Vikings set to invade British Museum in 2014
LONDON (AP) — The biggest Viking ship ever found is coming to London as part of a major exhibition that aims to expand the popular image of the Scandinavian plunderers, whose voyages took them as far as Asia and North America.
The 1,000-year-old, 37-meter (120-foot) wooden longboat discovered on the banks of a fjord in Roskilde, Denmark, in 1997 is the centerpiece of “Vikings: Life and Legend,” which opens at the British Museum in March.
The Vikings set out in ships like these from Scandinavia more than a millennium ago, traveling as far as Newfoundland and Morocco, and occupying territory from Greenland to Britain to France.
Announcing details of the exhibition Thursday, British Museum director Neil MacGregor said the Viking world stretched “from Dublin to Kiev ... from Ulster to Samarkand.”
Curator Gareth Williams said the show — the British Museum’s first major Viking exhibition since 1980 — will look at the Nordic voyagers’ skills as warriors and seafarers, and also their role as explorers, traders and creators of sophisticated culture.
He said it’s not surprising the Vikings’ violent side has been emphasized in accounts from countries they raided.
“If your monastery is being burned down, you don’t take time to admire the beautiful jewelry won by the people burning down your monastery,” he said.
Williams said the exhibition would not adopt a “fluffy bunny” approach or try to sanitize the Vikings, but would present a rounded view.
Exhibits include richly decorated weapons and treasures such as the Vale of York Hoard, a collection of gold and silver objects found in northern England in 2007. William said the trove includes Irish jewelry and coins from Afghanistan and Uzbekistan — “the whole of the Viking world in one hoard.”
The exhibition is co-created with the National Museum of Denmark — where it is on display until November — and National Museums in Berlin. It runs at the British Museum from March 6 to June 22, 2014, and moves to Berlin in September 2014.
Williams said transporting the fragile remains of the Viking ship, whose ancient wooden beams are held in a modern steel frame, was surprisingly straightforward.
“As one might expect of a Scandinavian-designed ship, it comes flat-packed,” he said.
Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless