The latest special exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is Vikings: Beyond the Legend. I was looking forward to seeing it. When I first began researching different cultures for my book, I had no idea where to begin. I visited the children’s non-fiction section of my local library and pulled off the shelf every cultural and historical book that looked remotely interesting. I remember reading a few books on Vikings but, as my attention was quickly diverted to the cultures of the Ancient Mediterranean, my reading on Vikings quickly fell by the wayside. I was looking forward to re-acquainting myself with them.
I began said re-acquaintance by attending a lecture at the museum before purchasing a ticket to the exhibit. The lecture assured me I would see the Vikings in a new light; show me proof they were much more than raiders and killers portrayed by history. Maps shown at the lecture did make me aware that Viking ships made it far further into various lands than I knew and that was interesting. However, as another slide showed archaeological evidence that victims of a raid had been neatly buried in one mound with all their heads neatly buried in one adjacent, the lecture didn’t do much to dispel the raider image. I had hopes the exhibit would do a better job.
It did. The artifacts on display are incredible. I learned Viking culture was so much more than swords and raids. Metallurgy did involve the forging of swords but it also resulted in fabulous jewelry the intricacy of which, the exhibit tells me, is almost impossible to replicate today.
I was able to see Viking ingenuity at work in the inner workings of a lock. The spring mechanism, activated by pressure from the teeth of a key, was brilliant. I wish I had been able to get a photo of it. The exhibit did tell me that the penalty for theft where the goods had been locked away was higher than if they had not. An interesting facet of law.
The role of women in Viking culture interested me. I had always thought that only men went a viking but, apparently, this isn’t so. Women too, went on these travels. Women had a great deal of authority in the home, more so than most other women of their day, and this role and power as household manager is symbolized with the keys found in some burials of women.
Of course, Viking raids did definitely happen and were brutal. And yet, the Vikings were also accomplished traders, dealing in goods as far away as China. There was a replica of a Buddha found in a burial but, try as I might, I couldn’t get a clear photo of it. I did manage to get a picture of a glass beaker, something I would have thought would be unheard of in Viking lands.
One last observation: I took a photo of this blurb from the exhibit.
That struck me. In my reading, I learned that some Viking colonies had been abandoned, presumably because of a lack of natural resources. This understanding and resiliency showed me how truly multi-faceted Viking culture really was.
I left the exhibit with a desire to know more and I decided to go straight to the source. What did the Vikings have to say about themselves? To find out, I purchased The Sagas of the Icelanders from the gift shop. I look forward to reading it and learning more about this fascinating culture.
I googled tips for taking photos in a museum and did try to put them to good use but I still have a long way to go. 🙂