I had been looking forward to the opening of the new exhibition at the magnificent British Museum in London, “Vikings : Life and Legend”, for some time and we had booked a viewing on the day of the launch. It did not disappoint!
The Exhibition has brought together Viking age artefacts, on loan from many museums, from most of the places these intrepid voyagers visited, from Iceland to Istanbul. The result is an outstanding, once in a lifetime opportunity to get to know how the Vikings lived, travelled and died.
While the accomplishments and crimes of the Vikings as fighters are very well covered, what is most striking is the extraordinary collection of things of beauty which were made by craftsmen of the Viking age – delicate iron, silver and even gold objects. These were often made to allow a Viking to ostentatiously display their wealth or to give as presents to henchmen and women.
Central to the whole exhibition are the remains of a Viking ship, Sea Wolf, the largest Viking ship ever discovered. This massive oak ship had been built in Norway around 1025, during the rule of King Cnut. It was about 37 metres long and would have had 40 pairs of oars and a crew of around 100. It was discovered in 1996 at Roskilde, Denmark.
However, of what I had been looking forward to most of all was a display of the Ridgeway skeletons. These were integral to the plot of my novel “Finn’s Fate”. They were discovered when a relief road to Weymouth was being built and were excavated in 2009. Around fifty decapitated skeletons had been thrown into a disused Roman quarry, separated from the skulls. Fewer of these were found, leading to the theory that some of the heads had been placed displayed on stakes. Investigations by Oxford Archeology identified the skeletons as those of Vikings. Among them was one man who had had a bad break in his right thigh when he was young and another who had a deformed leg, perhaps having suffered from osteomyelitis , (bone infection), from childhood. What I found most fascinating was too see that one of the men had filed teeth. There has long been speculation that some Viking warriors filed their teeth to make them look more fiercesome and perhaps to demonstrate that they could endure pain, but I have not seen this proven before.
There are a number of events taking place during the period of the exhibition, information about these can be seen here.
All in all an excellent exhibition which I thoroughly recommend.