The Vikings Uncovered – BBC 1


Word PressThis programme featured a bloke in a red dicky bow waving around a large piece of fake poo over afternoon tea at Bettys.  Seriously, it did.  Dan Snow then explained that the wearer of the dicky bow was a “scatologist”, and the said scatologist then proceeded to declare that the city of York lay on top of, amongst other things, about ten feet of “excrement”.  Whilst he was doing this, the cameras focused in on all the delicious cakes which Dan and the poo bloke were about to eat.  Thank you for that, BBC.  I need to obliterate that entire scene from my memory before the next time I go anywhere near a branch of Bettys.

The point of programme was (presumably) not, in fact, to put you off your afternoon tea, but to discuss whether or not the Vikings reached North America … which was a bit odd, really, because surely everyone is by now well aware that they did.  Anyway, they tried to find evidence of Viking settlements (other than the one in Newfoundland which everyone already knows about) by using satellite photography taken from space, a technique which has already been used to identify archaeological sites in Egypt and which, since this programme was filmed, has been suggested as a way of helping to try to rebuild Palmyra.  The team concerned identified a possible site, and started digging.

Whilst they were digging, Dan Snow went off on a tour of various other Viking sites.  He went to Copenhagen.  He went to the Shetland Islands.  He went to York … as already mentioned.  He then went to Iceland.  Cue some glorious scenery, some shots of the site of the world’s oldest parliament, and the obligatory pictures of the Northern Lights.  He also discussed the recent work which has found that many of the “Viking” settlers in Iceland may in fact have been from the British Isles, something which the press got very excited about … last year, I think.  I could have done without the incredibly rude bloke who said that he hated having to admit that Icelanders might have British connections and that the Vikings must have taken all the pretty women away from the British Isles – I wish Dan had given him a good slap – but it was still quite interesting.  Then on to Greenland, where Dan got to do a load of Boys’ Own stuff – sailing around icebergs, mainly.

By the time he’d done all that, the team in Newfoundland had finished doing their digging, and had found various things which they thought were evidence of Viking settlements.  Most of them proved to be red herrings but, in true Boys’ Owen fashion, the last lot did indeed prove to be evidence (although I gather that some experts aren’t 100% convinced) that the Vikings reached Point Rosee in South West Newfoundland.  Hooray!  Dan and the “space archaeologist” Sarah Parcak carried on as if they’d just rewritten history.  They hadn’t, really, because everyone already knew that the Vikings had reached North America; but this site was around 370 miles from the only other Viking settlement found in Newfoundland so far, and so it does now seem that the Vikings got a fair bit further west than previously proven, and it also seems likely that there may be other sites waiting to be unearthed.

So it was quite exciting, really, even if probably not quite as exciting as they made out.  And the Boys’ own iceberg stuff was quite exciting as well.  But fake poo at Bettys … please!  That was taking the schoolboy thing a bit too far 🙂 !!


4 thoughts on “The Vikings Uncovered – BBC 1

  1. mrsredboots

    When my daughter was at York University she had a job with one of the many archaeological bodies there – can’t remember which one – as a demonstrating archaeologist (such a grand title!), and one of the things she had to do was wave fossilised Viking poo around and tell schoolkids about it!


  2. I find Dan Snow as a presenter mildly irritating anyway, but the music in this programme seemed even more intrusive than usual. Still, one great blessing was that there were no stupid re-enactments!


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