ARTEFACTS which shed light on the lives of women in the Viking age are going on show in York.

Items discovered in the Isle of Man and Orkney will feature at Jorvik Viking Centre as it re-tells the importance of the mystical Viking role of ‘seer’.

The display coincides with the theme for Jorvik Viking Festival – the untold story of women in the Viking age - which starts on Wednesday.

The artefacts include grave items from two important women of the Viking age, including the remains of a 10th century woman, uncovered in a stone-lined grave at Peel Castle on the Isle of Man. Visitors will see a necklace which retains the colours of glass, amber and jet as well as a miniature mortar and pestle, and an ammonite fossil, which would possibly have been a talisman.

Sarah Maltby, director of attractions for York Archaeological Trust, said: “These items clearly depict that this was a wealthy and influential woman, and though she was found in a Christian burial site, the items found with her suggest that she was a ‘Volva’ – a pagan sorceress, who was buried with the tools of her trade.

“Also found in the grave was an iron rod, originally around a metre long and covered in textile, feathers and seeds, which would have been used in magical rituals. Although the original item is too fragile to travel, we have commissioned a replica, which will be carried by our own seeress, Thorbjorgr Litilvolva, during Jorvik Viking Festival’s dramatic evening extravaganza on Saturday, February 23.”

A whale bone plaque, found in a burial site in Orkney, joins the displays. This kind of plaque would have been used along with a heated glass ball or stone pebble to smooth or pleat fine linen-wear, but the Orkney discovery had been hardly used, which suggests it may have been used just for precious clothes for ceremonial occasions.

“The nature of the burial – in a four-oared rowing boat inside a stone lined pit – shows that this was a woman of standing, and she was buried with the body of a child, aged around ten. A third skeleton – that of a man lay crouched on his side – at the end of the boat, was buried with an iron sword, arrows, an antler comb and some gaming pieces,” adds Sarah. “We can only guess as to why they were buried together, or their relationship to each other; did they die of disease or drowning, or some kind of accident?”

The finds highlight the potential roles women could play in Viking society, which was far more progressive than later medieval cultures.

Jorvik Viking Festival runs from Wednesday, February 20 to Wednesday, February 27, at city venues. Details at