In 1976 plans were afoot for the development of the Coppergate Shopping Centre in York. It was agreed that due to York’s known abundance of buried treasures, archaeologists should move in prior to the build. What they quickly discovered set the building of the Coppergate Centre back 5 years.
The moist, peaty layers had preserved an unprecedented amount of organic materials such as timber, leather and fabric. In most conditions they would have rotted away to dust, but here in York, up to 9m below ground level, they waited patiently through the centuries to reveal Viking history, like no other site before.
In an area of 1000 square meters no less than 40,000 archaeological contexts were found. These included 5 tons of animal bones and 250,000 fragments of pottery.
In 1984 Jorvik Viking centre opened to showcase these finds and tell the story of the Vikings in York and the British Isles. The streets and dwellings of Coppergate were reconstructed just yards from their original sites. Visitors rode through the Centre underground in time travel cars, allowing them to eavesdrop, see and smell Jorvik as it would have been in late October 948 AD.
In 1990, modern technology allowed facial reconstruction from a Viking skull found in Fishergate. Visitors could come face to face with an actual Viking, Eymund the Fisherman. Further enhancements were made over the years as more and more finds were unearthed and more was discovered about the Viking’s lives in Jorvik.
Disaster struck on the night of 26th December 2015, when the River Foss broke its banks for the first time in over 30 years. Water flooded into the site, up to 1 m deep in places. Workers were able to construct a makeshift dam to stem the tide just long enough for the curators and volunteers to rescue the precious irreplaceable artefacts.
In the last 15 months, work has not stopped at Jorvik and on 8th April the Vikings are set to return. The famous time travel ride will still be in use, but with new animatronic figures and completely rebuilt parts of the Viking city.
So don’t delay, book your tickets now and experience the Return of the Vikings!