A pattern of footprints could be found this summer near a Viking bank from the 11th century Battle of Fulford
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to open the Viking side of the site of the Battle of Fulford in Yorkshire, marking the 950th anniversary of the 1066 conflicts with a range of activities later this year.
© Chas Jones
Prolific collections of bone, found at the site in 2014 and 2015, failed to provide “even a trace” of dateable material, according to the Fulford Battlefield Society, which has enlisted historian Dan Snow as a figurehead for its attempt to invite people onto the bank.
The group will now focus their attentions on another zone within the rural village area, where they believe collagen from the battle may still survive.
“Conventional archaeology, using datable items such as ceramic, tells us that we are looking at the time of the battle,” says Chas Jones, who hopes to allow visitors to inspect the battle surface following a dig at the ford as part of this year’s Festival of Archaeology in July.
“The necessary collagen for carbon dating the bones has probably been destroyed by the layer of iron in which the bits of bone were found. This iron layer might also be a product of the battle where there is much evidence that the Viking victors recycled broken weapons after the battle.
“No bones, let alone quantities of iron objects, have yet been recovered from the contemporary battles at Hastings or Stamford Bridge. So we have more pioneering research ahead .”
A further trench is expected to expose a section of the ancient road leading to the ford, which was discovered during last year’s excavations.
“It was a great discovery,” says Jones. “It has long been recognised that armies need a road to get thousands of troops into the action.
“I am not saying that we have found footprints of the warriors baked in the clay but we know this surface was waterlogged because the battle only started after the flood tide retreated, so it is worth investigating this churned surface, which is not far below the modern surface, to see if there is a pattern of footprints.”
Fulford was the first and, arguably, the largest of the three battles which took place in the autumn of 1066. Five days later the Viking victors from Fulford were caught off guard and almost wiped out by King Harold II’s troops at Stamford Bridge. Both Yorkshire battles contributed to Harold’s defeat at Hastings a few weeks later.
Craft workshops, tours, talks and living history camps are among the plans at the site, which organisers hope to keep open until the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in mid-October.
Jones feels a potential construction development along the access road, burying the ditch where the Norse army once ran, is “disappointing”.
“My small consolation is that the Viking bank will be untouched,” he says. “The Vikings will be standing their ground at Fulford while the English army will again be buried.”
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Three places to find out about 1066
Battle Abbey, East Sussex
William the Conqueror later founded Battle Abbey to commemorate the Battle of Hastings, and on the site of its high altar, you can stand on the very spot where King Harold of England fell.
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
The Anglo-Saxon & Viking Gallery tells the story of the fascinating period between the withdrawal of the Romans in 410AD and the 1066 Norman Conquest. Dangerous and turbulent, this was also the time when many aspects of modern day English culture took root – the word ‘England’ derives from the name ‘Anglia’, the land of the Angles.
Hull and East Riding Museum
After Viking raiders first attacked Britain in the late 8th century, they settled and lived peacefully for alongside their English neighbours. A fine Viking sword was found together with various wood-working tools when a 10th century bridge was excavated at Skerne, near Driffield, in 1982-83. Visit the Saxons and Vikings Gallery to find out more.