07 November 2015

Archaeologists in Lincolnshire

England is especially rich in medieval Viking artifacts. Lincolnshire, UK, on the east central North Sea coast, is a case in point, as evidenced by the following article from the Lincolnshire Echo. As always, the reader should keep in mind that British and American English words sometimes have different spellings. T'aint my fault folks. :) (Ed.)


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By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: October 03, 2015


When many people think of the Vikings, they think of a horde of bloodthirsty marauders, intent on rape and pillage. This common belief is largely based on the historical writings of the time, when people had very good reason to fear lightning fast raids from the sea. But how accurate really is this image? Archaeological evidence is sparse and often ambiguous, but recent work in Lincolnshire has helped to shed more light on this period and perhaps change our perceptions.

The first recorded Viking raid in Britain occurred in 793AD, when the Anglo-Saxon monastery at Lindisfarne was attacked. Similar raids were recorded in Lincolnshire, notably in 841AD, when the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states that 'many men in Lindsey were killed by the enemy'.

While these raids were often described as being especially violent, direct evidence of their effects is hard to find, and no major sites of destruction have ever been identified in Lincolnshire.
Indeed, the archaeological record for most settlements of this period shows little substantial change to the existing cultural assemblages, and many places seem to thrive at this time. This is especially true of both Lincoln and Stamford, whose dramatic growth turned them into two of the most important towns of early medieval England.

While the majority of the archaeological evidence points towards relatively peaceful Scandinavian settlement and trade, it is undoubtedly true that conflict did occur. Perhaps the greatest example of this within Lincolnshire can be found at the village of Torksey, where a large Viking army is recorded to have spent the winter of 872-3AD. This army had already spent several years raiding large parts of northern and eastern England before it camped close to the site of the modern village, and it is thought to have stayed here for almost a year before moving on.

Fascinating detail

An ongoing project by the Universities of York and Sheffield has been investigating the remains they left, combining programmes of geophysical survey, targeted trial trenching and the collection of artefacts brought to the surface by ploughing. Large quantities of Viking Age material have been recovered and analysed, revealing fascinating detail into the life of the people who camped here, and how they occupied their time until the next raiding season.

The project also identified many features thought to actually reflect domestic activity on the site, including the remains of former enclosures and cemeteries, hearths and possible pottery kilns or metal-working areas. The camp's location on the bankshttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/icon1.png of the River Trent would not only have allowed the easy supply of provisions, but also afforded access to a wide trading network and markets for the goods they likely produced over the winter.

Although the Vikings are often portrayed as brutal conquerors, this project is helping us to see the diverse nature of their activities, and understand how, despite some conflict, they were largely peacefully assimilated into Anglo-Saxon culture and society.

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