Tag Archive | Vikings

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

 

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The Vikings exhibition in Falmouth

Reproduction Viking spectacle helmet

A day out at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall

My longstanding interest in the Vikings whether historical or in miniature meant the Vikings exhibition at the NMMC in Falmouth was a must see! Because of the distance it meant little time to see the rest of the museum although we found time for the cafe funnily enough. Walking through the museum I did like the Viking inspired decoration of the learning area.

Dragon guarding the exhibition entrance

Dragon guarding the exhibition entrance

The Vikings in Cornwall

Most people think of the raids on the North East coast, York and Alfred burning the cakes when Vikings are mentioned. However, they really got around and that included Devon and Cornwall. The Great Army burnt down Exmouth in Devon where I live and some residents think they should do so again! In Cornwall there is evidence of settlement and trading which the exhibition included. The combination of interpretation, reconstruction and objects really brought this out clearly I thought.

Sea going chicken in a basket

Scandinavian sea going chicken in a basket

Vikings – raiders or traders?

This argument has a long history and I’ve encountered it since university days in the late 1970s. Coincidently this same argument applies to the Homeric world of the Iliad and Odyssey which I studied in the context of ancient banditry but that’s one for another blog.

I liked the way the exhibition clearly brought out both sides of Viking life. The combination of the large clear interpretation panels and related objects was excellent. Being able to handle objects was good too. My mother was amazed at the weight of a mail shirt and said being able to touch it really helped imagine it in use.

Reproduction spectacle helmet on top of the mail shirt

Reproduction spectacle helmet on top of the mail shirt

Including weapons and slave fetters illustrated the dark side of Viking life. Backed up with DNA research showing how many Icelanders are descended from Irish women taken as slaves. The Irish connection was well documented in the exhibition too.

Trading ship Walrus

My favourite part of the exhibition was the recreated Viking trader the Walrus. Visitors are allowed on this boat which was both fun and informative. Moving about on the deckspace really made both of us appreciate the skill and courage needed for sailing shallow draft ships on the high seas.

The Walrus from the bow

The Walrus from the bow

Speaking with a well informed volunteer about how the ship was made at the NMMC and finding out more about some of the recreated objects was really interesting. I didn’t know that the Vikings used hazel as barrel hoops which makes perfect sense in terms of time and resources. After all splitting hazel is quicker and cheaper than making iron hoops.

Hazel bound barrels on deck

Hazel bound barrels on deck

How the Vikings made things was a really strong theme in the exhibition. From nails for ships to rigging from intestines there was enough information to appreciate how preindustrial societies relied on skills, crafts, time and effort. I also learnt that saws were not used but a broad headed axe provided a means of splitting wood into planks.

Invisible Vikings

No, not some form of dark undead from the Sagas but women and children. Another strength of the exhibition was including women and children in the interpretation and the objects on display. A lovely object was a child’s toy boat and imaging it being played with really brought the past closer. Having a reconstructed trader’s booth with a female mannequin was a nice bit of trading interpretation. The clothes worn were plainer than often shown which seems sensible as the cost of fine clothes with tablet stitch decoration would make plainer working clothes more practical.

Basket work Viking woman

Basket work Viking woman

As you leave the exhibition

I enjoyed the display of modern items inspired by the Vikings. Everything from films to comics, toys to the Rover badge. A good assortment of souvenirs were in the shop although I didn’t buy anything. Most of the items were very reasonably priced as well which is always good to see.

Three men and a Viking boat

By odd coincidence a week after visiting the exhibition I was at Legionary, the Exeter Games Show, talking to a friend and a trader about Viking ships.

MDF model Viking ship

MDF model Viking ship

Denmark in the Viking age

A lovely digital reconstruction covering several sites produced by the Danish National Museum.

It includes demonstrations of how buildings were made and fly throughs of reconstructed buildings too. There’s plenty to see. so get a cup of tea or horn of mead and enjoy the show!

Saga Ready Vikings

The warlord and his men

Saga louts ready for action

Having decided on the Saga rules and Gripping Beast plastic figures for tabletop Dark Ages fun the first force is complete!

My Viking horde is flexible for 4 and 6 point games. The compulsory warlord, six groups of hirdmen and two groups of warriors

The warlord and his hearthguard

The warlord and his hearthguard

Painting notes

For anyone interested in my painting approach I kept it simple. An undercoat of Humbrol Matt brown 98 To provide shadow and good surface for paint to key onto. Vallejo extra opaque and Citadel base colours are used to give a one coat finish. This meant colours had to reasonably work with the brown undercoat providing shading.

Metal was Citadel metallics with a black wash then highlights (chainmail, Nuln oil and Mithril silver respectively).

Finish was Humbrol satin varnish followed by Windsor and Newton Matt acrylic varnish.

Two groups of basic warriors

Two groups of basic warriors

Shields and flags were mainly ready made. I painted the shields on the two warrior units and used transfers from Battle Flag on the rest. Cutting out shield bosses was made easy by buying a 3mm diameter punch. Using the transfers was straightforward but do follow the instructions. Using a transfer softener and sealing with varnish is a must. Having a practice first is a good idea too!

Transfers, instructions and 3mm punch

Transfers, instructions and 3mm punch

Flags are from the figures instruction sheet and the transfer sheet. Cut out and then stuck together with diluted PVA.

Saga ready command with flag

Saga ready command with flag

Vikings join the Tufty Club

Bases are to match my old Standard Games boards. Simply Vallejo texture paint highlighted with various craft shop acrylics. Some Silfl0r tufts added with PVA to finish the bases.

Hirdmen ready for battle

Hirdmen ready for battle

Hedging my bets

In case I decide to use these figures with another rule set I made up some extras. I painted up some individually based command figures as an alternative to the group for Saga. I also made some standard bearers as a bit of extra bunting always can come in handy!

Warlord, entourage and banners on separate bases

Warlord, entourage and banners on separate bases

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