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Unravelling the Vikings: a sustainability story using oral history to solve an ancient mystery

sustainability story unravelling vikings oral history textile weaving

A free See Through Education resource on how to live within our means

Free Sustainability documentary resource from See Through Education

Q: Who could possibly learn anything about 1000-year-old Viking culture by talking to people?

A: Amy Lightfoot, the world’s only independent textile Viking oral historian.

In this first of three parts of ‘Unravelling the Vikings’, we meet an unlikely person with an even more unlikely job.

Amy Lightfoot has the practical skills to turn a cowhide into a pair of shoes using nothing but what she can see from her home-made log cabin on a tiny Norwegian island. She also has the academic skills to help solve the longstanding riddle of how the Vikings sailed the Atlantic with woollen sails.

In Part 1, we meet Amy on her remote island home, understand what drives her fascination with the Vikings, and get a hint of what unravelling their secrets might reveal about our sustainable future.

Archaeological discoveries have gradually unveiled many Viking mysteries. Some have confirmed the oral history version of events recorded in the sagas – they did indeed make it to North America, but didn’t settle there. Others have painted a different picture – like the fact that those longships had women aboard.

As we’ll discover in Part 2, to unravel these mysteries, Amy used a similar strategy to the See Through News project How To Live Without Plastic.

She listened to old people. For more on the importance of listening in general, try Series 4 of our podcast, The Quiet Revolutionary...

For more free educational resources, take a look at See Through Education.


This documentary was filmed in 2009 for Japanese public television by See Through News founder SternWriter (Robert Stern). It forms part of See Through News’s free educational resource, See Through Education. Parts 2 & 3 will appear shortly. To catch them, either subscribe to See Through News’s free weekly newsletter and/or subscribe to the See Through News YouTube channel.