Call Yourself a Viking! Sexual Equality, Christianity, Family Values and an Interest in Politics (with strictlyNO Raping and Pillaging)

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL TAGGART

THEIR reputation for raping and pillaging once terrorised northern Europe.

But now the Vikings' barbaric image has been put to the sword - by an amateur archaeologist with a metal detector.

The unearthing of the first Viking burial site in Britain shows them to have been a wealthy people with a taste for fine clothes and good food and who believed in equality of the sexes.

They lived in an ordered society, embraced family values, and their graves reveal that many were not even pagan, but turned to Christianity after settling in Britain.

'This is an incredible discovery which will alter our perception of the Viking way of life for ever,' said historian Rachel Newman, who worked on the dig.

'Artefacts found buried in the graves give us details of their lifestyles never known before.' The six 10ft-long graves on the outskirts of the Cumbrian village of Cumwhitton are thought to contain the remains of a family of Viking rulers who died in the early 10th century.

They face from west to east - a practice used at the time only by Christians, who believed it enabled them to face the rising sun when their souls leapt from their bodies to be judged.

In each metre-deep ditch, servants and farmers ceremonially laid their Viking master's belongings to equip them for the afterlife.

In one of the men's graves, archaeologists found a spear used to hunt wild boar and deer.

Also dug up was the copper brooch he had worn, symbolising his status as the ruler of more than 200 peasants, and a horn used for drinking beers and spirits.

In another grave lay the remains of a horse, ritually slaughtered so its soul might accompany its owner to the next life.

Businessman Peter Adams, 42, first began to uncover the site with his metal detector in May and yesterday archaeologists from English Heritage unveiled the findings they claim will transform our view of our Nordic ancestors.

The Vikings' forebears, originally conquerors from Norway, had gradually settled on the Cumbrian hills by the River Eden after leaving a settlement in Ireland. …