York's Ancient Past Comes to Life

The Jorvik Centre in York, England offers  a glimpse into life in the ancient Viking city of Jorvik a thousand years ago, via  Magic Carpet Journals


FoQuaint old buildings on Stonegate.r the history buff, York is one of the most fascinating cities in Britain. It was there when the Romans invaded England and during an earlier period in its history York was a Viking settlement. Even today York streets are called "gates" as they were in ancient times. Stonegate, an old cobble-stoned street was once the "Via Pretoria" or main street leading to the ancient Roman fortress. Now Stonegate, lined with quaint old buildings that house fashionable shops, leads to York's famous cathedral, Yorkminster.

A few blocks away, The Jorvik Centre brings to life the period of Viking habitation, when the city was known as Jorvik. Most of Jorvik's buildings were wooden and thought to have disappeared long ago, however quantities of archeological artifacts were uncovered in Coppergate during excavation for new construction in the seventies. Construction stopped and the archeologists took over between 1976 and 1981. The dig revealed whole streets of shops, houses, workshops and warehouses, some of which were still standing shoulder high, with amazing preservation of their contents. Thanks to the York Archeological Trust, the Jorvik Viking Centre was built in the huge hole created by the archaeological dig. Some of the buildings were preserved just as they were found, others were reconstructed using the clues discovered on the site.

The Jorvik Centre takes the visitor back through time to the ancient city of Jorvik, once considered to be the capital of northern England. A rail car becomes your "time capsule" as you descend past ghostly depictions of those who inhabited this city from the present through the past thousand years. Soldiers of the wars, street urchins, ladies and gents representative of their era, and the victims of plague, wars and pestilence all pass by. You hear the crackling sounds of the fire and smell the smoke as the city burns during the Norman conquest. In all thirty generations of this ghostly procession pass by before you emerge into the hustle and bustle of the ancient city of Jorvik on a late October day in the year 948.




Frozen in a moment in timeAn impressive entrance to Jorvik! Not only the sights, but the sounds and smells of this thriving city assail your senses. As you glide smoothly through the ancient community you see the inhabitants, frozen in a moment in time, as they go about their daily activities. You pass through the buildings observing various craftsmen producing their wares, and a family preparing a meal over their smoky hearth. People are leading their everyday lives. Squealing pigs and clucking fowl appear to roam freely through the yards and streets. The time traveler is instantly reminded of today's advantages! Down by the river we pass a large cargo boat reminding us that the Vikings were a seafaring people who traveled to far off places in their known world.

"Eymund the Fisherman" whose skull was found relatively intact, appears much as he is believed to have looked a thousand or more years ago. Modern technology, similar to that used for police work by forensic scientists, has been used to maintain his authentic appearance. "Eymund" was 'brought to life' through the joint efforts of a hospital team using a laser scanner, computer imaging and video equipment. Their findings were then used by a computer-controlled milling machine that cut a block of hard foam into a 3-D model head. This in turn was given to a sculptor who produced the likeness using the data from the medical team. The result is an extremely life-like specter from the past. Since then the methods have been used to recreate more of Eymund's compatriots.

Quaint old buildings on Stonegate Also included in this journey are the actual digs of the archeologists, upon whose evidence the previous street scenes were based. Here the layers of soil can be seen revealing actual timbers and artifacts just as they were uncovered in 1980. The whole dig is a mirror image of the reconstruction.

The time capsule comes to a stop in the domain of the archeological detectives. In the Conservation Laboratory we see how each specimen is cleaned, identified and preserved. It is explained how the pieces of this puzzle were put together. It is fascinating to discover how a dedicated team of experts produced this incredible exhibit with such authenticity.

Truly, a visit to Britain is enhanced by stepping into York's ancient past!


Story and Pictures By M. Maxine George  


For further information about York contact:The Judges Lodging Hotel

The British Tourist Authority

5915 Airport Road, Ste. 120

Mississauga, Ontario L4V 1T1


York Visitor and Conference Bureau,

The Travel Office, 6 Rougier Street,

York, England YO1 1JA


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Last Updated on November 08, 2008 by M. Maxine George editor.  © 2003 Magic Carpet Journals. All rights reserved