Monday, November 14, 2011

56. Vale of York Hoard (NOT ON DISPLAY)

Like Hoxne and the Hinton Mosaic, here’s a bit of local English history, buried by somebody fleeing the latest wave of raiders. The Romans and Anglo-Saxons were often fleeing the Vikings; in this case, it was Vikings who had settled somewhere in northern England, fleeing somebody else (or maybe other Vikings). Most settled agricultural societies are vulnerable to these waves of organized bandits coming in to pillage and destroy—Huns, Vikings, Mongols (they’ve got a whole shelf of movies about these groups over at Scarecrow Video). What distinguishes the Vikings was their admirable seamanship, in addition to their bloodthirsty rapaciousness. As an enthusiast for Wagner operas, I’ve studied some of the literature and the pagan religion relevant here, and have traveled a very little bit in Iceland and in Denmark. But the culture is quickly confused, since lots of non-Viking groups worshipped the same gods, told the same stories, and were at war with the Vikings.

This podcast begins with a few strains of Vaughan Williams’ "The Lark Ascending" to set the scene of idyllic English countryside, the place where this northern father-and-son team were out metal-detecting (a common pastime in England, I guess) when they uncovered this hoard. Both are interviewed; they have fun northern accents, and speak a very little bit about their dramatic discovery. But what interests MacGregor the most is, as ever, how cosmopolitan these Vikings were. It’s well-known that their ships made it to Greenland and colonized Vinland in what’s now Canada. The hoard here also proves that their trade extended from the North Sea to the Baltic, the main waters of Scandinavia, and thence down the Volga into Russia; Kiev is basically a Viking city. And the other way, too, around Gibraltar and up the Mediterranean. They ran a big trade in slaves, exporting people from Eastern Europe (the “Slavs”) to the West and to the Islamic World. I can’t help watching any movie with Vikings in it, and I’m here to recommend two extremely silly movies about this period, The Long Ships and The 13th Warrior. I believe it’s a little hard not to be silly here, because the reality of the Viking world is uncinematically grim.

No comments:

Post a Comment