Dig into History of Nordic explorers.(FAMILY TIMES)(ROMPER ROOM)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 8, 2002 | Go to article overview

Dig into History of Nordic explorers.(FAMILY TIMES)(ROMPER ROOM)


Byline: Joseph Szadkowski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In a world of violent video games, where dexterity of the thumb and index finger is infinitely more important than the flexing of the cerebrum, there must be a place for children and their parents to interact and actually learn something from that overpriced multimedia computer/gaming system. Take a deep breath and enter the ROMper Room, where learning is a four-letter word - cool.

Young archaeologists will find a wealth of information on the culture and traditions of ancient Nordic conquerors in two information-filled CD-ROM programs.

First, Vikings will take elementary and middle school students back in time to 950 to explore a typical town of the era and the lives of its inhabitants. Produced in conjunction with the Jorvic Center Museum in York, England, the program lacks flash but uses a simple icon-clicking interface to plod users through pages of images and text while methodically dissecting the peoples of Scandinavia and their influence in the British Isles.

Students begin with a look at the Jorvic dig site, which unearthed a viking village. When users click on images of its current surroundings of buildings or billboards, dense resources will be revealed, such as a 39-point time line from 786 to 1266 containing important events, battles and prominent Norsemen.

Other billboards offer access to two large databases, Historical Finds and Archaeological Finds, that feature drop-down lists of hundreds of photos of ancient items, ranging from wine pots to grave covers to human bones.

Additionally, students can find a sign leading to maps of more of the excavated village, origins of town names and a building housing information about and images of historians, archaeologists and scientists who work together to explain the past.

The mildly enjoyable multimedia aspects of the CD can be found by clicking on a coin in the left-hand corner of the screen. The click starts a time machine that takes visitors back to a dank house and village, showing how much fun it was to live 1,000 years ago.

Huddled around a fire discussing the day in native tongues are Erik the holy man, Gamall the trader, Sven the farmer, Grimr the warrior, Leoba the leather worker, Snarri the metalworker and Hildr, a typical girl. From mythology to religion to war to grooming habits, all are discussed through these characters, whose clickable images and the areas around them look as if they were culled from the museum's exhibits.

The cast of ancient characters never seems to end, and interested students eventually will find more than 500 photographs, videos and drawings of weapons, tools, jewelry, buildings and boats to inspect. Each page even has an optional narration button to have the information read.

Overall, Vikings offers an immersive but expensive history lesson that falls short on entertainment value but scores high marks in the education department.

The second tribute to the believers of Valhalla, Kiloran Bay: A Viking Pack, provides a glimpse into the death ritual of these people using an illustrated reconstruction of the longboat burial of a viking man from 1,000 years ago.

Students travel to Kiloran Bay in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland to examine an actual grave that, because of decay, yielded few artifacts when it was excavated in the 1880s. Enough was there, however, to allow shrewd archaeologists to create a portrait of this adventurer.

Within images of the vessel and its contents, clickable hot spots and icons lead to the answers to many questions, including: How was he buried? Was he a warrior? Was he a trader? Was he rich? …

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