The Vikings are a popular part of our early history and whether you view their bloodthirsty antics with admiration or disgust, they had a massive impact on how northern Europe was shaped between the 8th and 11th centuries. In honour of our Viking conquerors, a major new exhibition on Vikings is being staged at the British Museum from the 6 March – 22 June, so if you are curious about your Viking ancestors or you want to learn more about the age of the Vikings, make a date in your diary for a day out to see the Vikings: Life and Legend Exhibition at the BP Gallery.
Roskilde VI – a Viking War Ship
The centrepiece of the Viking exhibition will be the carefully restored remains of a Viking warship., the first time such a ship has been seen in the UK. The Roskilde VI was discovered submerged in the silt of Roskilde harbour in Denmark, way back in 1996. Most of the original timbers had rotted away, but around 20% were salvaged and placed into water tanks to preserve them. The ship is believed to be what’s left of a Viking Royal war ship, which would have been used to carry troops in the great Viking wars of the age.
Viking Skeletons on Show
The Vikings are no longer around, although DNA evidence suggests that their ancestors still populate many of the islands to the far north of Scotland. However, you can still meet the Vikings at the exhibition because one of the exhibits features a number of recently excavated Viking skeletons that were found in a mass burial grave in Dorset. Historians believe that this unlucky bunch were summarily executed by the locals, but their loss is your gain as you will be able to learn more about ‘what went wrong’ (eventually) for the Viking raiders.
The Vale of York Viking Hoard
Back in 2007, metal detector enthusiasts discovered an unprecedented hoard of Viking loot in a field near Harrogate. The British Museum and York Museums Trust subsequently acquired the assorted collection of silver coins, bullion, and metal arm rings, and this treasure trove will now feature as a major part of the Viking exhibition.
The Viking Hordes
Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of history knows about the Vikings. These were the people for whom warfare was a way of life and other cultures were simply there to be conquered, often by the most violent means possible. But there is a lot more to the Vikings than raping, pillaging and collecting slaves.
The Vikings had extraordinary shipbuilding skills and knowledge of the sea, which helped them expand their empire far and wide across the North Sea. As a fascinating illustration of how far the Viking sword reached, coins featured in the exhibition were originally from as far away as Uzbekistan and Russia. Their empire also transcended different religions and languages, which makes it all the more fascinating. Indeed, many of the pieces featured in the exhibition have never before been seen in the UK, so now would be an excellent time to find out more about the Vikings, how they lived, and of course how they died.