Remnants of a massive Viking military camp discovered in Lincolnshire, England

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Previously, we had talked about how the ‘Great Heathen Army’ of the Vikings (or hæþen here in Old English) documented by the renowned Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, was possibly not that ‘great’, at least when it came to its numbers. However a recent archaeological discovery at Torksey, on the banks of the River Trent in Lincolnshire, might just up the ante of the historical scope of this medieval invasion force from Scandinavia. To that end, a collaborative effort from researchers at the Universities of Sheffield and York, has revealed the remains of a massive 9th century Viking camp in the area that “was used by thousands of Viking warriors, women and children who lived there temporarily in tented accommodation.”

In other words, according to the archaeologists, the camp in question here exceeded the traditional scope of being utilized by a few armed warriors. Instead the guarded ‘complex’, with its area of 55 hectares, was actually larger than many contemporary towns of Britain, and was used as a huge base for a flurry of activities, ranging from repairing ships, melting down looted metal (like gold and silver) to even manufacturing units and trading. In essence, the camp rather served as a temporary urban space with its fair share of ‘inhabitants’ like traders, women and children who accompanied the actual warriors. Many of them passed their time by feasting and playing games, with the latter being confirmed by the discovery of more than 300 lead game pieces (by metal detectorists).

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Pieces from ‘hnefatafl’, the early medieval Nordic equivalent of chess.

Interestingly enough, the researchers have managed to compile their collective findings which led to a virtual reconstruction of this Viking camp. Guided by an assortment of real objects and artifacts found by archaeologists and metal detectorists, the virtual reality experience is part of an ongoing exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum (started from 19th May). Dr Gareth Beale from York’s Digital Creativity Labs, made his case –

The new research by the Universities of Sheffield and York has been used to create the most realistic images of the camp to date, based on real findings. These images are also believed to be the most realistic Virtual Reality ever created anywhere of the Viking world.

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Scene from the virtual reality experience. Credit: Yorkshire Museum

Reverting to the historical ambit of the huge Viking camp of Lincolnshire, archaeologists have managed to discover more than a thousand objects at the site, including over 300 coins. Incredibly enough, around a hundred of them are Arabic in origin, thus alluding to the comprehensive trade networks established by the Vikings of 9th century AD. These coins are complemented by a range of other finds, including ‘chopped up’ silver pieces, fragments of rare hack-gold, iron tools, spindle whorls, needles and fishing weights. And beyond just the material evidence, the researchers also conducted a topographical assessment of the area that rather revealed the defensive strategic value of the humongous Viking camp. Professor Julian Richards, from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, said –

These extraordinary images [of the virtual reconstruction] offer a fascinating snap shot of life at a time of great upheaval in Britain. The Vikings had previously often raided exposed coastal monasteries and returned to Scandinavia in winter, but in the later ninth century they came in larger numbers, and decided to stay. This sent a very clear message that they now planned not only to loot and raid – but to control and conquer.

 
In case you are interested in the virtual reconstruction of the 9th century Viking camp, you can take a gander at his Yorkshire Museum link – www.yorkshiremuseum.org.uk

Source: University of Sheffield

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