Multicultural York: The Vikings

Bjorn the beggar's story

Who are you?

My name is Bjorn. Everyone knows me! Since I lost the use of my legs Iíve sat here at the end of Ousegate where the bridge crosses the river and watched the world go by. Iíll never see more of the world now so this river has to bring the world to me. 

What can you see by the river?

There are ships tied up to the riverbanks which have travelled all the known world. They've gone back and forth across the North Sea bringing skins, sharpening stones, amber, fish, soapstone, walrus ivory and who knows what else. Crowds gather here when a foreign ship comes in.


How far do the ships travel?

Some have gone further than the old homelands and travelled down the rivers to trade with the Russians and beyond the Mediterranean Sea. I have seen fine silk cloth unloaded off those ships. A merchant friend of mine once brought me a shell which he said was from the Red Sea and a coin with strange writing on it from the Arab lands. 


What do the ships carry?

These great ships have wide holds to carry their cargo. Smaller vessels go up and down the rivers bringing goods from the countryside. Sometimes this is iron ore for the blacksmiths in York or timber for new buildings in the town. 

Some bring pottery to sell in the market, red deer antlers for the combmaker, fish from the coast and all sorts. Some ships bring friends, some bring fighting men who cause disruption in the city.

Who lives in Jorvik? 

Sitting here I must have heard a dozen languages spoken Ė English, Norse, Russian, Gaelic, French... and Iíve met men who have travelled west to Vinland, Iceland and Greenland or east to the land of the Rus and beyond to the spice and silk routes.


Amber - A hard yellow fossil used in jewellery

Cargo - Goods carried in ships for trade

Coast - Area of land next to the sea

Disruption - When normal routine is stopped by an outside force

Iron ore - A mineral that metal can be taken from

Vessels - Ships or hollow containers 

View other relevant My Learning resources or see the teachers' notes page for discussion and activity ideas. 

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Document icon Learning article provided by: Yorkshire Museum and Gardens |  York Archaeological Trust |  The British Museum | 
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