MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
The Vikings are coming! But don’t fear, says Lauren Oyler – the only pillaging you’ll see here is historical.
The Vikings are coming! Take a closer look at their culture with weapons, treasure, and a 37-meter-long royal warship.
Although it makes for an easy Halloween costume, the stereotype of savage warrior in funny helmet does the Vikings little justice. With an empire that spanned the 9th to 11th centuries and stretched from North America across England, Denmark, Norway, and parts of Sweden at its peak, the Vikings’ extensive trade network, fascinating religious and cultic rituals, and maritime achievements make it clear their culture deserves a closer look.
And now they’re getting it. Presented in conjunction with the British Museum and the National Museum of Denmark, The
Vikings exhibit at the Martin- Gropius-Bau (p. 44) brings together years of archaeological findings, historical research, and curatorial brilliance to deepen our understanding of this ancient society of raiders, settlers, traders, and seafarers. Featuring loot, weapons, remains unearthed from a mass execution grave, and more, the show is divided into four segments designed to showcase the depth and breadth of Viking life: “War and Conquest,” “Power and Dominion,” “Faith and Ritual,” and “Contacts and Exchange.” Many objects will be exhibited to the public for the first time, and the famous Vale of York Hoard – one of the largest and most significant collections of Viking artifacts discovered since 1840 – will also be shown in its entirety: 617 coins, six arm rings, and a sizable amount of bullion and hack-silver, which would have been used as currency.
While there will surely be some funny helmets as well, the exhibition’s pièce de résistance is a 37-meter-long royal warship excavated from the Roskilde fjord in Denmark and reconstructed to full size on a stainless steel frame. Dating from 1025 AD, the remaining timbers represent many things: the largest Viking ship ever found, the vital role of the sea in Viking culture and conquest, and, alongside rooms’ worth of plunder and weaponry, the empire’s enduring power.
“Many objects will be exhibited for the very