Life in Viking York

How the Viking port may have looked

York changed when it was captured by the Vikings and the city became known as Jorvik.

The Anglian site at the junction of the rivers was abandoned in the mid-9th century.  By contrast the  street known as Coppergate sprang back to life at this time, after seemingly being unoccupied for the previous 450 years.

We have learned a great deal about life in Jorvik from the excavation of the Coppergate site.

Single-storey properties with wattle walls and thatched roofs were used as both homes and workshops. The buildings were typically about 7m x 5m with a large central hearth dominating the inside.  The floors were made of trampled earth.

Later Viking buildings had more timber and small basements, around 2m deep, perhaps for storage.

These were built in two ranks along Coppergate: space was at a premium in this booming city.

As a result Jorvik people lived cheek-by-jowl.  Living conditions were squalid.  Human fleas and lice were found at Coppergate.  Rubbish was thrown out in back yards, a fetid mix of discarded builidng materials, food remains and human waste.  These deposits saw the ground level rise by around 1cm a year.  But they also provided the perfect conditions to preserve the Viking way of life for the benefit of historians hundreds of years later.

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