing the Northumbrian kings Aelle and Osbert. By the year 878 the former city of Eoforwīc (York) had been made part of the five boroughs of the Danelaw3 and was thence forth known as Jorvik.

The vikings stamped their mark on the city in many ways. Most notably their settlement made Jorvik a river port of no small measure. Archaeological records show Jórvík's trading connections reached to the Byzantine Empire and beyond, with both Byzantine silk recovered and coins from Samarkand 4 (a city in Uzbekistan). However, there is very little evidence of the vikings left in the architecture of modern day York as they built structures mainly with wattle (wood and mud) walls and thatched roofs.

Jorvik Viking Centre - The Excavation of Coppergate Street

Most of what we do know about the viking city of Jorvik comes from excavations of the Coppergate street site by York Archaeological Trust between 1976-81. The Jorvik Viking Centre 5. now sits atop this archaeological dig, providing an emersive experience into the lives of the people of this bygone age.

After descending a double flight of stairs, the museum experience starts above the old dig site, where they have a suspended glass floor with areas of excavation beneath. There is an archaeologists in this room dressed in full viking clothing ready to greet you and talk over the various artifacts on display.

Unfortunately, the low lighting and my rubbish phone camera doesn't really do this area justice in the picture above but it does give a general impression of the atmosphere. The area includes the original foundations of various buildings, both viking and from later medieval eras. As the friendly viking archaeologist talks you through the different indicators of style; building material, architectural structure etc, you do get a glimpse into the process behind the historical analysis.

The next section of the museum tour was my favorite. As a writer I am constantly trying to piece together setting through focused observation. Drinking in sights, sound and smell to build a believable backdrop with words to future stories and poems. The animatronics ride experience at Jorvik, builds that impressionistic step-back-in-time very well. The ride gives the feel of stepping back to the flee ridden, earthy smoke of ancient Coppergate street. They even pump in realistic smells as you ride through the recreation. I have written a short story which will be published separately from this post that was inspired by the Yorvik Viking Centre and particularly this part of the tour. In the mean time here is a short video of the ride, filmed on my phone's camera, complete with viking music as the microphone didn't capture the commentary very well. You will just have to imagine the smells 😉

The ride ends and you disembark into a more traditional museum setting. Many of the artifacts recovered in the dig are displayed in this section and the historical context is represented excellently.

One interesting thing I discovered was that seemingly every-day items were considered status symbols to the vikings. Bone combs were owned by the wealthy and those in high society among the vikings took immaculate care in personal grooming. There were a number of other combs on display of varying size and type, including one that could very well have been a beard comb.

In another area we were asked to guess the use of various artifacts (see picture below). This exhibit was presented in an immersive way as another archaeologist in full costume presented a group of items that you were allowed to touch, before asking what you thought they were.

Viking Object.png

Shoe of Bone

Severed antler, crown of stag
worked with axe and grinding stone,
polished smooth by trammeled waters
wearing rivers frozen foam.

Bedecked in circlet of leather,
ensorceled in wyrd-woven spells,
to walk on water weathering
kissed by ice where Skaði dwells.6.

© Rowan Joyce

Have You Guessed it Yet?                           It is a Viking Ice Skate!

Apparently, they were attached to the bottom of shoes by circlet's of leather and people would use them to skate across frozen rivers as well as hard packed snow. This was not for fun but rather a means to travel more efficiently, a way to get from A to B quickly in the frozen winter. It is this type of fascinating detail which I find invaluable for building setting in historical or fantasy fiction and the Jorvik Viking Centre was a real gold mine for this type of hidden history.

I hope you have enjoyed this delve into the viking history of York. Keep your eyes peeled for the short story inspired by Jorvik, to be published in the next few days! Thanks for reading 🙂



All images/footage used in this post are my own property taken on my phone in York. If you have enjoyed this travel/history/poetry post, you can check out my other work on my homepage @raj808. Thanks for reading.




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Vikings!! What a trip! I just got the ARC of a thoroughly researched history of the Vikings via NetGalley. Netflix has a TV series on Vikings, which my husband refuses to watch with me. :(
Love the detail on Viking ice skates and how this sort of thing, however apparently minor, is what brings historical fiction to life.


Thanks Carol. I'm glad you enjoyed this article and that the quirky Viking - ice skate - fact excited the imagination. I love stuff like that and am working on a Viking short story that includes a few interesting little known minutia of Norse mythology + life, should be up on steemit within a week.

P.s. that book looks interesting and I've watched all the series of 'vikings' all about Ragnar Lothbrook... Absolutely love it ☺

P.s. sry for the late response. I'm away from home with no access to steemit other than my phone and rubbish WiFi.


Looking forward to your story, Raj - and hmmm, let's see, will I forgive your late response of almost 24 (ha!) hours? (Ha ha ha!) - um, yeah!


Ha ha. I was responding to a tone of comments from 5 days ago and forgot to check.

I always find it interesting how deeply woven the vikings are in English history.

Thanks to @viking-ventures, this post was resteemed and highlighted in today's edition of The Daily Sneak.

Thank you for your efforts to create quality content!

Pretty fun and educative post! I clicked because I love history and discovering new things. I love how everything is so inter-connected and linked historically!
Keep posting, in these terrible crypto-winter times! :)


"Crypto-winter is coming" - @Ned Stark


Ohhh, it's long here already! I'm hoping we're about halfway through! :)


I've been stocking up for winter

Squirreling away the nuts and then all of a sudden....

Animated GIF-source.gif



The second is too funny 😂 there could be so many juicy memes after this mess lol


Ha ha, yeah I shall keep posting through rain, snow and sleet.
Thanks for your comment pandorasbox, I'm glad this post piqued your interest :-)

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Lovely post - made me think of "winter is coming" - then I saw that I wasn't the only one!!


Ha ha... 'great minds think alike' @lizziesworld. Here a different viking styleee game of thrones gif to keep you going:

Good thing the vikings didn't have wildfire ;-)

Thanks for your comment


Thank you - you made my day!!

Really nice job on the post @raj808

Pirates, Romans and Vikings I find absolutely fascinating and exciting to learn about. They are clearly a huge part of our history and of our makeup.

The museum looks great and the interactivity is definitely the way to go. It makes it so much easier for kids to be involved and excited by it. I've always said that to capture the imaginations of children with history is difficult because you need to have your own history and understand yourself before you want to know where you've come from.

I love the TV shows Vikings and The Last Kingdom, both of which cover this period and the changing hands of Eoforwic and All Saints Day. They brilliantly blend historical fact and a little fiction to make entertaining shows.

Cheers, Gaz


Hi Gaz. Yeah, I feel the same about UK history being rich and especially for fantasy fiction setting research. I have to be honest History was never my subject in school but I have found myself drawn to it more and more from a research angle.

I love the series Vikings also and was actually surprised how historically accurate it is. Probably shouldn't have been so surprised given it is a history channel drama. The Last Kingdom is decent also but not quite as good as Vikings for me.

Cheers for the thoughtful comment mate, I'm glad you enjoyed the post :-)

P.s. that museum was real immersive and I'd recommend it for the kids if you ever make it to York... or Jorvik :-)


I have been to York but it was a long time ago. I would love to go back up there for a short break and take my daughter before she gets too old to spend time with the old man!

This makes me think of the nursery rhyme I chanted often as a child

"the grand old Duke of York
He had 10,000 men
he marched them to the top of the hill
and marched them down again.

So when you're up you're up
and when you're down you're down
and when you're only half way up
You're neither up not down'



Ha ha, I used to sing that song as a child also :-) Small world!

@raj808 Thank you for another interesting story with photos! I have read and I have captured the spirit! I saw the story of the city and its capture by the Vikings with Ivar the Boneless in the TV series "Vikings". Just recently got another season and there were just these episodes. I read it with great pleasure and looked at the photo from the Museum.


Thanks @veta-less I'm glad you enjoyed reading this post :-)

I love the series Vikings also and was actually surprised how historically accurate it is. Probably shouldn't have been so surprised given it is a history channel drama. I have seen those episodes with Ivan the Boneless, I think they cast it really well. That actor does a really good psychopathic king act ;-)


@raj808 Oh, I'm only after "Vikings" had read the story of Lagertha, Ragnar, Ivar Besschetnova! I was surprised that these characters existed in the story. I like the historical surroundings and costumes, as well as the soundtrack. And Ivar, Yes...I'm a psychopath, I'm scared of him)

Wow such fabulous history, I really don't know about Jorvik and York's Viking Past really it seems like a whole new encyclopedia to me, wow what an amazing content you've written here, you're such a brilliant writer, well done


Glad you enjoyed the history of Jorvik/York and its Viking past josediccus and thank you for the lovely compliment. I have started to really enjoying making these longer history/travel posts which show my inspiration behind my poetry/fiction.

Also, well.... I'm pretty keen on viking history :-)

Thanks for the write up and the information! I know practically nothing of European history, so it is a nice way for me to discover more about England. I love the photo of the stairwell... somehow, that looks exactly like what I would imagine a stereotypical castle would look like!


Glad you enjoyed the little piece of English history. That stairwell was part of the wall that circles the city. You are right though, the window and tower stair is very much like a castles architecture. I will be writing a few more posts about York including one about medieval magical practices :-)

Thanks for your comment Bengy :-)


Medieval magic practices! That sounds pretty interesting! I'm going to try and tune in and catch it!

Dear @raj808,

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This was one of the most interesting posts I've read in a long time. Well written and interesting subject matter. I loved the poem as well.

The "ice skates" ... that's something I'd never heard of and I'm a history buff. So thanks for the enlightenment. I'd try out the idea for myself ... but I live in Florida, no ice. I don't suppose the Vikings had ... rudimentary surfboards? :-)

Great post.



Thanks quillfire. Glad you enjoyed the post. I find those small curious historical details - like the viking ice skate - absolutely fascinating. I know they were very ingenious with all types of bone/wood contraptions for traversing the frozen environment.

Not too sure about viking surf boards though 😉 it's an interesting thought

What an insightful post @raj808! I loved the poetry, especially the sound of the second stanza and the way you closed it.


Thanks bananafish... yeah I was pretty pleased with the way that poem turned out. I felt like it worked as a riddle poem. Maybe a little too fiendishly obscure to really give a clue as to the nature of the object but I thought it would be a fun way to approach the whole thing. Glad you enjoyed it :-)


It gives a true plus to the whole article 🙂

I love the architecture ! great post


Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the pics & architecture ☺

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Very informative! Nicely done!

Hello @raj808, thank you for sharing this creative work! We just stopped by to say that you've been upvoted by the @creativecrypto magazine. The Creative Crypto is all about art on the blockchain and learning from creatives like you. Looking forward to crossing paths again soon. Steem on!

Holy cannoli, what an awesome tour! While your camera phone might not have done justice to the visual, your descriptions more than made up for it. A Viking ice skate? Who'da thunk? Beautiful bit of prose too, @raj808.

Oh, and love the name of the town too...LOL!


Thanks Traci

Yeah, I thought the video came out alright... after a lot of cutting and editing but the pics were so blurry. One day soon hopefully I shall get a better camera... or even a better phone 😆

The viking ice skate was awesome... when I was there the archaeologist in costume must have said no, bt your getting closer about 8 times. In the end she said I had come kinda close as I thought it was a mould for putting inside leather shoes as they were shaped but I didn't even come close to guessing it was an ice skate!

Thanks for reading my post about Jorvik :-)


How about a better camera AND a better phone? LOL!

And that's awesome that you came so close - I don't think my brain could've been able to even hazard a guess! And you're very welcome - I truly enjoyed it!