Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Previous section
Guthrun the Weaver's Story

Bjorn the Beggar's Story

Who Are You?

My name is Bjorn. Everyone knows me! Since I lost the use of my legs I’ve sat here at the end of Ousegate where the bridge crosses the river and watched the world go by. I’ll never see more of the world now so this river has to bring the world to me. 

What Can You See By The River?

There are ships tied up to the riverbanks which have travelled all the known world. They've gone back and forth across the North Sea bringing skins, sharpening stones, amber, fish, soapstone, walrus ivory and who knows what else. Crowds gather here when a foreign ship comes in.


Cowrie shell and coin are about the same size.  The coin is very worn and the inscriptions and pictures are difficult to see.
Cowrie Shell and Exotic Coin

How Far Do The Ships Travel?

Some have gone further than the old homelands and travelled down the rivers to trade with the Russians and beyond the Mediterranean Sea. I have seen fine silk cloth unloaded off those ships. A merchant friend of mine once brought me a shell which he said was from the Red Sea and a coin with strange writing on it from the Arab lands. 


What Do The Ships Carry?

These great ships have wide holds to carry their cargo. Smaller vessels go up and down the rivers bringing goods from the countryside. Sometimes this is iron ore for the blacksmiths in York or timber for new buildings in the town. 


On the left is a shaped and smoothed striped stone in brown, beige and black.  A hole has been drilled in one end and holds a metal hoop.  Top right are pieces of amber, ranging from dark yellow to dark orange.  Bottom right is a shard of a bowl.  it is black in colour and has a metal loop in it.
Amber, Whetstones and Pottery Imported to Jorvik

Some bring pottery to sell in the market, red deer antlers for the combmaker, fish from the coast and all sorts. Some ships bring friends, some bring fighting men who cause disruption in the city.


Map of Europe and Western Asia, showing where objects found at Coppergate in York originally came from. These include: Uzbekistan, China, the Red Sea, Scandinavia, Ireland and Northern Europe.
Map Showing the Sources of Viking Trade Goods

Who Lives In Jorvik? 

Sitting here I must have heard a dozen languages spoken – English, Norse, Russian, Gaelic, French... and I’ve met men who have travelled west to Vinland, Iceland and Greenland or east to the land of the Rus and beyond to the spice and silk routes.



Amber - A hard yellow fossil used in jewellery

Cargo - Goods carried in ships for trade

Coast - Area of land next to the sea

Disruption - When normal routine is stopped by an outside force

Iron ore - A mineral that metal can be taken from

Vessels - Ships or hollow containers