Viking Industry and Trade

Gold arm ring - Yorkshire Museum

Manufactured objects in Jorvik  were plentiful and surprisingly uniform.  Specialist workers undertook an early version of mass production. 

Standardised pots were made a fast wheel fired in a regulated kiln.  Wooden cups were systematically produced by lathe-turners.  Several properties in Coppergate were given over to metalworking.  One is believed to have been a blacksmith’s workshop.  Knives, keys and jewellery were produced.  Vikings were competent in these high-temperature industries, working with lead, copper-alloy, iron, silver and gold.  They even made glass.

Materials travelled many miles to reach the Jorvik craftsmen: gold and silver came from Europe, copper and lead from the Pennines, and tin from Cornwall.  Beads and rings were fashioned from amber and jet. Specialists could carve out combs, pins and even ice skates from bones and antlers.  Shoes, clothes and textiles were made out of leather. 

All of this thriving industry required plenty of raw materials and customers.  Most of the food and raw materials needed by Jorvik’s inhabitants were available in the immediate surrounding areas.  Everything from iron ore to wool to antlers were brought to Jorvik from Yorkshire’s countryside estates.  The finished products by York’s craftsmen would make the return journey, sold in the region.

The Vikings were great traders and had also established links from the Caspian Sea and Black Sea in the east, across Russia to Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland.  This ensured a range of exotic goods arrived in York: walrus ivory, silk for headscarves, amber for jewellery and Rhineland wine.  Spices, oils and perfumes were probably imported too.  Jorvik was both bustling marketplace and cosmopolitan hotspot.

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