02 Dec, 2015
Vikings sail into
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.
Beads were made of bronze, glass and precious metals, and are a rare example of a wealthy woman’s personal belongings:
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:
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:
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.
Viking treasure isn’t just about coins, it’s about brooches and beads too (although the coins are admittedly pretty cool):
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. :)