No. 91 Vol. VIII No. 8 Published March 1984
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The Jorvik Viking Centre
T HE archaeological event of the year is surely going to be the opening of the Jorvik Viking Centre at Coppergate, York, scheduled for 14th April, 1984. I had a preview when it was three-quarters finished and it was already clear that it is going to be a knock out. The Coppergate development is larger than I had anticipated, and the modern architecture is rather less objectionable than I had feared. The entrance to the Jorvik Viking Centre is to one side of the courtyard and once you are underground you enter a dusty old cellar filled with modern rubbish. (They do a very nice line in artificial dust. ) You then board an electric "time car" which takes you around the display: the time car sets off in reverse, and you go backwards through time past dusty figures dressed in ever older clothing, until suddenly the spooky gloom is replaced by the brightness as you arrive back in Viking York. The time car then changes direction and takes you down the Viking alleyway between two sets of Viking houses.
Readers of Current Archaeology who are sticklers for historical accuracy will no doubt spot some of the departures from what was actually found. Thus on the right there are three different reconstructions of the same house, one low, one medium in height and one tall house. Then on the left, the side of a house is cut away to enable the cars to go right inside and out through the door. Behind this the latrine pit is correctly placed, and a wattle fence has been placed discreetly around it to half-conceal the old gentleman who is sitting there. At the far end they have built a quay at which a ship is moored—a nice touch, although the river in reality is quite a long way away.
The noise is indescribable. There are 54 channels of sound, coming through 70 speakers, and each of the waxwork figures is chattering away. There are two children, one on either side of the pathway, playing shouting games with each other—in old Norse. The smells were not yet in operation when I went round, but when they are, it will be incredibly lifelike.
Then, round the corner, you are suddenly back into modern times, into a reconstruction of the excavations. Again this is incredibly lifelike, especially the steel shuttering along the far wall, which looks like the original steel shuttering, though actually it is a replica, fronting the concrete walls of the gallery. You also go past some of the timber buildings found in Coppergate, conserved and reset where they were found, though still behind perspex to maintain high humidity, as it will take a year or two to complete the stabilisation of the wood. Finally the cars disgorge their visitors, who are free to wander around through replicas of a conservation lab, an environmental archaeology lab, and then around the conventional museum to see some of the objects.
The main credit for this fantasia must go to Peter Addyman, the Director of the York Archaeological Trust, and to Anthony Gaynor, the project manager. Credit must also be given to their entrepreneurial partner, Ian Skipper. Ian Skipper is a Lancashire businessman, who turned up on site one day in his Rolls Royce and asked if he could help. When he was given a bucket and trowel, he said that this was not quite his line. Peter Addyman then asked what was his line, and he said that his line was being an entrepreneur and making money. Could he be allowed to make some money for the York Archaeological Trust, please? Since then he has been applying his talents to just