JORVIK VIKING CENTRE GETS HELP FROM ASGARDBy Jim
The grand reopening of the Jorvik Viking Centre in York, took place this year, on April 8th and Asgard are proud to have played a small part in the re-imagining of this world class display of Viking archaeology. We reproduced several Viking bone, antler, and metal objects from the Jorvik collection. Some will go on sale in the shop, and others will be used by staff to demonstrate the Viking way of life including an intricate, thousand year old, working padlock.
The museum closed in December of 2015 after it was inundated by the flood waters from the River Foss. Since then a huge effort has taken place to raise over £1.5 million and reimagine the museum ready for the reopening. It has been an enourmous effort involving many different contributors from across the world.
Jim taking detailed measurements at the York Archaeological Trust in August 2016.
Jim and the team agreed to recreate several artefacts, which had been uncovered in the original Coppergate excavations. Amongst the artefacts were antler objects including combs with their cases, hair pins, gaming pieces and a die. There are also bronze cloak pins, tweezers and a fake dirham – an imitation of an arabic coin. Real Dirhams would originally have made their way from the arabic world to York in the 9th century, where they were prized for their silver content. There are also many brooches, bracelets and rings that Asgard have painstakingly recreated, and will be sold in the Jorvik shop. Perhaps the most complex artefact they have recreated, is an ornate iron and bronze Viking padlock of the 10th century.
The workings of the reconstructed Coppergate padlock.
Jim of Asgard recalls,
“When we received the call from Jorvik Viking Center, I couldn’t wait to get started. When you spend your life recreating Viking jewellery and artefacts, the chance to visit the Jorvik collection and handle the originals is incredible. I got to examine in minute detail all the objects that we were to reproduce, taking detailed measurements and drawings. We wanted to recreate these objects as they would have been when they were first crafted in Viking York over a thousand years ago.”
Getting up close with a Viking age antler comb.
Detailed pictures of the finds were taken, giving us more information than was previously available.
The Coppergate padlock, in all its rusted glory.
Armed with these detailed records, Jim returned to his workshop and created models of the metal objects. Where corrosion had removed detail from the orginals, Jim used his extensive knowledge of Viking artefacts to interpret the missing details. The arabic writing on the fake dirham was a particular challenge, something that had even taxed the Viking craftsmen who produced the forgeries of the arabic originals. Jim;
“There are examples of Viking forgeries of Dirhams where they obviously didn’t understand the Arabic text they were copying. The Coppergate forgery would have been more convincing. We couldn’t see the entirety of the script, so we had to reference other similar coins found in Britain. These are beautiful coins and we wanted to do them justice. “
Reproduction in pewter of the Coppergate Dirhem.
The real challenge was to replicate the incredible Viking padlock, that had suffered heavy corrosion in the ten centuries since its burial. Jim describes the challenge;
“I needed to understand the construction both inside and out, in some ways the corrosion was a blessing that allowed us to peek into the inner structure. The original craftsman had used brazing techniques to, where they flooded the joints of the padlock with molten bronze. This would originally have been done using a charcoal hearth, to heat the metal to over 800 degrees centigrade, the temperature at which bronze would melt. We didn’t have the time to recreate the original methods, and luckily I could use a modern blow torch to achieve a similar effect.”
Brazing the padlock in the workshop.
Ring pins based on the Coppergate designs.
The finished combs. Made of antler, these are now the best reproductions of Viking originals we have ever made.
Most of the items that were made for the Jorvik Viking Centre by Asgard.
All of these objects are now in their new home at the Jorvik Viking centre, which is now completely open again. The pewter brooches, bracelets, rings, and that Dirhem are also available to buy from the JVC shop, and here, on Asgard.scot.
There is a lot more we could say about the invdidual techniques, some of which were quite experimental, that went into the making of the Coppergate reproductions. We're hoping to get to that in a future blog.