KS2 Educational Resources 

“What can food remains tell us about how Vikings lived?”

This scheme of work and supporting educational materials arises from a major archaeological study undertaken at the University of York, called Melting Pot. The study compares fragments (sherds) of pots from the Viking Age (793-1066 AD/CE), dug up across sites in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, where Scandinavians settled alongside Anglo-Saxons and others in what was known as the Danelaw. The aim is to see how people expressed their identity through the foods they cooked and ate.

How might this archaeological research help teachers? We are comparing these Danelaw sherds with similar ones from sites in London, information about pottery in southern England (where few Vikings settled) and a Viking site in Denmark. The sherds are being carefully examined for evidence of:

• how pots were made

• how they were used in Viking cooking

• what Vikings ate

• how their diet varied, depending on where they lived and in what kind of settlement

• what types of food were probably produced locally

• what goods may have been imported through trading patterns.


Melting Pot is committed to sharing its cutting-edge research with schools, especially those teaching "The Viking and Anglo Saxon struggle for the kingdom of England to the time of Edward the Confessor" in the National Curriculum for History at Key Stage Two.

How has the research been presented for practical use in schools?

Using the research from the project, the scheme of work has been written and presented by Andrew Wrenn (history education consultant and Fellow of the Historical Association) as individual lesson plans, with supporting resources in an accompanying PowerPoint for ease of use. Each lesson has been organised around an historical enquiry question, converting particular content into an interesting or intriguing problem for pupils to solve. For example, the content heading "Viking Pots" can be replaced with the question "What can broken pots tell us about what Vikings ate?"


Learning objectives and outcomes focus on particular concepts and processes that shape how National Curriculum History is taught as a discipline in schools. For example, the enquiry question " What can broken pots tell us about what Vikings ate? " focuses on the concept of interpreting evidence, in this case archaeological finds. In addition, an academic summary for each civilization - intended  to update teacher subject knowledge - can be accessed with other resources below.


The scheme of work consists of two initial lessons on the Viking period created to be taught in succession. The first question: "What can broken pots tell us about what Vikings ate?" focuses on analysis of archaeological sherds that show some but not all of the kinds of food that Viking people ate, and how they cooked.

The second question: "What can Viking food tell us about how they lived?” shows how Viking diets varied between country and town dwellers in Viking Yorkshire and those living on the coast in Denmark.

What else does the scheme of work cover from Key Stage Two History content?


It also allows archaeological evidence from the Viking period to be compared with evidence of food and diet in three contrasting locations in the same period (roughly from the beginning of the ninth century through to the end of the eleventh century AD or Common Era). These are taken from the requirement for Key Stage Two National Curriculum History, to study one of three options to provide "contrasts with British history", and where teachers are encouraged “to make links within and across periods”.

"Early Islamic civilisation, including a study of Baghdad in c. 900 AD”

Benin (West Africa) c. 900-1300 A.D.”

Mayan civilisation (Central America) in 900 AD"

An academic overview  for teachers written by Andrew Wrenn is provided. This updates subject knowledge on the four contrasting civilizations, with the specific background to the archaeological evidence featured in each case. The scheme of work opens with two initial lessons on the Viking period, created to be taught in succession. These are followed by associated sessions on BaghdadBenin, and the Maya, intended to develop the work and offer a comparative perspective. The scheme concludes with a final plenary lesson. Teachers may choose to contrast the Viking evidence with just one other civilization, or with more than one. Alternatively, lessons on the Vikings, Baghdad, Benin and the Maya could be used independently to support study of individual civilizations.


Download all materials

Disclaimer: The downloadable materials are advisory only, and are up-to-date as of December 2018. Teachers are advised to undertake any necessary risk assessments, and take into full consideration any food allergies, intolerances, or safety risks, as well as the emotional impact of any discussions entered into.  Most images included are available on Creative Commons licenses, and credit is given where available. Weblinks are included for purposes of general information only; we have no control over the nature, content and availability of sites linked to, and the inclusion of links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them. No liability is accepted for any loss, damages, or distress caused.