Viking weapons including arrowheads and axe-heads have been unearthed next to a Repton church - shedding fascinating new light on life over 1,100 years ago.
Large areas for workshops and ship repairs have also been uncovered by a team of archaeologists from the University of Bristol. The extraordinary remains, found in the Vicarage garden next to St Wystan's Church, have been dated to the winter of 873-4.
A campsite in the same area had been discovered in the 1970s, giving historians a wider understanding of Viking activities in the area.
According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in 873, the Great Army “moved from Lindsey (Lincolnshire) to Repton and there took winter quarters,” expelling the Mercian king Burgred, and annexing his kingdom.
Historians believe Repton was chosen because of its location on the River Trent, and was also the site of a monastery which housed the remains of several Mercian kings.
Among the weaponry discovered at the dig, directed by Cat Jarman and Professor Mark Horton of the University of Bristol’s Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, were fragments of battle-axes and arrows.
Cat Jarman, a PhD student at the University of Bristol, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), said the discoveries showed the area settled by the Vikings was much larger than first thought.
"Our dig shows there was a lot more to the Viking Camp at Repton than what we may have thought in the past," she said.
"It covered a much larger area than was once presumed – at least the area of the earlier monastery – and we are now starting to understand the wide range of activities that took place in these camps."
Also found were substantial numbers of nails, two of which had roves, the particular feature of Viking ship nails, as well as several lead gaming pieces.
They are of a type previously found in large numbers at the camp in Torksey (Lincolnshire) and appear to be specifically connected to early Viking armies.
Professor Mark Horton, who was also involved in the earlier excavations, said that improved technology was vital to finding the latest dig discoveries.
"It is so exciting to be able to come back 30 years later, and to be able to use cutting-edge archaeological methods to reassess our earlier work and conclusions.
"So much has moved on in archaeology since 1980s."
In 1975, archaeologists, led by Professor Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle, uncovered a ‘D’ shaped enclosure on the banks of the Trent, covering around 1.5 hectares thought to be the Viking camp.
Recently, doubts have been suggested for this interpretation, with some experts considering the enclosure to be too small to house the Great Army, as another Viking camp at Torksey (Lincolnshire) covers around 26 hectares.
The new excavations at Repton have focused in the area to the west and outside of the D-shaped enclosure.
Geophysics, including ground penetrating radar, revealed structures including paths and possible temporary buildings.
Excavations showed these to be gravel platforms which may have held timber structures or tents with deposits including fragments of Saxon millstones and a cross fragment from the monastery.
The excavation team included undergraduate students from Bristol, several of whom are now working on dissertations on artefacts discovered at the site.
Its results were aired on BBC Four’s Digging for Britain on Wednesday (November 22).