Alex Green

Alex Green

Thousand-year-old Viking treasures arrive in Victoria

Royal B.C. Museum's latest exhibition aims to shatter stereotypes of early Viking explorers

Great Viking ships sailing towards the shoreline would have been a terrifying sight for the coastal communities of Europe more than a century ago.

The fierce Scandinavian warriors of old spread to Iceland, Greenland and even to the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador five hundred years before Columbus.

But a new exhibition at the Royal B.C. Museum is proving the lasting legacy of the Old Norse culture goes much deeper than pillaging and horn-rimmed helmets.

“People think of the Viking culture as quite primitive, but they were actually very skilled craftsmen to a pedigree of impressive quality,” said Kent Andersson, producer of Vikings: Lives Beyond the Legends, which opened at the museum on Friday.

Andersson – visiting from the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm – walks towards an intricate box, about a metre in length, and points out the “almost grotesque” animal heads that decorate its sides like a crown.

“It’s a Christian object, but its form is a Viking house made of gilded bronze,” he said. “It belonged to the museum in Hamburg which was bombed during the Second World War, so the original is lost.But it’s very, very high quality craftsmanship.”

More than 500 Viking artifacts – from priceless jewelry to weaponry and clothing is now on display beyond the doors of the museum. Many objects have never been seen outside Scandinavia.

Hands-on artifacts at the exhibition include a replica Viking sword that illustrates the advanced metal-working techniques of the ancient Scandinavians, as well as digital boat-building and excavation games.

“The blacksmiths were so good making blades, you could actually bend them over your knee and they’d snap back,” said Andersson, lifting the sword handle to feel the weight.

Though the word Viking is commonly used to describe the Old Norse culture, the word actually refers to exploring or adventuring, Andersson said.

“You would go on a viking, on a commercial trip or a raid,” he said. “But you weren’t a Viking.”

The Norse people dominated vast areas of the North Atlantic for about 350 years beginning in 750 A.D. The resulting archeological finds from this period are a mishmash of cultures from as far away as India, Anderson said.

“You can see the influence of other cultures in nearly all of these objects, but they remain unique,” Andersson said. “There are pendants of Thor that contain a Christian cross, it’s quite fascinating.”

A small Buddha statue on display proves just how far Viking boats reached on their centuries of journeying, said Royal BC Museum CEO Jack Lohman.

“What’s a Buddha doing in a Viking archeological site,” Lohman said at the opening. “It’s an incredible testament to the reach of these explorers.”

Vikings: Lives Beyond the Legends runs until Nov. 11 before heading to Montreal and Chicago.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A decade into the 100-year blueprint for restoring the Bowker Creek watershed, Soren Henrich, director of the Friends of Bowker Creek Society, feels positive about the future of conservation and daylighting of the creek. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Ten years in, Greater Victoria’s 100-year Bowker Creek blueprint gets a boost

Victoria council passes several restoration recommendations

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
UPDATED: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ on Sooke Road

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

A resurfacing of the tennis court in Metchosin is being eyed for the community. However, funding opportunities still need to be solidified for the project. (Michelle Cabana/Black Press Media)
Renewed surface eyed for Metchosin tennis court

Funding source must first be solidified in order for project to happen

Paragliders worked to capture a big enough gust to get them flying near Clover Point Saturday. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Victoria residents dive in and take flight under sunny skies

Warm, sunny weather had people flocking outside Saturday

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels after found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Retired B.C. teacher and star CFL kicker charged for assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

Most Read