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It was the greatest disaster since Olaf the Hairy, high chief of all the Vikings, ordered 80,000 battle helmets with horns on the inside

Edmund Blackadder


 

I always love a bit of Blackadder, but people who think Vikings used to wear horned helmets get on my nerves. So do those who think Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, for that matter. While I have your attention, the hall in Asgard where great warriors who die in combat end up is called Valhöll, not Valhalla. That, together with the horned helmet gobbledygook, is something the Victorians came up with when they eventually got bored of looking at portraits of ill children praying.

Now that we have cleared the air, let me guide you through the Jorvik Viking Centre and its Norse treasures. The museum is located in the heart of the city of York and offers you the chance to revive York’s Viking past through reconstructions of the old viking town and the display of some interesting artefacts. Despite having really enjoyed my visit, I felt that the £8 ticket was somewhat excessive (bear in mind I qualified for student discount) for seeing very few artefacts and going through a reconstructed viking village, which is indeed a very pleasant experience, but it tends to get rather tedious unless you’re a family with children.

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This guy looks like he has a lot of his mind, perhaps he just received a hefty gas bill. I will however say one thing in favour of the viking village reconstruction experience: it was indeed very realistic. And when I say it was realistic, I mean that the place also stunk as it used to do back in medieval times. You may very well think that it does not seem very pleasant, but I highly appreciated the effort to recreate the village in the most realistic way possible. As you travel around the streets, you will get a blast of smoke in your face from the blacksmith’s furnace and be delighted by the smell of home-cooked stew. It is also worth noting that the animatronic Viking characters speak Old Norse.

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As we got off the little car that drove us through the streets of Old Jorvik, we moved onto the artefacts. All of these items have been dug up beneath the Centre between 1976 and 1981 by archaeologists of the York Archaeological Trust. One striking detail is that the Vikings loved their combs. As these were however pretty expensive, having long hair/a long beard was a sign of wealth in the Viking Age, and those proud comb owners would always hang it off their belt to show everyone that they could afford one. I guess that was the Viking equivalent of swag.

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Viking combs were made out of bone and antler. Unlike modern combs, these were made up of several different parts, meaning that if you ever broke a plate you would only have to replace the broken piece as opposed to the whole comb. Jorvik is also home to two skeletons of respectively an adult male and female. Both bodies present a number of genetical defects and malfunctions. Surprisingly enough, the male was about 5ft.3 tall, making him shorter than me. Not quite how you would imagine a Viking to look like.

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As mentioned in my previous post, one of the ‘highlights’ of my visit was the renowned Viking poo. Probably not the nicest of sights, but it did tell us a lot about what the vikings used to eat.

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Here are parts of men who died in combat. I hope they made it to Valhöll!

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If you are interested in Viking History, make sure you pop by York and take a look at the Jorvik Viking Centre. Although I did say that I found the price of not extremely good value for money, I believe it is still worth a visit. You should especially consider visiting during the Viking Festival, which will take place from February 14th to the 21st. The week-long celebrations feature a Viking banquet, a guest reading of Beowulf and a spectacular battle simulation. I will try to attend myself as it sure sounds like an unforgettable experience!

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