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866AD. Vikings Invade (Pagan Burial Site)

Oval brooch - watercolour by Veronica MoranThe Vikings first came to East Anglia in 866AD. The Anglo Saxon Chronicles; the account of English history written by the monks in the reign of King Alfred(877-899AD) recorded this event-

"And the same year a great heathen army came to East Anglia; and there they were supplied with horses and the East Anglians made peace with them.

Once they had established a base in East Anglia and stocked up with horses,  the Vikings made successful attacks on York. Three years later, led by Ingvar and Ubbe, they returned to East Anglia but this time met with opposition from Edmund, king of East Anglia. After a battle they killed the king and conquered all the land.

Of the first settlers themselves, the only evidence is their burial. Pagan burials can be identified because people were buried with all their possessions for use in the afterlife. Only the first generation of settlers were pagan- they were converted rapidly to Christianity. Christians were not buried with their belongings, because they believed in a spiritual, not physical, afterlife. Viking man and woman - watercolour by Veronica MoranProbably in the late 9th. century a Viking man and woman were buried according to pagan custom in a double grave at Santon Downham. The burial was discovered in 1867. Nothing survives in the grave except the metalwork, but this can give us a clue about what the couple might have worn, and their most favoured possessions. The woman was buried with a pair of oval brooches, the man with a sword. Oval brooches were used to fasten the shoulder of an over dress and were a common part of women's dress from the 9th.to the mid10th centuries. The brooch shown here is an elaborate double-shelled one with openwork outer shell, further decorated with silver wire.

By Sue MargesonThe Vikings in Norfolk. Page 15. First published in 1997. The illustrations and text from the book were used by kind permission of the Archaeological Department of Norwich Castle Museum
 

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Last updated 23 January 2006