Secrets of York’s Viking heritage - including a ceremonial horn which was pivotal to the life of the city’s most famous landmark – will be unveiled over the half-term holiday.

As part of the 2013 Jorvik Viking Festival, teams at York Minster will host a series of events next week looking at why the Norse raiders were originally drawn to the city, using archaeological discoveries to shed fresh light on a key chapter in the city’s history.

The Children’s Chapel at the Minster will be the scene for Viking-themed family activities next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between 10am and 3pm.

Young visitors will be able to make shields and hear tales of Jorvik – York’s Viking name – including the Horn of Ulf, a drinking vessel which sealed a very important deal.

“One Viking fact many people do not realise is that the Chapter of York, which remains the guardian of York Minster, was given the land on which the Minster and its precincts stand by a Viking nobleman called Ulf, who owned a significant estate around York,” said the Minster’s director of marketing, Nicola Bexon.

“As a symbolic deed of trust, he presented the Chapter with a large and ornate ivory horn, the Horn of Ulf, still held today in the Minster’s archives and which will go on permanent display later this year when the new Undercroft exhibitions open to the public.”

Recent archaeological discoveries will be revealed during a family-friendly talk by Ian Milsted, of York Archaeological Trust, who directed excavations below the Minster in 2012.

His Minster of Mystery presentation next Friday at 3pm will cover Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Scandinavian finds in a dig below the Minster and show visitors a mint-condition Ninth Century “sceatta” coin and a pair of 11th Century feet buried underneath the cathedral which became separated from the rest of the body.

The Minster will celebrate its Viking roots with re-enactments, expert demonstrations and family activities, including Scandinavian sounds ringing around the Minster through a specially commissioned piece called Heimkoma – A Viking Homecoming, featuring music, songs and poetry by candlelight, at 7.30pm next Wednesday.

“The Vikings were known for raping and pillaging, but the story in York has more recently been one of settlers and traders, and our recent archaeological finds gives a deeper understanding of what attracted them to the city,” said Minster events manager Stephanie O’Gorman.

“The discovery of the coin shows York had significant wealth before the Vikings arrived, when it was previously thought the city was in decline.”

Tickets for events are from or by phoning the box office on 0844 939 0015.