a peek inside the fishbowl

02 Dec, 2015

Vikings sail into Ottawa Gatineau!

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Ottawa

What kind of image is conjured up in your head when you think about vikings? Is it someone who is big? Brutish? A violent barbarian with a dirty beard who wears a helmet with horns protruding out of it?

I was at a media preview of the new Vikings exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History this morning, and I’m here to tell you that everything you and I know – or think we know – about vikings is probably incorrect. And the real story of the vikings is a very compelling one.

This exhibition features almost 500 original artifacts selected from the collections of The Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, many of which are rarely displayed outside of Scandinavia. Most of the artifacts date from the Viking Age of Scandinavian history, roughly the 8th to 12th centuries. There are swords, spears, helmets and viking treasure as one would expect, but there are surprises to be discovered here about everyday viking household life, the role of women, trade, and religious beliefs.

Old Norse sources suggest women ruled the households and could be highly regarded and feared. Keys, like the one pictured below, are considered a symbol of power for a viking woman and was worn outside of her clothing.

Vikings, at the Canadian Museum of History

Beads were made of bronze, glass and precious metals, and are a rare example of a wealthy woman’s personal belongings:

Vikings, at the Canadian Museum of History

Skeletal remains show that life wasn’t easy for people back then. Women often didn’t live past 30; men, 45. An honourable death on the battlefield was glorious, a natural death in your sleep on the farm was not:

Vikings, at the Canadian Museum of History

Archeologists have discovered that Vikings were extremely clean and cared about their appearance. Combs are commonly found in burial sites and can be richly decorated:

Vikings, at the Canadian Museum of History

This was a pretty neat part of the exhibition and this photo does not do it justice. It’s a ghost ship. These rivets  belonged to a viking ship, which is recreated by suspending the rivets from the ceiling in a boat shape.

The Ghost Ship at the Vikings exhibition, Museum of History

Viking treasure isn’t just about coins, it’s about brooches and beads too (although the coins are admittedly pretty cool):

Vikings, at the Canadian Museum of History

Vikings, at the Canadian Museum of History

Vikings is at the Canadian Museum of History from December 3, 2015 to April 17, 2016. I do recommend a visit! There are a number of activities planned, especially over the holidays, so do check the schedule before you head out. :)

1 Response to "Vikings sail into Ottawa Gatineau!"

1 | Lorrie

December 2nd, 2015 at 7:14 pm


This sounds so fun! I’m looking forward to the visit.

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  • andrea tomkins: I'm glad you find it restful Bonnie! I didn't on that day. :)
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  • Amy: That sounds fantastic! As with most travelling, parts are much more comfortable when you're telling them afterwards, but they make a good story.
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  • Amy: I made a no-knead version that didn't use a Dutch oven (I don't have one and didn't feel like investing in one just for that). You put a small contai

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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