SCENE 1. THE LONGHOUSE
A Viking Longhouse somewhere in Scandinavia. It’s the middle of winter, and provisions are running very low. The Chief is struggling to keep his people’s spirits up, and the snow gets ever deeper.
The Frost hardens, and YMIR, the frost giant, enters the Longhouse and freezes all the inhabitants. Even the chief eventually succumbs to his icy touch. Then ODIN and FREYA, accompanied by the young dragon FIREDANCER, enter the Longhouse. FIREDANCER and FREYA chase out YMIR with heat and warmth, and the chief and all his people are thawed by the dragon’s breath.
The chief and his wife thank ODIN and FREYA, and in the true spirit of VIKING hospitality, offer food and shelter. Unfortunately there is very little food, and the only thing to do is to get the chief’s wife to prepare yet another batch of STONE SOUP!
With funding from Heritage Lottery Fund, the Museum Makers have been using the museum’s archaeology collection and exploring the Ancient Dorset Gallery to find out about the Viking connection with Dorset for the first part of their project.
Our play this year is inspired by the discovery of a large number of decapitated skeletons in a mass grave on the Ridgeway during the construction of the new Dorchester to Weymouth Road.
Who were these strangers that came to such a miserable end on a Dorset Hilltop? Why did they leave the safety of the own country to travel across the North Sea?
The Vikings had a vibrant and distinctive culture, and were renowned for their hospitality and storytelling. We have explored the history of the Vikings, and borrowed some of the heroes and gods of Norse mythology to populate our play. We invite you to come back in time, and to join us on a journey of discovery across the sea in a Longship!
This year Dorset County Museum has been visited by 56 schools – that’s more than 2,000 school children through the front doors.
Many of these children are local, but the museum also attracts schools from further afield – this year we’ve even had a class from Germany, and 10 pupils all the way from Singapore!
Emma Talbot, Head of Education and Learning at the Museum says, “It is fabulous to see so many children actively engaging with Dorset’s past. We offer a programme for schools that is creative, fun and hands on as well as being linked to the national curriculum. Our tour guides are all volunteers and do an amazing job making history come alive for the children. We couldn’t offer this service without them and I can’t thank them enough.”
Class Teacher, Sasha Jones of Milborne St Andrew First School commented after a recent visit “The assistance we received from all staff and volunteers was excellent. The activities available were perfectly in line with what we have been learning, and the children had a fantastic day and learnt a lot which resulted in some beautiful writing. It was a great opportunity for the children to see and touch real Iron Age and Roman artefacts – and they loved eating their lunch on a real Roman mosaic too!”
With a brand new Ancient Dorset Gallery, Dorset County Museum can offer the following educational sessions: Dinosaurs & Fossils; Archaeology; Stone Age to Iron Age; Roman Dorset; a visit to The Roman Town House. All guides are knowledgeable and experienced, and children can handle objects.
If you’d like to find out more or book a session in 2016 for your school, contact Emma Talbot on 01305 756832, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Dorset County Museum website for more details www.dorsetcountymuseum.org/education
On Wednesday 28th October at the Dorset County Museum children are being invited to come along and discover for themselves how the Anglo-Saxons produced their art and what inspired their creativity. There will be an opportunity for children to make and take home their own piece of Anglo-Saxon artwork.
This activity takes place between 10.30am – 12.30pm. There’s no need to book as this activity is FREE thanks to generous sponsorship from Battens Solicitors. Up to two accompanied children aged 4 -12 will be admitted per adult.
Yes, it’s Halloween, but if you fancy doing something a little bit different on Saturday 31st October with your kids, come and join us for an activity packed night to remember in Dorset County Museum.
There are a whole host of activities planned for the night around a central theme, ‘The Vikings’, to coincide with the opening of our new Ancient Dorset Gallery in early November (this will be open for viewing on the night).
Not only will you be able to see real Viking skeletons over 1,000 years old, but Re-enactment Group Hrafnslith will be telling interactive stories of Viking adventure and derring-do, and giving weaponry demonstrations. On top of this, you can help professional artist Darrell Wakelam to build a huge Viking long-boat, and make your own long-boat model to take home with you. Then after hot chocolate and biscuits, nestle down for a night’s sleep before a complimentary light breakfast the following morning in the Museum’s beautiful Victorian Hall. We will be showing the film ‘How to Train your Dragon’ in the morning to end this Viking sleepover. A very popular event in previous years, this really will be a night to remember!
The Sleepover is on Saturday 31st October 2015 6.00pm, until 9.30am the next morning. Tickets are limited to 100, and are on sale now from the Museum shop on High West Street, Dorchester or by telephone on 01305 756827. This event is for children aged 7 – 13, with a maximum of 2 children per adult (who must stay overnight with the children). Ticket prices: children £15, adults £12 to include evening refreshments and light breakfast.
On Wednesday the 19th August 2015, TV Historian, Dan Snow came to the Dorset County Museum to film his latest BBC TV series exploring the age of the Vikings.
This programme will feature the discovery of a mass grave of skeletons in 2009 on Ridgeway Hill during the construction of the Weymouth Relief Road in Dorset. Around 50 skeletons, predominantly of young Scandinavian adult males, were found in an old quarry pit. All had been decapitated. Their heads had been placed in a pile located at one edge of the grave.
Dr. Louise Loe, Head of Heritage Burial Services at Oxford Archaeology discussed with Dan the evidence in identifying these individuals, their origins and even their state of health.
The remains of these Ridgeway Vikings and other important archaeology treasures will be on permanent display in the museum’s newly refurbished Ancient Dorset Gallery. The refurbishment of this gallery has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership Scheme, Dorset County Council, West Dorset District Council and Alice Ellen Cooper-Dean Charitable Foundation.
The Ancient Dorset gallery at Dorset County Museum will become the visitor centre for the South Dorset Ridgeway. Ultimately it will link in with information panels to be displayed along the ridgeway itself helping visitors explore this area which is rich in heritage. This landscape is considered by many to be as important as Stonehenge and Avebury for revealing the lives of our ancestors. The ridge of high land, running parallel with the coast between Weymouth and Dorchester has been an important place for people for over five thousand years. It has over 1,000 monuments that record the history of the Ridgeway since that time.
Jon Murden, director of Dorset County Museum said “The archaeology of Dorset is the history of over 400,000 years of human habitation in the county – our collections are nationally significant and cover the entire period from Palaeolithic times to Saxon and Viking Dorset, so it will be especially exciting for the Museum to be featured in this programme which will be screened later this year.”
The Archaeology Gallery at Dorset County Museum is currently being redeveloped as part of a £250,000 project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) with the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership (AONB).
Upon its completion in autumn 2015 the new gallery will become the visitor centre for the South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership. Ultimately it will link in with information panels to be displayed along the ridgeway itself helping visitors explore the AONB and understand the sites that can be seen there today.
“This is a very special project for us,” said Jon Murden, director of Dorset County Museum. “The archaeology of Dorset is the history of over 10,000 years of human habitation in the county – our collections are nationally significant and cover the entire period from paleolithic times to Saxon and Viking Dorset.”
When the new Ancient Dorset Gallery (the new name for the former Archaeology Gallery) opens at the Museum, the centrepiece will be a special display of the Viking skeletons found during the construction of the Weymouth Relief Road in 2009.
During the initial work (December to March 2014) the existing gallery will be open but artefacts from some display cases will be removed for conservation. Other key objects will be redisplayed in the museum during this time.
The design of the new gallery will ensure that when work starts on the Museum’s planned Collection Discovery Centre, the improved displays will be moved into the new extension at minimum cost.
While the work is being undertaken, visitors will be able to enjoy a special spotlight loan from the British Museum of three jadeite axes and some mace heads from their own collection. Dorset County Museum’s own jadeite axe will be displayed alongside these loans.
For further information visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org. Dorset County Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10.00am to 4.00pm.