Discover the real lives of Vikings at the Royal BC Museum

The exhibition includes more than 500 artifacts, from exquisite filigree-work jewellery to rune-inscribed swords, from silver embroidered silk fabric to the oldest known crucifix in Sweden. 

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Vikings: Lives Beyond the Legends will be at the Royal BC Museum on Victoria’s inner harbour from May 16 through November 11, 2014.

Warriors, housewives, farmers, explorers and merchants – what do we really know about those we call Vikings? More than a thousand years ago, the Old Norse word ‘viking’ was mainly used to describe an activity. Both men and women could go ‘on a viking’ – a commercial trip or raid.

On this voyage, the first landfall in North America of Vikings: Lives Beyond the Legends will be at the Royal BC Museum on Victoria’s inner harbour from May 16 through November 11, 2014.

The exhibition includes more than 500 artifacts, from exquisite filigree-work jewellery to rune-inscribed swords, from silver embroidered silk fabric to the oldest known crucifix in Sweden.


Beads of bronze, glass and gold in a set of six rows. These beads of glass and precious metals are a magnificent example of a wealthy woman’s personal
belongings; Gravefind, Stora och Lilla Ihre, Hellvi, Gotland, Sweden.

SHM 20826:370
(FID 108059)



Key. Bronze. On the handle is a Christian motif, showing the crucifixion, above a small palmette. Keys are common in Viking Age Scandinavian material, but it is very rare indeed to have them adorned with such obvious Christian symbolism; Sweden. SHM 6819:535
(FID 364197)

Many of these objects have never previously been shown outside Scandinavia. Vikings provides insights on domestic life, death rituals, the significance of craft, the power of mythology and the symbolism of ships.


Pendant, crucifix, Silver. The pendant is considered to be the oldest known crucifix found in what is present day Sweden. It was found in a woman’s grave. She seemed to have great wealth. The crucifix is completely unique, both in shape and in its early date. No others of this type have been found.
Grave find, Björkö, Adelsö, Uppland, Sweden. SHM 34000:Bj 660
(FID 108914)


Spearhead, Iron, silver. Runic inscriptions on the silver coated socket
read ‘Rane owns this spear’ and ‘Botfus carved’. Weapons with runic inscriptions are rare, and this one is decorated with silver which makes it
one of a kind. The ornamentation is an example of a particularly fine craftsmanship. Stor-Vede, Follingbo, Gotland, Sweden. SHM 15928
(FID 914435)

Viking fleets used rivers and coasts for trading, raiding and settling in new areas. Scandinavians moved into Russia, and also travelled eastward to Byzantium and to what we now call the Middle East. By the end of the 8th century they were raiding in France, the British Isles and Ireland, into the Mediterranean and even North Africa. Other journeys took them to Iceland,
Greenland and as far as Newfoundland.

These new lands brought exotic goods as well as cultural influences. Among the hundreds of artifacts in the exhibition are an Irish cross, a Buddha figurine from India and a Coptic ladle from Egypt. Over time, voyages to other areas contributed to belief systems, ideology and objects taking on other shapes and forms of expression.

Vikings examines the period between 750 and 1100 CE in Scandinavia and nearby Europe, now known as the Viking Age. During this time, people in Scandinavia had two very different religious systems – the indigenous Old Norse religion and the more recent Christianity. These belief systems were often merged, and the results are shown in this exhibition through many examples of fine jewellery that include Christian crosses and fish as well as the symbolic tools or animals of the Old Norse gods. The names of many of these gods live on in our English names for the days of the week—like ‘Thursday’, the day of Thor, god of thunder.

Viking Age society was hierarchical, but not rigidly so. The greatest difference between people was between those considered free and unfree (thralls). Women generally had a more equal position in society, sometimes being involved directly in trade or colonization.

The artifacts in Vikings speak for themselves, but for a deeper understanding, the exhibition features film and hands-on activities. Exhibition interactives include board games, building a Viking ship, or dressing a Viking – putting on each piece of multi-layered clothing in the right order.

During the run of Vikings, the Royal BC Museum and partners, including the University of Victoria, have developed a series of fascinating Vikings-related programs and learning activities.

Families can sleep over in the Royal BC Museum Viking-style, adults can enrol in a course in Viking archaeology or take in a lecture, and kids can attend a Vikings-themed summer camp.

Visit What’s On at royalbcmuseum.bc.ca for program dates and details.

Tickets for Vikings are available in advance, online or at the Royal BC Museum Box Office. For more information visit www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca or call 1-888-447-7977.

The Royal BC Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended summer hours 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday from May 23 through September 27.

The exhibition is a joint venture between and produced by The Swedish History Museum in Sweden and MuseumsPartner in Austria.

 

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