We finished the viking project this week.
I won't go into details of the whole project, as I suspect Richard will include some of those in his overview of the month*, but I wanted to review a few of the places we visited in the course of the project.
The Jorvik Viking Centre.
This is that place that opened up in the eighties and made the news due to the number of people who were sick as a result of the supposedly authentic smells.
The smelly Viking Experience is still there, albeit somewhat toned down, and is quite enjoyable even if it is no longer state-of-the-art.
You traverse this not on foot, but in a car like that of a roller-coaster, which plays a recording to accompany the various buildings and characters along the way.
I was impressed to note that they provide two versions of the recording: one for adults and one for children, thus tailoring the whole experience to their visitors.
Eleanor certainly enjoyed this part of our trip, and explained afterwards that a little viking boy had been talking to her while she was on the train.
The rest of the centre is also reasonably impressive: You start by walking over the site of the Coppergate archaeological dig**, looking down upon the dig through a clear perspex floor, various artefacts are visible through the floor, while displays around the walls explain a little more about the area and what these artefacts may mean.
This may seem a little too serious for younger visitors, however Eleanor raced around, looking at the dig from all angles, calling with glee when she lighted upon one of the finds.
The Coppergate dig is followed by the aforementioned historical roller-coaster, which in turn is followed by a walk through the museum.
This museum is laid out like a viking street, with the various exhibits displayed in the appropriate shops.
To these are added projections of various characters talking about their lives in the context of the exhibits: a woman talking about her amber beads, a blacksmith grumbling over his forge, and so forth, and costume guides demonstrating various crafts and skills.
I would have expected this area to be Eleanor's favourite as it contained various interactive elements while allowing her to set her own pace, however she seemed significantly less interested than she had in the other areas.***
She enjoyed watching a lady striking reproduction viking coins, but was only vaguely interested in museum exhibits and artefact demonstrations, which was a shame as I would have liked to spend a little more time there.
Still, we can always go back.****
Dig is a museum of archaeology, which sounds a lot less enjoyable than it really is.
Again it comes in three parts.
The first is a traditional style museum, looking at various digs, and at archaeology in general.
Unfortunately, we didn't have time to look around here, as we arrived just a few minutes before it was time to go through to part two.
This is the area that really makes Dig stand out: a series of re-creations of real archaeological digs, filled with rubber "soil".
We entered in a group with other visitors, and were first given a short talk on archaeology in general, before being provided with trowels and unleashed upon the digs.
We had a whale of a time.
Eleanor's artefact hunting was somewhat impaired by the presence of a band of older boys*****, who tended to pounce on anything she uncovered while shouting loudly that they had "found" something, but her enthusiasm was undiminished as she dashed from one site to the next, digging in with enthusiasm.
She seemed particularly gleeful about her discovery of a victorian potty (ok, chamberpot) in the victorian privy******, and showed genuine dedication in uncovering what proved to be the prize discovery: a hoard of silver coins hidden under a roman hearthstone.
When Tools Down had finally been called we moved out to the museum area once more to investigate some trays full of real finds: sorting these into different categories and trying to decide what each type of find might tell us about the area from which that tray full of objects was taken.
By sheer luck Eleanor managed to select a viking-era tray, and was thrilled at being able to make real deductions from the objects within.
Not, however, so thrilled as when she was selected to help carry a mystery object from person to person as we each tried to identify it.
Even this excitement was dimmed, though, in comparison to her elation on discovering that it was, in fact, the worlds biggest fossilised human poo.*******
And a viking poo at that.
Alas, we had no time left after this, so instead of exploring the (very interesting-looking) museum further, we merely giggled at the stream of people hurrying to wash their hands********, thanked our guide, and headed reluctantly but happily home.
*Which would be February, not March, I'd be more pointed about this if I hadn't failed to produce a Pieday post for weeks.
**Coppergate being where the dig, and therefore the Viking centre is.
Copper, by the way, has nothing to do with the metal, but refers to the wood carvers who lived in the area.
I bet you feel so much better for knowing that, don't you?
***In fairness, she may have been flagging a little by this point, so perhaps didn't enjoy it as much as she would have done had it come sooner.
****Although unlike just about every other attraction on the planet, the Jorvik Centre doesn't offer free re-entry if you go back within a year.
They do give you a little money off though.
*****As in boys, who were older than she.
Is it me or is that a really awkward way to phrase it?
******And was duly impressed by the awful privation suffered by the unfortunate victorians who had to choose between sharing a single, unsanitary, outdoor lavatory, even when it was raining, or using a potty like a little toddler and not a big girl like her.
*******I, meanwhile, was only slightly smug at having whispered "Coprolite?" to our guide, before she made the interesting revelation.
********Presumably to remove the fossilised bacteria.