A team from Oxford university along with local re-enactment group the Vikings of Mann offered an intriguing glimpse of the past when they performed a Viking burial at the weekend.
The university team was in the island carrying out research into Viking myths and burial customs and decided to re-create the Viking Ballateare burial at Ardwhallan.
John Shakespeare, of Vikings of Mann, said: ‘Ballateare near Jurby was one of the best burial sites but it was swept into the sea by coastal erosion.’
The original Viking funeral is thought to have been a lengthy and logistically complicated process involving animal and human sacrifices in its latter stages.
The Ballateare grave – which is one of the most spectacular Viking graves in the Isle of Man – dated from the late ninth or 10th centuries. It contained the remains of a man, who was contained in a coffin, along with various weapons including a sword, three spears and a shield. Items found in the grave itself revealed a mixture of Norwegian and Danish burial traditions as well as suggesting links with Ireland.
Personnel involved in the re-enactment included the deceased, a servant to be sacrificed as part of the ritual, a verse reciter, and musicians, mourners, pall bearers ,warriors, slaves, torchbearers and gravediggers. Children were invited to take part in the proceedings.
The teams completed two full runs through the process – a dummy run the previous night and another the following day accompanied by more explanation of what was happening.
The Viking longhouse at Ardwhallan was open to the public, as was a Viking tent with displays of various Viking artefacts and other displays by the Vikings of Mann. The whole event was run in conjunction with the Department of Education and Children.
Mr Shakespeare said the event had gone well and thanked Carys Lloyd, Jo Callister and Paul Melling at the Department of Education for their help and support.
The Isle of Man was settled by the Vikings in the ninth century and Norse artefacts have been found widely in the island including ship burials, sites of settlements andfortifications, silver hoards and inscribed stone crosses.
The team from Oxford worked closely with schools, the museum, archaeologists, re-enactment teams and local experts, as well as visiting a number of the island’s most important archaelolgical sites and monuments. The aim was to learn more about heritage management and public engagement with adults and children.
The results of the project are to be published in a 50-page booklet.