Tag Archive | Viking

The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo

Photo of Viking Ship Museum entrance in the snow

It started with the Gokstad ship

I read about the Gokstad ship when very young and was fascinated. The survival of so much of the original and the items buried with it caught my imagination. Since then I have read about the Viking age, as it now referred to, at university and then for pleasure. But this ship kept it’s grip on my imagination.
I suspect the ship scenes in the film the Vikings starring Kirk Douglas may also have influenced me.

Visiting the Viking Ship Museum

On a snowy morning in November I caught the bus to the museum. With snow falling it felt most atmospheric walking up to the doors. The museum is cruciform with each ship filling an arm of the cross. The third arm houses the objects.
The first ship is the Oseberg ship and is magnificent. I’ve seen the remains of longships before but not an almost intact one. Before my visit I discussed Viking ship remains with a Danish colleague. We agreed that now restoration as done on these ships is no longer part of museum practice. The restored Oseberg ship does make an impact and is over 90% original.
Photo of the prow of the Oseberg ship

Prow of the Oseberg ship

The Gokstad ship

My next port of call was the Gokstad ship and I was very excited to see it. Did it live up to expectations after 45 years? Yes, it did!
Walking around the ship and seeing some of the objects from it felt a real treat. One of the features of the museum is the small viewing platforms in each ship gallery. These let you see into the ship from above. All the ships were sailing vessels before becoming burial vessels. So you get a good idea of the space available on them.
Photo of the Gokstad ship from above

The Gokstad ship seen from above

The 64 shields from the Gokstad ship are not on display. This disappointed me because I enjoy painting model Vikings with their shields. In contrast some of the peacock feathers from the grave are on display.
Seeing the burial chamber and small boats made up for the shields though. The burial chamber had a large hole made by tomb robbers. The two small boats were complete.
Photo of the Gokstad ship burial chamber and small boat

Gokstad ship burial chamber and small boat


The Tune ship

The Tune ship is in poor condition because it’s excavation in 1867 saw items lost and damaged. Given there is not much left of the ship a film about the Vikings plays in this room.
I liked the way the film uses the shape of the gallery. The main focus is the arched end wall but the side walls display supplementary scenes. 
Photo of the film playing in the museum

Film playing in the museum

The objects and textile gallery

The remaining gallery contains the object found in the ships including textiles. Seeing a lot of objects from one source for this period was a treat. The amount of carved and applied decoration was astounding.
Most objects were very ornate, such as the horse drawn sleds, and spoke of wealth. Other objects like buckets, tools and loom weights were more everyday items. It was good to see the more everyday objects that most people would use alongside the richer items.
The decorated wagon was not an everyday object. The richness of decoration on is wonderful. I spent some time following the patterns and noticing small parts I had seen in photos in the past. The sleds also have rich ornamentation but replacement runners imply regular use.
The textiles recovered from the graves were remarkable. Patterns and in some cases colour is visible. Another film gave an insight to how the cloth could have looked.
Photo of a detail of a sled ornament

Detail of a sled ornament

The museum shop and cafe

I enjoyed the shop’s mix of expensive things and cheaper traditional museum souvenirs. No prizes for guessing which I got! Luckily there wasn’t a model of the Gokstad ship so my wallet was safe. The cafe is outside the museum and has a very appropriate name as the photo shows.
Photo of the museum cafe

Viking Ship Museum cafe

And there’s more

The museum website has accounts of each ship’s excavation and finds. It also discusses the burials at each site and the need for continuing conservation work.
Photo of the 3D scanning to help plan conservation

3D scanning to help plan conservation


Viking Raiders

Why the Vikings?

Like many things in life my interest in the Vikings goes back to childhood. Reading the Norse myths followed by the Ladybird book of Alfred the Great triggered an interest that was rekindled at various points in my life.

Principally when studying English Medieval History at school and university, then the fiction of Michael Scott Rohan, followed by Bob Calvert’s Lucky Lief and the Longships album. And of course reading the Penguin translations of the sagas!

Exhibitions, museum displays and visiting sites like Whitby all played their part in keeping my interest alive. As did films like the Hollywood classic with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis in and more recently various documentaries on on TV.

Little Metal Vikings

Despite this interest I didn’t make any model Vikings until my mid twenties. I confined myself simply to one set of Golberg zinnfiguren Vikings while recovering from an illness.

Golberg Viking flats - landing party

Golberg Viking flats – landing party


However, not many years later I was tempted by the Wargames Foundry range of figures. I painted a few Vikings and Normans but with no sign of the range being finished nor finding a set of rules I enjoyed I sold the figures.

In the 1990s I tried 15mm and DBA. I enjoyed painting the Donnington Miniatures figures but the games were not really satisfying, so I sold the armies. Some years ago I got enough Wargames Foundry Vikings for a skirmish force but didn’t find any rules to suit the saga style games I had in mind.

Recently I tried some 10mm Pendraken figures. They were great models with plenty of variety but the thought of painting enough for a large game was too much. So they went on eBay.

Pendraken 10mm Vikings

Pendraken 10mm Vikings

Saga Lout

Happily for my Norse ambitions the Saga rules appeared. They met my desire for saga inspired character and my painting threshold as only a few figures are needed.

So rules purchased along with plastic Vikings from the ever helpful chaps at Gripping Beast. Vikings are assembled and ready for painting, with Anglo-Saxons up next.

Assembled plastic Vikings

Assembled plastic Vikings


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