• arts & culture

23 March 2018

The largest collection of Viking artefacts to ever be displayed in Melbourne opens today.

Vikings: Beyond the Legend at Melbourne Museum

Vikings have often been depicted in popular culture as a bunch of bearded, dirty, horn-helmeted barbarians, but recent archaeological discoveries have revealed a much more nuanced and refined people and culture. Viking tweezers, razors and combs have been uncovered by archaeologists, and much to our disbelief, there has been no evidence to suggest that their neatly brushed hair was ever covered by horned helmets.

Combining the latest archaeological findings and more than 450 original artefacts from the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, Vikings: Beyond the Legend removes the stereotypes and reveals Vikings and their rich, often-misunderstood culture in a fascinating, new light.

Exploring six key themes, the exhibition provides insights into Viking people and their domestic life, religion, death rituals, craftsmanship, and raiding and trading culture. It more accurately portrays the Vikings as farmers, merchants, artisans, and explorers.

Interactive displays, hands-on challenges, maps, images and filmic elements will be displayed alongside more than 450 Viking objects, including weapons, jewellery, clothing, household tools, ceramics, game pieces, musical instruments, and rune stones.

Among the rare treasures, some of which have never left Scandinavia, will be one of the finest Thor hammer pendants ever found, rune stones used to mark death and important events, a 1000-year-old piece of bread, swords dating from 700-1100 AD and even coprolites that have been used to determine ancient Viking diets.

The centrepiece of the exhibition will be the Krampmacken, a replica of a nine-meter Viking merchant boat found in Gotland Island in Sweden in the 1920’s along with the powerful skeletal remains of a Viking ship – where only the original hand forged Viking nails remain creating the effect of a beautiful “ghost ship”.

Interactive elements will allow visitors to learn and play the Viking board game Hnefatafl and excavate a boat burial layer-by-layer to uncover a skeleton of the buried, and artefacts such as weapons, gaming pieces and household tools that would have accompanied the burial more than 1000 years ago.

Visitors can further immerse themselves in Vikings culture through Melbourne Museum’s exciting schedule of associated public programming. Old Norse to Contemporary Scandi Culture: A Workshop Series will explore ways of bringing about hygge - the Scandinavian concept of cosiness, warmth and togetherness. Learn how to make bread, brew beer and design Scandi jewellery, and then stay for fika – the all day cake and coffee ritual.

Vikings: Beyond the Legend is at Melbourne Museum until 26 August.

Visit Melbourne Museum for details