Last Sunday I visited the Viking exhibition at the British Museum. I really enjoyed it, especially seeing the remaining timbers of a huge Viking warship ‘Roskilde 6’, laid out in a stainless steel frame – at 37 metres long it was much bigger than I had ever imagined. We were all taught in school about the Viking raids on Lindisfarne and Northern Britain, but I hadn’t realised that the Vikings also journeyed eastwards into Russia, and much further south into Europe. Their trade routes linked Northern Europe with Byzantium and the Islamic world, and created an extensive cultural network stretching from the Caspian Sea to the North Atlantic, and from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean. On display in the exhibition were coins, arm-rings, and a quantity of bullion and hack-silver from the York Hoard which was found near Harrogate in 2007; weapons, jewellery, religious artifacts, both Christian and from Norse mythology, and a few skeletons! All very enjoyable and a little bit educational too!
In the Great Court of the museum was a very interesting display of model Viking ships, some hung on mobiles and others laid out on a giant map of Europe. This was the result of an art project undertaken by various art groups from Camden and Islington, the British Museum community arts group at St Mary’s Ward Centre, and other school and community groups, and was inspired by the long and arduous voyages taken by the Vikings a thousand years ago. As you can see from the pictures, a fleet of longboats, knorrs (Norse merchant ships), and fishing boats has been created, using many different materials and techniques. Most use natural colours and pigments, but each boat is unique; some woven in raffia, others of fleece felting, some built from hand-made paper, one even appears to be made of glass. Some boats even used materials collected from the banks of the River Thames. It was a really fabulous display!