A new Viking exhibition – Vikingr – opened last year in Oslo, showcasing some of the fabulous finds from recent years
Due to unforeseen reparations being carried out at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, the opening of a new Viking exhibition has been rescheduled. End of March – hopefully – visitors will be able to enjoy a bonanza of the more spectacular archaeological finds from the last ten years; add to this a selection of some of the highlights from an earlier time, and visitors may expect an enjoyable tour of the Norwegian Viking past. Later in 2025, when the new museum opens at Bygdøy, the treasures will be transferred there, supplementing the finds from Oseberg, Gokstad, and Tune. Perhaps finds from the newly discovered Viking boat in Østfold – as yet not excavated – will join the older treasures
In a Norwegian context, It is customary to date the Viking Age from c. AD 750 – 1050. Known for their long-distance journeys and their nimble ships, the sea-faring Northmen engaged in pillaging, raids, and trade, as well as migration. Known as violent and ruthless warriors, they were recognised by their distinct animalistic art-style and their manner of speech.
The exhibition will portray three important aspects of the Viking Age: journeys, warriors and the changing society.
During their numerous journeys to the west, south and east, the Vikings not only came into contact with numerous and diverse people, but they also returned home with gold and silver treasures as well as pearls, silk, and new ideas. At the same time, the Vikings exported their own jewellery, weapons and customs to the outside world.
Nevertheless, the Vikings are perhaps better known as ferocious warriors. Arriving by sea in their large ships, they have been portrayed as both fearless and brutal. Swords and axes were buried with their owners, and many of these weapons were exquisitely crafted.
Beautiful Viking Age swords decorated with precious metals and intricate ornamentation illustrate the symbolic power that was associated with such weapons. Symbolic acts of violence and images represent idealised codes of violence and war. Did they really have female warriors? It seems so. In this exhibition, a female who was buried with the accoutrements of war will be presented. Another important exhibit will be the Langeid Sword, which was discovered in an archaeological dig in Setesdalen in 2011. The hilt is embellished with signs, several Christian, and a hitherto indecipherable inscription, all inlaid in Gold. The sword may be of British origin, but it ended up in a furnished heathen grave. The sword signifies the growing diffusion and acculturation between the two worlds – the heathen Northern Viking World and the Christianised European South and West. Another iconic artefact, which will be exhibited, is the only Viking helmet ever discovered: the Gjermundbu helmet.
Vikingr, the name of the exhibition, is the Norse word for Viking. It was used by seafarers, maritime warriors and long-distance travellers. Today the word Vikingr is used to describe anyone with Norse origins who lived during the Viking Age.
Sword and ax from Langeid, first half of the 11th century. © Museum of Cultural History, UiO
Museum of Cultural History in Oslo
Frederiks gate 2, 0164 Oslo
The Viking Ship Museum
Huk Aveny 35, 0287 Oslo