Our History

York Archaeology is now in its 50th year. Learn more about how we have grown and changed across our history.

YAT is Formed

York Archaeological Trust is set up to help preserve the vast collection of archaeological deposits that document 2,000 years of York’s history, in response to threats posed to the City’s archaeological heritage at the time.

From 1972, YAT expands to four offices across the UK, delivers over 400 excavations, conducts in excess of 1,500 watching briefs, opens five attractions that have welcomed over 20-million visitors and develops an extensive and innovative public engagement programme for audiences of all ages.

Lloyd’s Bank rich organic deposits reveal evidence of the Viking-age occupation of York

Discovered within the waterlogged deposits underneath Lloyds Bank in York, a complete human coprolite, dating to the Viking-age, contains pollen grains, cereal bran and the eggs of the whipworm & maw-worm. This extremely rare find is now on display at JORVIK.

The first YAT exhibitions launch at Morrell Library and the Yorkshire Museum including “the Future of York’s Past”.

Excavations unearth the Roman sewer below the Roman bathhouse in York.

YAT launches an ambitious special development programme

A highly successful publicity and fund-raising campaign to support the Coppergate excavations draws an enormously positive response from the Scandinavian homeland, across the UK, and in the United States. The campaign provides donations towards a new Conservation laboratory, the acquisition of St Saviour’s Church, and leads to the establishment of JORVIK Viking Centre.

Coppergate excavations uncover extensive remains of the Viking city of Jorvik

Five years of excavations at Coppergate in the centre of York reveal unprecedented remains of the Viking city of Jorvik . Over 40,000 individual objects, including wooden buildings, shoes, household objects, imported goods from across the Viking world and environmental evidence, paint a new and exciting vision of our Viking past.

York is declared an Area of Archaeological Importance by an Act of Parliament and YAT is named the investigating body.
The Coppergate helmet is discovered

A remarkable survival story, this helmet is one of the most important Anglo-Saxon artefacts ever found. The skill shown in its construction and beauty of its decoration is revealed through painstaking and pioneering work at YAT’s Conservation Laboratory. A lasting collaboration with the radiography department at York hospital is formed.

Rougier Street excavations take place in York creating a keyhole into York’s Roman past

Excavations at 5 Rougier Street reveal a seven metre deep unbroken sequence of archaeological material from the Roman period onwards and shows for the first time the potential for organic preservation in this area.

Conservation starts on the Coppergate collection.

Foss Bank/Jewbury excavation reveals a medieval Jewish cemetery

Jorvik Viking Centre is opened by Prince Charles

Based on the extensive Viking-age remains found at Coppergate, the ground-breaking Jorvik Viking Centre opens its doors for the first time in April 1984 to worldwide acclaim and record-breaking queues of visitors wanting to experience life in the Viking Age. Jorvik goes on to welcome 20-million visitors from across the globe

The first Jorvik Viking Festival takes place

Celebrating everything Viking, YAT holds its first Viking Festival of Jobalot in February 1985. Attracting visitors from across the world the Festival is now recognised as the largest of its kind in Europe.

1987 - 1991
Wellington Row excavations reveal the remains of the Roman city of Eboracum

Excavations at Wellington Row, close to the south-west bank of the River Ouse reveal a glimpse into York’s Roman past including, from the late 2nd century, the remains of a building destroyed by fire and a new street.

YAT purchases Barley Hall and starts its restoration

After purchasing Barley Hall in 1987, YAT, begins piecing together the medieval layout so they can start its reconstruction and open it to the public as a museum to tell the stories of its intriguing past.

The Swingate wax tablets are found in York

During the course of excavations by YAT, a number of pits located in the back yards of the medieval properties fronting onto 12-18, Swinegate are excavated. One of these pits, dating to the mid-late 14th century, produces a small leather pouch holding wood and wax writing tablets that contain a Chaucerian English poem and part of a legal document made in Latin.

JORVIK Viking Centre and the Archaeological Resource Centre achieve Registered Museum Status

The Government quality assurance scheme recognises the high standards of YAT’s governance, the quality of finds curation and its imaginative public and educational services. 

Barley Hall gains Museum Registration status. 
Barland's Farm Romano-Celtic ship conservation project takes place

Two years after the remains of a third century AD boat built in the “Romano-Celtic” tradition was uncovered during construction of a warehouse near Magor, South Wales, the timbers are sent to YAT for conservation and a 4 metre freeze-dryer is commissioned specifically to dry the timbers
following PEG wax immersion. Thus, begins YAT’s large-scale commercial wood conservation operation, and with some TLC the 4 metre dryer is still in operation some 22 years later

JORVIK Viking Centre welcomes its 10-millionth visitor.
YAT's Archaeology Live! training dig launches on St Leonard's medieval hospital site in York

YAT’s inaugural Archaeology Live! training dig is established in the west corner of York’s Roman legionary fortress, which later became the site of the medieval St Leonard’s Hospital. This, and subsequent summer seasons located elsewhere in York and, more recently, in Nottingham, allow many hundreds of trainees of all ages to participate in YAT’s work, learn new skills and gather lasting memories. The excavation and subsequent analysis and publication is entirely funded by the trainees.

A new city arises as JORVIK mark II opens after a complete refit

After 16 years of academic research into the Coppergate excavations, the results help YAT to update the JORVIK experience. Improvements include a time-machine transporting visitors back to AD975, a brand-new ride that offers 360-degree views of the reconstructed city and state-of-the-art gallery displays highlighting over 800 key finds from the excavations of Jorvik.

Driffield Terrace excavations reveal headless Romans

Part of a large cemetery on the outskirts of the Roman town of Eboracum, reveals 82 inhumations of young male adults. Cuts to the necks of at least 50% of the individuals indicates that they had been decapitated.  Several had their heads placed in their graves in usual positions, such as near the feet. Subsequent research enables YAT to create the popular touring exhibition - Gladiators -a cemetery of secrets'. 

Roman, Viking, medieval and Victorian remains of York are unearthed at Hungate

Through this five-year developer-led project YAT delivers community, outreach, education and public benefits that engage with all levels of society. Activity includes open days, special events, talks, training courses, community arts projects, school visits and workshops, outreach, exhibitions, oral histories, popular publications, online resources, a popular PR and social media campaign and a huge legacy of archaeological research, skills developement and public involvement. 

DIG - An Archaeological Adventure, launches to the public

After receiving almost £1-million from the Millennium Commission, DIG opens to the public in March 2006. Building on its previous incarnation as The Archaeological Resource Centre, DIG places hands-on discovery at the centre of its offer and has gone on to welcome more than 50,000 visitors every year, over half of whom are primary school children.

Barley Hall medieval townhouse becomes YAT's third attraction.
Heslington East, University of York excavations unearth the Heslington brain

During the excavation of an Iron Age landscape at University of York, a skull, with the jaw and two vertebrae still attached is discovered face down in a pit, without any evidence of what had happened to the rest of its body. When the top of the skull is removed it reveals an astonishingly well-preserved human brain. 

YAT launches ArcHeritage

ArcHeritage is established in Sheffield to extend the scope and reach YAT's services.  It brings in a wealth of experience to enable YAT to offer enhanced archaeological and heritage services to local authorities, government agencies, commercial developers and community groups. 

Micklegate Bar becomes YAT's fourth attraction in York. 

JORVIK mark III launches with 'Artefacts Alive'.

The Octon Farmhouse project restores a unique cruck-framed farm house in the Yorkshire Wolds.

East Moor rural landscape survey is carried out by ArcHeritage.
ArcHeritage carry out a ground-breaking analysis of laser scan data of Stonehenge

For, perhaps, the world's most famous prehistoric monument, ArcHeritage develops innovative luminance lensing techniques to examine the surfaces of the stones for new prehistoric rock carvings, and discover information about the working of the stones during construction and development of the monument. 

YAT adds Trent & Peak and Northlight Heritage to its portfolio

Established in 1967 as an offshoot of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Nottingham, Trent & Peak Archaeology finds a new home as part of York Archaeological Trust, bringing with it a full range of heritage services with particular expertise in flood defence infrastructure, the minerals sector and high-definition survey. 

YAT establishes a new collection store & conservation facility in York

The purchase of the new building emphasises YAT's continued commitment to the preservation and investigation of the archaeology of York revealed over decades of YAT excavations. Public tours are hosted by curatorial staff for visitors wanting a glimpse into York's remarkable past.

The Follow the Vikings Roadshow tours Europe

This €4-million, five-year transnational project 'Follow the Vikings' is funded by Creative Europe with the objective to make Viking heritage accessible and understandable to a world-wide audience. Leading the delivery of the main component of the project, YAT develops and tours a unique Viking Roadshow using international contemporary artists commissioned to provide performance, film, music, poetry and stunning art works, to 11 significant Viking sites across eight different countries, culminating in a spectacular finale in 2019. 

The Richard III Experience launches at Monk Bar and the Henry VII Experience opens at Micklegate Bar

Having acquired the management of both Micklegate and Monk Bar, YAT launches two dynamic new attractions to explore the 26 turbulent years of rule by Richard III and Henry VII and the impact that these two successive monarchs had on York and its people. 

YAT delivers the first of its new touring exhibitions

Evolving from two of its in-house exhibitions, 'Hamlet to Hollywood' and 'Heroes' are re-developed as touring exhibitions and installed in St. Peter's Abbey, Ghent, and the Manx Museum, in Douglas, the Isle of Man. YAT continues to develop its touring exhibitions offer, working with numerous partner venues throughout the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

Trent & Peak deliver the Water and Environment Management Framework

Commissioned in July 2015 for extensive excavation and monitoring at the Scheduled Monument of Little Chester Roman fort (Derby), TPA successfully delivers the complete excavation programme within 13 months. Completion to budget and on time allows smooth progression within the scheme, as part of the construction of flood defences within the City of Derby. 

Skeffling excavations take place on the East Yorkshire coast

YAT undertakes extensive fieldwork in advance of a major proposed coastal realignment and flood defence scheme on the North Humber foreshore. Evidence for the extensive medieval occupation and subsequent abandonment of the foreshore illustrate a constant battle with climate and weather that continues to this day. 

JORVIK mark IV launches

JORVIK Viking Centre re-opens on Saturday, 8th April 2017, 16 months after closure due to flooding: on time, on budget and having raised almost £1.2 million towards the £4.5 million rebuilding costs. Over the opening weekend alone JORVIK welcomes almost 4,000 visitors - all keen to experience the newly re-imagined sights, sounds and smells of Viking-age York. 

Inherit is launched

YAT forms Inherit as its institute for research, policy advocacy and development practice; designed to support people to use their cultural heritage to improve their lives and the places in which they live. 

'Food For Thought' is created

YAT's Historic England funded project 'Food for Thought' develops a new approach for regional research strategies that seeks to define research interests and priorities from the local population and stakeholders within a broad academic framework. A series of innovative public events and creative initiatives are designed to engage with a wide range of audiences from across the Yorkshire Wolds. 

Secrets of Stonebow are revealed

An archaeological programme undertaken for the City of York Council during a programme of road resurfacing at Stonebow, Pavement and Fossgate in York unearths post medieval and modern buildings as well as backyards deposits, structures and features dating from the 9th to the 14th century. 

Trent & Peak digs castles

A five-year project by Trent and Peak provides commercial archaeological and heritage services to Nottingham City Council during the £29.4 million redevelopment of Nottingham Castle. Works include major archaeological excavations on the site of a new visitor centre and 'Robin Hood' gallery, and the development of a bespoke 'We Dig Castles' training and community excavation offer for the site focusing on an annual summer excavation in the Outer Bailey

The Romans Were Here

Deposits from York's Guildhall reveal painted plaster, roof tiles and mosaic pieces; all part of deeply buried evidence of the Roman occupation of York. 

Excavations in Pocklington, East Yorkshire, unearth a rare chariot burial

 It included a wooden shield which our conservation team 'micro-excavated, analysed and consolidated using the wealth of their skills. 

YAT receives £1.9 million from Arts Council England

The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 presents a huge challenge to the Trust, with its attractions closed for three separate lockdowns, and significant levels of its income affected. 

Archaeology on Prescription begins

Our Community Engagement and Fieldwork teams deliver the first pilot of YAT's new social prescribing project, Archaeology on Prescription, aiming to engage the City of York and all its residents in archaeology to improve health and wellbeing, foster meaningful social connections and build self-esteem and confidence. 

That JORVIK Viking Thing is created

Featuring a host of video on demand and livestreamed events, from 'Meet the Viking' sessions exploring various Viking skills and pastimes, to 'An Evening with Einar Selvik' streamed live from Norway, our newest all digital festival is launched

Barley Hall Coffee Shop Opens

Modelled as a Georgian coffee shop, Barley Hall Coffee Shop has been popular since opening and has hosted a number of events over Festival and, more recently, Price month where it was transformed into a Molly House. Day to day it features a selection of artefacts, as well as locally sourced produce and our own blend from York Emporium!

The launch of Peter Addyman's book and 50th Anniversary

30th September saw the launch of "50 Years of YAT" by Peter Addyman CBE at a Gala Dinner, held at the Merchant Adventurers Hall. This celebratory event brought together Trustees, Friends of YAT, YAT staff and special guests, including the Lord Mayor, and after dinner speech by historian, Michael Wood OBE.