Virtual Reality of the Viking Great Army Winter Camp at Torksey Recreated Using Latest Research for new Yorkshire Museum Exhibition

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Virtual Reality of the Viking Great Army Winter Camp at Torksey Recreated Using Latest Research for new Yorkshire Museum Exhibition

18 May 2017

The most realistic immersive experience ever created of the Viking World will be revealed in a new exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum this May.

The Virtual Reality experience reveals what life was like in the camp of the Viking Army at Torksey, Lincolnshire, in the winter of AD872-873.

Here Vikings in their thousands set up temporary camp as they waited out the winter months preparing to conquer vast swathes of England.

New research by the University of York and the University of Sheffield has been used to create the first immersive views of life on the camp which includes ships being built on the shore, Vikings melting down stolen loot, manufacturing, trading and playing games. All the scenes are based on real objects found by archaeologists and metal detectorists at Torksey.

The 3D images and soundscape will feature in an immersive experience as part of Viking: Rediscover the Legend, a major new exhibition in partnership with the British Museum. It opens on May 19.

Professor Julian Richards, from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York said:

“These extraordinary images offer a fascinating snap shot of life at a time of great upheaval in Britain. The Vikings had previously often raided exposed coastal monasteries and returned to Scandinavia in winter, but in the later ninth century they came in larger numbers, and decided to stay. This sent a very clear message that they now planned not only to loot and raid – but to control and conquer.”

Dr Gareth Beale from York’s Digital Creativity Labs added:

“The new research by the University of York and Sheffield has been used to create the most realistic images of the camp to date, based on real findings. These images are also believed to be the most realistic Virtual Reality ever created anywhere of the Viking world.”

The Virtual Reality scenes have been modelled by Gareth, working with Dr Guy Schofield and Dr Jonathan Hook, both from the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at the University of York, and the acoustic sound track was created by Dr Damian Murphy, Lewis Thresh and Kenneth Brown from the AudioLab in the Department of Electronic Engineering.

Dr Guy Schofield said:

“It’s been a real cross-disciplinary project and exciting working with the archaeologists and museum professionals to create an authentic but entertaining visitor experience.”

The research by Sheffield and York is beginning to reveal the true extent of the camp and the activities that took place there.

Professor Dawn Hadley, who leads the Sheffield side of the project, said:

“Torksey was much more than just a handful of hardy warriors – this was a huge base, larger than most contemporary towns, complete with traders, families, feasting and entertainment. From the finds we know, for example, that they were repairing their boats here and melting down looted gold and silver to make ingots – or bars of metal they used to trade.

“Metal detectorists have also found more than 300 lead game pieces, suggesting the Vikings, including, women and children, were spending a lot of time playing games to pass the time, waiting for spring and the start of their next offensive. The visitor will be transported into this world and able to look around in a 360 degree landscape complete with conversations from the period.”

The Virtual Reality experience has been created by Digital Creativity Labs at the University of York, with the digital team at the Yorkshire Museum.


Viking: Rediscover the Legend

The Virtual Reality will feature alongside star objects from the British Museum and Yorkshire Museum’s world class collections in the new exhibition which aims to give fresh perspective on how Vikings shaped every aspect of life in Britain.

It will include the most famous Viking hoards ever discovered in this country, including the Vale of York Viking Hoard, Cuerdale Hoard and the Bedale Hoard. The exhibition opens at the Yorkshire Museum on May 19 until November 5 and then will go on tour to the University of Nottingham Museum, The Atkinson, Southport, Aberdeen Art Gallery and Norwich Castle Museum, dates to be announced shortly.

Find out more about the exhibition here.


The Great Viking Army and Torksey

In 865 AD a large Viking force landed in East Anglia. It is described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, our main contemporary documentary source, as the “Great Army” as it was much larger than previous raiding parties.

The force seized the Northumbian capital of York in 867 and went on to wage war against the Anglo Saxon Kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex. In 871 the army was reinforced from Scandinavia and over the next decade their warfare transformed the political and cultural landscape of Britain.

In 872 AD the army chose Torksey, on the banks of the River Trent, 13km from Lincoln as a suitable defensive and strategic position for their winter base.

The exact location and scale of the camp has been debated for many years, but now research by the Universities of Sheffield and York is beginning to reveal the true extent of the camp. It is now thought to be at least 55 hectares in size, bigger than many towns and cities of the time, including York. This has suggested that it is thousands, not hundreds, of Viking warriors, women and children who lived here in tented accommodation.

There have also been more than a thousand finds by metal detectorists and archaeologists, including over 300 coins. They include more than 100 Arabic silver coins which would have come to the area through established Viking trade routes.

More than 50 pieces of chopped up silver, including brooch fragments and ingots have been found along with rare hackgold. Evidence has been found that these items were being processed at the camp – chopped up to be melted down. Other finds include the 300 gaming pieces, iron tools, spindle whorls, needles and fishing weights.

Using landscape analysis, the research has been able to reveal the topography of the camp. With the River Trent to the west and surrounding land prone to flooding to this day, its strength as a defensive position becomes clear. Funding for the research has been provided by the British Academy, the Society of Antiquaries of London, and the Robert Kiln Trust.

Your Comments

  1. David Mckinley |

    Great to see York holding such an exhibition… Objects and finds amazing.. The helmet in remarkable condition. Hope a copy of the poster will be on sale.

    1. Rachel Wade |

      Thank you for your comment David, we’re really pleased to hear you’re looking forward to the exhibition.

      Unfortunately we don’t have a poster of the York Helmet, but there are postcards and even a replica helmet to purchase.

      Best wishes,

      Rachel at York Museums Trust

  2. John Yates |

    An excellent Exhibition which I attended as Trust member on the afternoon of the opening day. Unfortunately it was rather difficult to see and appreciate everything due primarily to the limited exhibition space allocated. It would also have helped if there has been some trained members of staff to help explain some of the exhibits to visitors particularly those with sight difficulties.

    1. Rachel Wade |

      Dear John,

      Thank you very much for your feedback, and for attending our exhibition preview for YMT Card holders.

      We’re sorry for the difficulties you experienced during your visit. I have passed these comments on so we can take them into consideration for future exhibitions and events.

      We hope you continue to enjoy visiting our sites with your YMT Card.

      Best wishes,

      Rachel at York Museums Trust