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Viking Age on the Isle of Man 14 January 2008

Isle of Man Post Office is delighted to present a set of six stamps which feature various aspects of the Viking Age on the Isle of Man.

Raiders from Scandinavia - Vikings - first appeared in the Irish Sea in the late eighth century. A hundred years later their successors, mostly from Viking bases around the Irish Sea, arrived as settlers in the Isle of Man, displacing the native population. The first incomers were buried with weapons and other equipment which signified both their status and their religion. Their conversion to the Christianity of the indigenous population led to the cessation of pagan burial practices and to the erection of stone memorial crosses.

The Island lay on the major Viking-controlled trade-route from Scandinavia to Dublin and beyond and had potential to influence sea-traffic. It was ruled by a king who was actively engaged in politics not only in the lands round the Irish Sea, but as far away as Orkney and Norway. For a short time in the eleventh century the Island even minted its own silver coins. Written sources are sparse, but, as the Viking Age ends, in the mid-eleventh century, chronicles and sagas begin to tell the story of an established Norse kingdom in Man, which would last until 1265.

28p stamp - During recent excavations on St Patrick’s Isle, a grave was uncovered containing the skeleton of a woman who had been buried in pagan fashion with objects which signified her status as the wife of a rich Viking farmer; a housewife, whose duties included weaving, cooking and cleaning.

31p stamp - At Balladoole, Arbory, the burial of a Viking warrior was excavated. His body was laid in a large rowing boat in a pre-existing Christian cemetery. In the grave with him were placed weapons – spears and a shield – as well as riding gear, including bridle- and saddle-mounts.

44p stamp - Godred Crovan (known popularly today as King Orry) was the founder of the historically-documented Norse dynasty of Man and the Isles, which lasted until the death of the last Manx king, Magnus, in 1265. Having invaded Man three times in 1079, he finally defeated all opposition at the battle of Skyhill, near Ramsey, and claimed the throne.

54p stamp - The most famous Norse relics found in Man comprise a series of carved memorial stones, many with long inscriptions in Norwegian runes. Two stones record the name of the sculptor, Gautr Bjornsson. They date from the second quarter of the tenth century and are the earliest signed pieces of decorative art from the Viking world.

69p stamp - Scenes from the legend of the Norse hero, Sigurd, appear on at least three stone memorial-crosses in Man. The legend tells how Sigurd kills the dragon, Fafnir, to rescue a treasure guarded by the creature. Cooking the dragon’s heart, Sigurd is forewarned by the birds of the treachery of the smith, Regin, whom he then kills.

£1.24 stamp - The Vikings were generally pagan when they arrived in Man, but soon converted to Christianity, the religion of the native inhabitants of the Island. The conversion seems to have been unstressful and was politically convenient in relation the surrounding Christian lands.

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