2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: British History 1500 and before (including Roman Britain)

Jórvík was the Viking name for the English city of York and the kingdom centred there.


York had been founded as the Roman legionary fortress of Eboracum and revived as the Anglo-Saxon trading port of Eoforwic. It was first captured in November 866 by a large army of Danish Vikings, called the " Great Heathen Army" by Anglo-Saxon chroniclers, which had landed in East Anglia and made their way north, aided by a supply of horses with which King Edmund of East Anglia bought them off and by civil in-fighting between royal candidates in the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria. Declaring a truce, the rivals for the throne of Northumbria joined forces but failed to retake the city in March 867, and with their deaths the kingdom Deira came under Danish control, and the Northumbrian royal court fled north to refuge in Bernicia. A Viking attempt against Mercia the same season failed and in 869 their efforts against Wessex were fruitless in the face of opposition from Kings Ethelred and Alfred the Great.

Jórvík became the capital of a flourishing small kingdom when the Danish warlord, Guthrum, headed for East Anglia, while Prince Halfdan Wide-Embrace of Sjaelland and Uppsala took the York throne in AD 876. Both were in the Danelaw, as were their English subjects. While the Danish army was busy in the British Isles, the Swedish army was occupied with defence of the Danish and Swedish homelands where Halfdan's brothers were in control.

Jorvik was founded by the paternally Halfdan Ragnarsson as a Danish institution but was passed onto the Norwegians, who fought for it. Native Danish rulers who eventually made Jelling in Jutland the site of Gorm the Old's kingdom, were in the East Anglian Kingdom. The Five Boroughs/Jarldoms were based upon the Kingdom of Lindsey and were a sort of frontier between each kingdom. King Canute the Great would later "reinstall" a Norwegian dynasty of jarls in Northumbria( Eric of Hlathir), with a Danish dynasty of jarls in East Anglia ( Thorkel). Northern England would continue to be a source of intrigue for the Norwegians until Harald III of Norway's death at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

The area of the palace built by the Viking rulers was known as the Konungsgårthr and is today known as King's Square, which nucleates the Ainsty. New streets, lined by regular building fronts for timber houses were added to an enlarging city between AD 900 and 935, dates arrived at by tree-ring chronology carried out on remaining posts preserved in anaerobic clay subsoil. The Viking kingdom was absorbed into England in 954, without cramping its economic success: by ca 1000, the urban boom brought Viking Jórvík to a population total second only to that of London within the British Isles. William the Conqueror brought the independence of Jórvík to an end and established garrisoned castles in the city.

Kings of Jórvík

  • Halfdan Ragnarsson 875-877
  • Guthfrith son of Hardicnut 883- 24 August 895
  • Sigfrith floruit 895
  • Cnut fl. 895
  • Æthelwald died December 902?
  • Ragnald son of Sygtrygg, King of Dublin 919-920
  • Sigtrygg Caech, King of Dublin 920-927
  • Olaf Cuaran, King of Dublin 927
  • Guthfrith son of Sygtrygg, King of Dublin 927, died 934
  • Athelstan, King of the English 927-939
  • Olaf III Guthfrithson, King of Dublin 939-941
  • Olaf Cuaran, King of Dublin 941-943
  • Ragnald son of Guthfrith, King of Dublin 943-944
  • Olaf Cuaran, King of Dublin 944
  • Edmund, King of the English 944-946
  • Eadred, King of the English 946-947
  • Eric Bloodaxe 947-948
  • Eadred, King of the English 948-950
  • Olaf Cuaran, King of Dublin 950-952
  • Eric Bloodaxe (restored) 952-954, killed 954

Archaeological findings

From 1976 to 1981, the York Archaeological Trust conducted a five-year excavation in and around the street of Coppergate. This demonstrated that, in the 10th century, Jórvík's trading connections reached to the Byzantine Empire and beyond: a cap made of silk survives, and coins from Samarkand were familiar enough and respected enough for a counterfeit to have passed in trade. Both these items, as well as a large human coprolite known as the Lloyds Bank turd, were famously recovered in York a millennium later. Amber from the Baltic is often expected at a Viking site and at Jórvík an impractical and presumably symbolic axehead of amber was found. A cowrie shell indicates contact with the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf. Christian and pagan objects have survived side-by-side, usually taken as a sign that Christians were not in positions of authority.

After the excavation, the York Archaeological Trust took the decision to recreate the excavated part of Jórvík on the Coppergate site, and this is now the JORVIK Viking Centre.

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