Digging up fun at York

The Coppergate Shopping Centre, the site of one of the most famous archaeological digs of modern times, will be transformed into a hands-on archaeological adventure this week to celebrate the annual Festival of Archaeology.

Children discovering the fun side of archaeology at JORVIK – Photo courtesy York Archaeological Trust

Back in the 1970s the Coppergate dig in York was heralded as one of the most important archaeological excavations in modern times. A site that literally re-wrote the book on the importance and impact of the Vikings on York and the UK as a whole, with over 40,000 artefacts uncovered throughout the 5 year-long dig. It also led the way for the creation of the now world-famous JORVIK Viking Centre, which would be constructed to display and interpret these artefacts and bring the Viking-age back to life.


“It is hard to imagine that there was a time when York wasn’t known as a ‘Viking city’ but before the Coppergate dig there was no real understanding of the importance and impact of the Vikings,” says Nicola Harkess, Events and Festivals Manager for York Archaeological Trust. “Thanks to the work of the archaeologists we now know so much about the lives of these Norsemen and women, from the food they ate, with 5 tonnes of animal bone and huge quantities of Oyster shells discovered on site to what they wore, with the only known woollen sock from the Viking period discovered and preserved in JORVIK and the construction and layout of the buildings. It is these insights that helped move the stories of the Vikings forward and inspired the next generation of archaeologists.”

Indeed, it is this legacy that the team behind JORVIK Viking Centre are looking to showcase to the next generation of ‘little diggers’ at their ‘Archaeology in Coppergate’ event taking place from this Thursday in Coppergate Square.

Nicola adds that “the event will transform the modern Coppergate Shopping Centre back to an archaeological dig, with replica dig pits, soil sifting and even the chance for our visitors to dress up like real archaeologists. Our staff will be on hand to show the importance of archaeology in telling the stories of the past in a fun and hands-on way.“

Photo courtesy York Archaeological Trust

Visitors to Coppergate will also be able to share their experiences using #ArcheoSelfie at JORVIK’s special ‘Selfie Booth’ in Coppergate.

Archaeology in Coppergate is running 10am to 4pm daily from Thursday 27th July to Monday 31st July in Coppergate Square, just outside JORVIK Viking Centre. The event is free to attend but there will be a small charge for some activities. JORVIK Viking Centre is open 10am to 5pm (last admissions) 7 days a week, admission £10.25 for adults, £7.25 for children and £8.25 for concessions. For more information please visit or call 01904 615505.


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