Living midway between two large East Midlands towns, I can count on one hand the times I’ve been to Derby. It doesn’t sound like the most appealing place, yet another homogenised high street but full of Derby County supporters with an alarming affection for sheep.

Viking sword from Repton at Derby museum
Viking sword from Repton at Derby museum

But I thought it may worth a look, after all, the Great Heathen Army (not Derby County fans this time – even if they are the great unwashed), that band of Vikings, decided to stop in nearby Repton for Winter in 873 AD. Turns out that some of them stayed far longer, 249 were found in a mass grave at Repton Church. Derby can do that to people.

Several graves were found, one, the Repton Viking Warrior, was 6 foot tall, aged 35-40 and killed in battle, he may quite possibly be Ivar The Boneless.  Buried with his sword and other items after dying from spear wounds on his skull and a massive cut to his upper thigh which may have removed his genitals.  Buried with things he needs for the afterlife, including his sword, jewels and a necklace with Thor’s Hammer.  Also in the grave was a boar’s tusk placed between his legs, a substitute for his penis to make his body complete for his trip to the viking afterlife in Valhalla.

Thor's Hammer and bead necklace from the Repton Viking Warrior's grave
Thor’s Hammer and bead necklace from the Repton Viking Warrior’s grave

He’s also had a facial reconstruction. You can find out more about this reconstruction and the Repton Viking’s by watching the BBC documentary ‘Blood Of The Vikings’ on YouTube. Granted, I now know more about swords and other stabbing weapons than is probably healthy for a man. Among the other items at Derby museum: a gold noble coin from Codnor Castle found when Time Team filmed there, The Repton Stone, flint arrowheads and tools dating back 300,000 – 40,00 years old, Egyptian mummies and the bronze age Hanson log boat. All to see for free.


Derby Museum

Great Heathen Army


Nick Cook. Amateur astronomer, space, history, nerd, extreme dog walker, cat slave, severe tinnitus sufferer. 13.7 billion years in the making - not that much better for it.


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  5. Ivar the Boneless, eh? I can’t swear to this, but I think that’s the second place I’ve read that he’s buried. Or possibly the third. I suspect any tall Viking warrior becomes Ivar the Boneless. With a name like that, who could resist deciding that they’d found him?

    • Perhaps his death was so violent that his limbs were ejected from his sockets with such force that they landed in several places…each place claiming that he’s buried there!

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