It’s been good to have a bit of a break from the blog–about two weeks, a chance to catch my breath.
While I’ve been absent from the blogosphere, I’ve been busy in real life doing things with friends from the SCA–the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval studies and reenactment organization.
Slany, Dan, Christa and I drove down to Cincinnati, about two hours south of here, to see “Vikings: Beyond the Legend,” the biggest exhibition of Viking-related artifacts to ever come to North America. The other two cities it has visited are New York and Chicago, so it was something of a coup to land the show here in Ohio.
I was thinking of wearing this gray and red Viking hood, or my sheepskin hat, to the show, but I chickened out. LOL. 😛
The exhibition was a joint effort by the Swedish History Museum and MuseumsPartner in Austria.
An interesting and sometimes annoying feature of the exhibition is that none of the artifacts was dated. Instead the premise was that everything came from the “Viking Age:” approximately 750 – 1100 C.E. (A.D.), and that we did not need to know anything more precise than that. But my friends and I did want to know! I’m quite interested in whether certain things, such as jewelry, come from the earlier end of the Viking Age, or the middle, or towards the end. But I had to go unsatisfied in this regard.
Still, I was quite happy with the show and ended up being pretty overwhelmed with it all. I took close to 300 photos before my camera battery gave up the ghost, and I didn’t do justice to the exhibition at all. Christa came better prepared and took photos of everything in a very systematic way. She has about 800 images, but they aren’t online yet, so we’ll have to be satisfied with mine.
Here are some of my favorite things. First, the boats and ship. This is the surviving remnant, and the steel structure built around it, of the ship called the Roskilde 6, the longest Viking ship yet discovered. It was about 120 feet long and was discovered sunken in Roskilde Fjord near Copenhagen, Denmark. It is gigantic! It probably belonged to a king:
There were two smaller completely-reconstructed boats, as well.
Among my favorite exhibits were the jewelry:
In eastern Scandinavia, around the Baltic sea, the women wore chains between their brooches instead of the beads worn in the rest of the area.
As you can see, the brooches can be quite large! I kind of wonder how the straps of their apron dresses supported such heavy-looking brooches.
The other things that intrigued me at the show were items of religious significance. Some of them are pagan, such as this elaborate Thor’s mjolnir or hammer:
And here is a figurine of a valkyrie:
What I liked best among the pagan relics were these amulet rings, one of which has a mjolnir hanging from it:
The Vikings converted to Christianity in an individual piecemeal fashion as early as the late 8th century. By the year 1000 C.E., all of Norway was Christian by order of King Olaf Tryggvason, which is also the date in which the Icelanders accepted national conversion at their annual parliament, called the Althing.
Here are some of the Christian relics dating to the Viking Age in Scandinavia:
There was even a plaster copy of an ancient Viking Christian reliquary, a container for holding saintly relics:
Deer were symbols of Christ in medieval Scandinavia, and the exhibit collected several Christian relics with deer motifs:
Some miscellaneous things I enjoyed about this major Viking show included:
Women’s tools. The thing on the right is an iron:
More pagan relics:
A Viking skull with chiseled teeth, which don’t really show up in this photo:
An honest-to-goodness Viking drinking horn, plus funny bent keys:
They had an interactive exhibit where you could “dress” a person you chose–say an adult free woman–from the woolen and linen clothes displayed, which were contemporary reproductions of period clothing, and then a list of accessories to choose from. The exhibit would tell you whether the things you chose were accurate to the character or not. It was pretty interesting. Here are the clothes you could choose from:
There were also many posters throughout the exhibition that illustrated Viking life from photographs of contemporary Viking reenactment villages in Sweden:
Lastly, there were some reproductions of runestones:
And this graphic on one of the walls is from a runestone in Uppland, Sweden that has been repainted as it originally looked:
We chose the particular day that we went to see this exhibition because there were faculty members from Miami University of Ohio on hand who gave presentations on various aspects of Viking life. I enjoyed the ones on ‘Viking English Today;’ ‘ Rune Writing and Old Norse Language;’ and ‘Women’s Work and Spinning.’ There were also presentations on ‘Long Ships and Buildings’ and ‘Swords, Thor, and Superheroes’ that I did not attend.
It was truly a major undertaking, this exhibition. We were exhausted and famished afterwards and went to a Mexican restaurant called Chuy’s in the Cincinnati suburb of Madeira. Christa caught Slany, Dan and me in this snapshot while we waited for our excellent food (the service, however, was sorely lacking):
Next post will be about my belated birthday dinner with my son Nick and his girlfriend Summer and their gift to me of a smartphone. Yay! 🙂