The Vikings in Cleveland

WhereGreat Broughton Village HallType of EventTalk
WhenMonday 6th July at 7.30pmTutorDr Heather O’Donoghue 
and Jane Harrison

Heather O’Donoghue and Jane Harrison are members of a team from the University of Oxford, who are in turn part of the ‘Languages, Myths and Finds Project’ investigating the legacy of Scandinavian settlement in communities around Britain and Ireland. Their particular area of interest is Cleveland.

Heather started by dispelling some of the myths about Vikings, particularly their reputation for rape and pillage. She preferred to think of them as Scandinavian settlers who left their mark on the country in a positive way over a period of more than 300 years. She gave many instances of the old Norse language that still exist in our modern dialects and enlightened us with the origins of a number of place names in our immediate area. She explained how the early settlers chose to make their homes on higher ground along the foot of the Cleveland Hills.

Jane then took up the narrative from an archaeologist’s viewpoint and showed pictures of various finds including artefacts from a burial in Kildale. One of the more visual relics of the colonists are the sculpted stone hogbacks which appeared to be symbols of status of richer, more powerful locals. Although often discovered in churches or churchyards, there is no proof that they were associated with graves as the Scandinavians were pagans.

Finally Heather and Jane announced what they described as one of the most exciting finds in recent times, that of an inscribed stone discovered by chance amongst other relics in Conyer’s Chapel in Sockburn. The stone was incomplete but was thought to be part of a cross and the inscription written in old Norse in the runic alphabet seemed to explain by and to whom it had been erected. Scandinavian runic inscriptions in England are relatively rare.

A full house in the Village Hall enjoyed an informative and entertaining evening, giving new insight into the early inhabitants of the area in which we live.

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