Vikings: Live from the British Museum

published on June 30, 2020

Welcome to the British Museum in London
and thank you for joining us

I hope you're settled in your seats and are ready to enjoy your very own private view

of the British museum's latest blockbuster
exhibition on the Vikings

As we take you through the exhibition will be travelling to four continents

and back across a thousand years in time and we'll be revealing the spectacular centerpiece

of this show the remains of a Viking
royal warship

It was an age that helped shape our world,
welcome to Vikings live!

The British Museum's BP exhibition Vikings life and legend has been years in the planning

It's the first exhibition to be held in the
brand new Sainsbury exhibition gallery

This massive climate controlled space has become temporary home to over 1,000 objects,

including the longest
Viking war ship ever discovered

The curator of the exhibition Dr Gareth
Williams who's with us tonight

has led a team of experts from the British Museum along with colleagues from Copenhagan and Berlin

to bring the precious object to London from all over the world

The queen of Denmark, her majesty Margrethe II was invited to open the exhibition

I'm delighted to declare the exhibition Vikings life and legend open

What a thrill it is to enter this
magical, spectacular space

we've got some of the the world's great Viking experts with us tonight

but first of all let's meet the director
of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor

Neal, so why a Viking exhibition and why
now?

We put on an exhibition when there's new information to present

and we've got a huge amount of new information about the Vikings

There have been great archaeological finds
in the last 30 years

and you'll see some of them, we can look at those finds with new scientific techniques,

which gives us more information and since the last exhibition

the Cold War has come to an end and we can work much more closely with our colleagues in Eastern Europe

So we can now present a quite new view of the Viking world

And a world of extraordinary reach and contact

That's what's fascinating this is a
world of water

sailing from Scandinavia, from the Baltic,
the Vikings go west,

of course, to Britain, Ireland then on to Canada, South to Africa, they go north to the Arctic Circle

and then perhaps most interesting of all they go down the great Russian rivers

and they get to the Caspian, Central Asia, the Black Sea, Constantinople,

it's a whole world that they bring together

It's just amazing, amazing what they achieved

So not just a view of the
Viking world, but a view of the world,

or at least the western world,
through the Viking eyes

any particular objects attracted your attention, Neil?

It's a very difficult question to ask you

Obviously they are all wonderful but if I had to steal one,

if I were allowed to steal one, I think it would be a tiny little statue in silver of the God of War, Odin

This great masculine God who oversees, the looting, the raiding, the raping, everything

and this little statue shows him in female dress keeping in touch with his feminine side

because he's not only the God of War, he's exercising his female skills in magic, sorcery, prophecy

and I think that's wonderful- these two sides together,

either side of Odin the ravens One raven
of memory, one raven of thought

they fly all over the world and they come back and tell him what's going on

and in a sense that's what we're doing the
exhibition, it's what we're doing the British Museum

We are Odin's ravens, going all over the world,
bringing it together and thinking about it

I never saw you as a raven, Neil, but it's great- I love it!

We're approaching the Sainsbury exhibition gallery, a great new space for the Museum isn't it

with conservation facilities and scientific
facilities, but also I guess it gives you

the space to show astonishing things?

That's the great advantage of this new space it allows us above all to show the great warship,

one of the main discoveries in the last
thirty years and we at last of a space

big enough to show it and with the
conditions that we need to exhibit it It's great!

Okay well thanks very, very
much, we'll chat a little later, we'll see

you a bit later and we'll see those
ships very soon- Good!

The Viking ship of course is the most recognizable symbol of the age,

an age which I guess we could say extends for about 300 years

from the 750s to the 1060s and it's the ship which is
one of the key themes of the exhibition

'Ohthere said that the region that he
dwelt in is called Hålogaland,

he said that no man lived to the north of him,

there is a port on the southward side of that land that men called Skiringshal

he said a man might hardly sail there, if he camped at night and had a fairwind each day

The original Viking homelands are today's Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland

the territories are physically fragmented, laced with water

For millennia this meant that transport
was much easier by river, fjord and sea than by land

The tribal farming societies here had access to rich goods, furs, whale bone, amber and walrus ivory,

marketable resources that the Vikings would trade once they went global

and as they traveled and traded and raided they shaped not just the past but the world we all live in today

Now, what it's critical to remember is that the name Viking didn't originally refer to a single ethnic group

Today we use the word Viking to describe all the Scandinavian society from 750 ad onwards

But when it first appears in Old Norse, Víkingur actually just means a pirate or a Raider

and of course a pirate is not a pirate without
his or her ship

which is why, professor Neal Price, the exhibition starts with this really
exquisite representation of a Viking ship

Absolutely and the reason it's at the beginning is that this is the absolute key to the Viking Age,

without the ship none of this would happen at all

What we've got here is a beautiful brooch from Denmark, made of copper

and you've got the classic Viking ship, these beautiful clean lines, the dragon heads at either end,

the square sail you can see it furled on the mast there and if you look very closely

all along the hull are these little circular things, which are either shields or the the holes for the oars

And why do we have this special relationship between Vikings and boats,

I mean what why is the boat so central to
their identity?

The really critical thing to understand about the Viking period in Scandinavia

is that this is a maritime society, everything depends on the sea and the rivers and access to water

One way or another everybody was affected by the sea

and they had some kind of contact with the means of transport to get out onto it

And that's so important to remember isn't it, because I think when we think of Vikings

we kind of automatically imagine macho male warriors

but as you say this is something that everybody at every level of society is involved with

And really everybody; what we're coming to here is two of my really favorite exhibits in the show

These are toys and the lives of Viking children are some of the most inaccessible aspects of the Viking Age

It's so hard to reach Viking kids but every now and then when we're lucky enough to get preservation

conditions that mean that woods and
organic things survive we get things like this

little toy boats The smaller one at the top is from Dublin,

the lower one here is from Hedeby in Denmark and
I think it's easy to imagine little

Viking girls and boys floating these
down the streams

So it really is everyone in Viking society that has the
ship in their minds

Something like this tells us what Vikings of all ages did but can the archeology ever get us into their minds,

into the Viking mind?

Yes, I think it can one of the exciting things about Viking material culture and the things they made,

is that wherever possible, they decorated them,

we've just seen this this ship brooch, a ship you can wear, so some Viking person has had this

on their clothes but the same idea goes through anything that you can decorate

so jewellery is not just something to hold your clothes together, it's a visual world full of decoration

and art with meaning, a weapon is not just something to bash people with it's covered in decoration

so you see some of these things here, look in the middle here, there's this beautiful dress pin

with the dragon head this is something to hold your cloak together

but it's not just a functional object this this marvelous head on the top there

looks like a dragon, this leads us into this this thought world of mythological creatures

the invisible population of supernatural beings with which the Vikings shared their world

And what's so important, isn't it, to remember at this time is,

we shouldn't really be using words like religion and belief because that those weren't options for the Vikings

I mean for them dragons were real

Absolutely, I think we should talk about knowledge if you can imagine asking a Viking

'Do you believe in trolls? do you believe in Odin?
it's like asking do you believe in the sea?

It said something obvious, when we use the word supernatural it's entirely wrong, they are natural,

purely natural but our best chance to really get inside the Vikings heads is through burials

because unlike all the rest they are deliberate

so when we find a Viking grave and excavate it

we're encountering something that is a direct product of the Vikings themselves

what they wanted to do Burials can take all kinds of different things from the most mundane objects,

items of personal dress, things you clean your ears with, there's there's ironing boards, all kinds of things like that,

weapons of course and all the way up to the the biggest things of all, ships

because sometimes they're actually buried in ships aren't they? in bows?

They certainly are

We're actually reconstructing a Viking boat burial aren't we?

We are

and so is it going to be your sort of archaeologist's dream burial

you're going to put in everything there that you would love to find in the ground

Up to a point, we'll have a go, yeah!

Okay see what we can do make those
Vikings live

So when you find a dead person with all
the objects laid out around them

they're there because the Vikings wanted them to be there

and what do you think the ships in those graves actually mean? what do they represent?

It's hard to really say but they could be a means of transport to take the dead

to wherever it is they're going, a ship from this world into another world,

equally they might just be the most expensive possession of the dead person

or their community, a bit like being buried in your Mercedes

They are fantastic sources of information and they're fantastic windows on that Viking mind

See where the long sighted warship lies
splendid off the shore,

the bright dragon's mane above the cargo shines,

since he was launched from rollers

his decorated neck is burnished with gold

The vessels of early Viking period were relatively small,

with crews of of around 40 men but through the Viking Age ships grew larger and more sophisticated

They were powered not only by many oars but by splendid sails

As so often technology matched desire, an impulse for exploration,

and a hunger for wealth powered the development of both deeply built cargo ships

that could cross oceans and great warships

These were the true Viking longships which in fleets could conquer nations

And the largest warship ever discovered is at the heart of the exhibition

And this is it- the longest Viking ship
ever found

and not only that but the remains of a royal warship

What's been teased out of the earth has been housed in this giant steel frame

to give us a sense of the scale and size
of the original ship

and you just have to think of it in its prime almost exactly a thousand years ago

nudging its way out to the sea, a hundred men on board, 80 rowers powering those oars

and up above them a giant mast with a sail made of wool or linen dyed in bright colors

They are wonderful ships, they are
remarkable boats, they are very very good,

they're extremely seaworthy boats, I think that's one of the things that always excited me

when I see them, they have made quite a lot, several
full-sized copies of working Viking ships

and if you see a boat like that on the sea, you imagine you suddenly look out to sea

and you suddenly find that half the horizon is full of them

I think that really your heart went to the bottom your boots!

The remains of this magnificent ship
were found by chance in 1996

In a harbor just next to the Viking Ship Museum at Roskilde in Denmark

Workers were dredging the harbour to expand the museum

and unearthed a ship's graveyard right beneath their feet,

it must have felt like a gift from the old gods

Getting the ship's timbers safely onto
dry land and over here

was an immensely delicate operation and one of the people responsible for that

and then the two-week job of installing them in the exhibition

is Kristiana Straetkhvern working with curator Gareth Williams

The discovery of the ship is a fascinating, isn't it?

Not only is it the longest one, but we can see from the ship timbers that is dated back to 1025

but you know but also the dendrochronology show that the ship was built in Norway

While we were investigating the ship we could see that they were repairs,

they show that the ship has been repaired in the Baltic area in 1039

meaning that the ship has been sailing from Oslo to the Baltic and ends up in the bottom of Roskilde fjord

So it has an amazing story really before it ends up there

They put the ship together with lots of
small parts and pieces

and then they fit it together with all these smaller parts

also with the ribs that will come in
between

and all these fittings it makes the ship flexible and strong

Yes we can see very clearly here how the planks themselves are riveted together

Oh yeah the square row plate for the
plank

So each of these major ribs marks where a rowing bench would have been?

Yes, exactly

So we have a rowing bench across the ship on top of that

and that gives us the space between
the rowing benches that helps us estimate

the overall length of the missing parts and gives us an idea of the total size of the crew

And we know that have been
steersman as well at the back

and the steering-oar on one side, the steers board gives us of course the modern name starboard

For this side the right-hand side of the ship but we also hear in historical accounts about forecastle men

so there'd be extra fighting men at the
front of the boat with this width

there's space for more than just the two
people to either side

so how many do you think the total crew would have been?

The estimate is approximately 100 hundred people on board this ship

and they would live here and they would row and they would sail and they would do everything you need to do

They are now putting in, first of all the plank line the steel line has to be there

and they are looking on the drawing to figure out the exact number of the plank

and the exact placement and they are building this part now

and we have laid out plank number five and six,

so this one here, this is the keel, the keel
is the full length of the ship,

in fact the keel from one, from the aft to the front was 32 metre

and that is the longest keel ever found you know on a Viking ship

The remains of Roskilde six hint at the skills that went into this high point of Viking craftsmanship

and colleagues from the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall

are using traditional tools to show the shipbuilding techniques of a thousand years ago

So, Mike, a cross-section of a Viking ship I've
always wanted to see one of these

tell us about how they did it

Well we start with the keel and what's essentially the backbone of the ship

To which we add the stem post and that has a special joint

and the keel enables a boat to keep way especially it so if it's under sail

The lightness of the construction enabled the boat to flex

and also the flatness of the keel almost created a planing hull

which enabled the boat to move very quickly through water

It's like the descriptions in the poetry isn't it of them almost gliding across the surface of the sea

and I think it was a slow evolution because they got braver and braver

as they built the ships in a more seaworthy state

so as with everything it's not just one design that goes on a drawing board, it becomes an evolution

It's almost as if the technology grew as the desire grew and the curiosity grew
isn't it

that's very true

we've reached Iceland let's go to Greenland let's see
what's over

Yeah and it must have been pretty scary when they were heading out

and maybe did we think we fell over the edge of the ocean then? I don't know

but certainly the voyages were fantastic

And its clinker built, we call it clinker built, we're always taught that at school, what does that actually mean?

Well clinker is the Danish word I understand and that's where it developed
from

So in America they call it lapstrake which is probably a more accurate
description

and then we fasten with nails

With nails? They use nails, metal nails?

Yes and and we use these little washers or roves which they're fastened through,

shall I show you how that's done

yeah yeah please

Brian, can you give me a hand?

Hi Brian!

How you doing? Alright? Alright! You?

So we put the nail through

And then the rove goes on

and we then peen the nail head o-over

How long do you think it took him to actually make one of these?

Well, I mean, we know for a fact Roskilde museum in Denmark

they built a full-size version of this 60-foot

and it took him about 18 months was a team of and maybe ten men

But in the Viking days I think they would do that much faster

they were very skilled people, they used to building them

Mass-produced, maybe?

More or less

You almost think that don't you?

and just about the shape, Brian, how do you get this lovely curve?

You know when you hear the poems of the Viking Age they talk about that my curving ship,

my slender ship, how'd you get that?

I think once the shipwright, boat builder, decided on the ship he wanted,

how wide he wanted it, how long he wanted it, then it was simply a matter of steam your planks around

Steam your planks!

And people who've sailed these,
as reconstructions,

say that in any even a medium sea they
sort of twist as they sail,

does that make sense to you?

Well part of the Viking boats was their lightness

they were built lig ht for speed and for if
instance beaching them and raiding

and they were all nailed together so the
boats twisted quite a lot

and that was part of their character and part of the
whole structure in a boat

Made them able, better to cope with difficult seas

That's right, very heavy seas, they were so light

and just finally decoration I mean we have this image, don't we, of Viking ships with their great prows

there's a wonderful account of the Viking attack on Paris by a French monk,

who says that, as they came up the Seine, the people were astonished to see these rows of the great prows

coming down the river, we couldn't even
see the water, he says, it was like a forest!

Visual impact as well, do you think?

I think certainly to frighten

There were so many variations in styles,

they wouldn't worry too much about ornamentation on it on a medium warship,

Let's just get over to England and
plunder it

that's about it, yeah!

And you've got a figurehead for us today, I think?

We have We made a figurehead specially for this project

that was based on the pin head that is on exhibition in the Museum

and if you'd like to come round and have a look yeah

Wow

Don't grab him by the ear!

Never tweak a sleeping dragon under the
ears

wow that's magnificent!

They journeyed boldly,

went far for gold,

fed the eagle out in the east

and died in the south, in Saracen land

Journey boldly in quest for gold and
prepare to die in foreign lands

now that's what the literature says and
Gareth Williams here is the lead curator

of this wonderful exhibition, those
themes of travel and exploration

are really central aren't they to your
organization here

Absolutely, the exhibition is very much
one about the wider Viking world

not just about the Vikings in Scandinavia or in Britain but that wide unprecedented world,

spanning four continents, that the Vikings created

and that is driven by contacts, interactions and the travel that underlied that

yeah and your beautiful objects represent that travel

Absolutely, here's a case in point, this may not look much today

but this is silk, it's come from somewhere at the eastern end of the Viking world

maybe the Byzantine Empire, maybe the Islamic caliphate

and it ended up right across at the other side of the Viking world in Dublin, in Ireland

Something like that, as you say it doesn't look like much on the face of it,

but you have to think what that represents, don't you,

that I think we often imagine in our heads the Vikings in sort of sackcloth and putty colors

but they used to wear gorgeous textiles and cloths woven with gold and silver

and that little silk scrap is
just a tiny fragment of that

They have access to a wide variety of brightly coloured dyes,

that's all been leached out of it by the wet conditions which enabled the fabric itself to survive

but this would have been bright and beautiful there's no evidence in this example of gold and silver thread

but they're there in other silks of the period

And this must have been very fragile to
deal with what is is it the most fragile exhibit here?

It's one of the most fragile but probably the most fragile is a group of material

from a boat burial in Ardnamurchan in Western Scotland

that was found only in 2011 it's still not been fully conserved and that means that it's very fragile,

very unstable, we're lucky to have been able to display it to the public for the first time here

and you'll see when you look at it the iron is rustier than any of the other material

in the exhibition because it's not yet been fully conserved

and that's so brittle and flaky that putting that in place, it's been an enormous job

because there are so many pieces as well there are hundreds of rivets in the boat

as well as the larger burial goods, it's taken a small team two or three days to get every piece of that in place,

huge job

Rust has never had so much loving attention, I suspect!

Well I'm glad you showed me that little
Byzantine bit of silk because

Byzantium and Constantinople was terribly important to the Vikings, wasn't it?

Absolutely, it's very different from
anything they knew in Northern Europe

We hear about Constantinople as Miklagaard, the great city,

and both the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world
offered much more sophistication and civilisation

than the Vikings were used to and they were capable of learning from it and taking new ideas,

new objects but equally they left things behind them everywhere they went

let me show you here some examples

these are two burials, one from Denmark and one from Norway

and both you see contain these oval brooches that's what the well-dressed Viking lady wore in this period,

two brooches pinning an apron dress to her shoulders and these are absolutely typically Viking

but we find them across the Viking world
as well

we've got three more sets here this one from Ireland, this from Yaroslavl in modern Russia

and some from Kiev in modern Ukraine

So the fashions then as now Scandinavian fashion was hugely desirable

and so we see the well-dressed Viking lady much the same wherever she is in the Viking world

Interesting that you say these pieces are from modern-day Russia and these are from Ukraine

where do you stand on that debate as to whether the Vikings who were often known as the Rus

whether they gave their name to Russia, are the Vikings the ancestors of modern day Russia?

They're certainly some of the
ancestors of modern day Russia

the word Russia comes from the name Rus

as you say that sometimes certainly used of people who clearly Vikings,

it's also used of the mixed society that develops in earlier Russia,

which contains Vikings and Slavs and other people like the Kazars

so it's not an ethnically pure society it's a mixed society of which the Vikings are a key element

I imagine with the opening up of the old Soviet Union

that must have given a lot of new territories for you as an archaeologist

to learn from and presumably some new
objects that kind of came into the global scene?

Absolutely, it's fantastic to have as much material as we have in this exhibition from Eastern Europe

A lot of it never shown before in this country but it's also the opening up of the academic subject,

under the former Soviet Union the history of Greater Russia was purely Slavic

so there was no real academic dialogue, we all knew that the Vikings had been in that area

but now we're able to discuss just how much influence there was

and Russian and other Eastern European scholars are part of that discussion

as well as lending us their objects

so it's a wonderful new source of information

but we also have new sources of information of our own

there's new material turning up all the
time in this country

and metal detecting has been a major source of that

just over here we've got one of the most exciting finds in the exhibition to my mind,

and one that I've been working on ever since it was found in 2007

So talk me through it, Gareth, because this is real treasure

Absolutely what we've got here is around 700 individual items,

all found together and buried round about
927 to 928 AD

And why they buried, do you think?

Well it's a key moment in English history, England was unified for the first time

Athelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great, conquered the Viking kingdom of Northumbria

This was buried within that kingdom so almost certainly it's a powerful Viking, hiding his treasure,

at this time of conflict and then the
unification of England

But what's really exciting about this hoard is we've got the whole of the Viking world buried in a single cup

We've got items from the Irish Sea, we've got items from England, both anglo-saxons and Viking England,

from the Frankish kingdoms on the continent, from Russia and the coins
at the far end of the case,

from the Islamic world from as far away as Afghanistan and Uzbekistan

Now you're probably thinking where's the cup?

And I've got it out ready for you here I thought you'd like to look at it

I am eternally grateful!

you can put some gloves on

because this this is the most exquisite thing this ,I do know this cup,

how do you think seven hundred items
fitted into that?

I kind of seems like they couldn't

Well I I helped to unpack it so I know exactly how they've fitted in

all very tightly packed inside there, the coins are very very thin,

they're slipped in between the larger items and then just a few pieces,

the very largest bits resting on top and all held together with lead wrapped around it

sheet lead wrapped round

It's just I can't tell you how brilliant it
is to be close to this

because it is so beautiful in so many ways it's close on twelve hundred years old,

it's exquisite I mean the workmanship on that is just fabulous, really fabulous

but I think I love it best because of the story it tells

beautifully worked and covered withanimals, lions and lionesses and and a few deer presumably being chased

by the carnivores, we know that this is from a church so we know that this is some kind of sacred vessel

Probably do you think for communion bread?

very likely yes

We can't say exactly where it came from but probably France, Belgium, Netherlands, Western Germany

and it's we can say it's a church cut
because it's gilt inside and out

and this line around the top it's a line of
vine leaves

and the vine as a symbol for Christ as the one true vine of the church

Very likely the animals around the edge we got this beautiful lion here

and then these deer being chased it's almost certainly a hunting scene

but it may well be a scene from the Bible

Can I hold it?

if you're very careful

I promise I'll be very careful I tell you why I once hold it, it's quite heavy, it's heavier than I was expecting

just because I think this cup contains such a story it's got that Vale of York horde inside it,

but originally this would have been used for communion bread, wouldn't it?

Very likely

And you know what's how's it ended up in England was it given as some kind of Viking blood money

as a sort of forced tribute demanded by the Vikings

to ensure asort of peremptory peace or and if you think more likely

was this snatched from the
hands of a priest taken in a raid

on a church I mean it you know this would
tell quite a story if it could speak

Absolutely and I think that's another of
the wonderful things about this horde

there's a big debate about the character
of the Vikings,

were they raiders or traders well the coins coming right away across the Viking world

from the far eastern side of that they're probably coming through trade,

but something like this, this is raiding

Whether it's tribute or loot this is the product of Viking raiding in continental Europe

and that takes us right back to where the whole idea of Vikings started from

And what you've got to remember as well as that those Vikings we're talking about

those men on the raids I mean you you'd know this from the bone evidence

quite often they're teenagers they're in their early twenties

so you've got to think of these pumped up lads tearing into this Frankish church and stealing it

Yes but what his remarkable despite that is this has remained intact,

this has not just been broken up for use as precious metal,

this has been treasured and kept and buried perhaps as much as a hundred years after it was made

So the Vikings appreciated good workmanship in others

It really is a traveler in time

Definitely

Yes, I can tell you're itching to get it back safe and sound

So the Vikings were ready to head out
across the world

and I'm with somebody who's done that Sir Robin Knox Johnson

Great to be with you tonight Robert, thanks for coming

It's an obvious question but what's it actually like to sail across the ocean in northern climes in an open boat?

Well I think simple answers is probably quite cold

but you know they lived in their time, they were used to adjusting to it

but when we cross the North Sea in a boat and we had furs

we just covered ourselves with them and actually we were warm as toast inside that

That was in a Viking replica sailing from Bergen to the Shetlands

That's right, training ship
for now

So sitting on their rowing benches did that give you a sense of what they were like as sailors and as people?

It did a bit, I mean all the crew
apart from myself were Norwegians or Danes

and yes it was it was quite interesting
you know the boat action was incredibly seaworthy

you felt very safe in it yeah but it handled easily, I mean it was fascinating

we had enough crew to manage it, we didn't row I have to own it

And food what about food? What did they survive on, do you think?

Well we tried it, we used salt cod

I have to say actually it was really rather nice

I suspect you know you'd hang a few carcasses in the rigging eat off
that

And they had deep-frozen cod, out on wooden racks, up in Svalbard even until recently didn't they?

They took those on their Viking ships but navigation most
of all Robin,

how did they do these extraordinary voyages across to you know
northern Canada

and places like that, did they have any navigational instruments?

Well, they had to have some things that enable them to orienteer, we know that,

and one of the things they might have had is is this basic as this Sun compass

and all you do is go out and plot the shadow of that from the Sun on that

and make a curve makes they turn it round till that shadow hits that curve,

where the curves ptosis, the middle, is north Simple

There's been a lot of argument about this, hasn't t here? They haven't found one of these yet in a Viking context

but you're pretty sure that they they had something extra like this?

Well actually found two, one
in Greenland in the remains of a convent,

and more recently they found
on the river Odo's a Viking settlement

so a pretty convincing the main point is
it does work

Great well thanks ever so for giving us an
insight into what it actually felt like to be a Viking

Thanks very much Robin

Here terrible portents appeared over the land of the Northumbrians

that miserably frightened the people,

there were great storms of lightning and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky

A great famine soon followed those signs
and a little after that, in the same year,

on the 8th of January, an assault of
wretched heathen men

destroyed God's church on the island of Lindisfarne by robbery and slaughter

As the Vikings spread out from their homeland many sailed west to Britain and Ireland

Early raids targeted coastal monasteries

Easily accessible by ship, undefended and rich in church treasure

The Viking attack on the Northumbrian monastery at Lindisfarne in 793

is generally seen to mark the start of
Britain's Viking Age

In the 780s and 790s we start
getting the first reports from British and Irish monasteries

of this first phase of Viking raiding almost like news bulletins from across the British Isles

In Ulster, in latin, they speak of the Vastatio the devastation of the island of Britain,

in Gaelic of the ruin of the great shrine on Iona,

in Northumbria the devastation of their most sacred place in Lindisfarne

was felt to be so shocking, so unprecedented

that it must be a visitation from heaven
accompanied by omens, by fiery lights,

'fyrenne dracan on þam lifte' fiery dragons in the northern sky

the motive for these early raids was of course plunder, loot, treasure, slaves,

you name it and they took it,

here in this case two wonderful examples

the little box there perhaps originally a reliquary containing the bone of a saint

may be plundered from an Irish monastery now with an inscription underneath saying 'Ranvaik owns this box'

a Viking woman's name perhaps her husband brought it back from a raid

and above it this magnificent neck adornment

perhaps melted down loot from a Viking raid found in Norway

and in the hammered flattened ends an inscription saying

'We fared down to freeze here, the coast of Holland and there exchanged War garments with the Friesians'

in other words we slaughtered them and stripped their bodies of their war gear,

a very dark, dry line in irony the Vikings had

Now the size of these early expeditions maybe most 30 or 40 ships

and scholars for a while have believed that the armies themselves were correspondingly small

maybe only a few hundred at most

but quite sober Chronicles soon begin to
talk of fleets of 200, 300, 615 ships

coming from Dublin to invade Northumbria in 937

and they don't have to be the size of the Roskilde ship with 80 rowers

to suggest an army of well thousands, thousands

and the very latest evidence, and very exciting evidence it is too,

has come from the excavation of a Viking camp in North Yorkshire,

this material here, these coins and beads, came from that site

It's a thirty five acre site, plenty big enough to take an army of many thousands

terrifying it must have been, no wonder those monks thought that it was all a sign of God's anger

I went with bloody sword and that a
resounding spear to a hard Viking attack

we had a raging fight, fire raced over
houses

I made bloody bodies fall within city
walls

Hi Gareth cor that is impressive

Fabulous there is nothing like seeing a Viking warrior close up,

looks as if it weighs a ton!

It does, well feel for yourself

Wow! and this isn't as big as the ones
that have been excavated, is it?

it's about the same size of some of them but it's not as big as the largest ones

Terrific, so this is all part of the protective gear of a what kind of status are you?

Fairly high status, not absolutely top, I'm fairly wealthy as you can see from the assorted jewelry and weapons

but not absolute top of the tree

and the shield made of wood but with a leather coating helps bind the individual planks together

and the metal boss, this is the one part that normally survives like the one behind you in the case there

So normally all we have surviving is the boss we do have one example in the exhibition of a complete shield

from the Gokstad burial

Yeah, fantastic let's take the helmet off! A)we can see you and B)this must be very hot under the lights!

It's a little on the warm side

fighting a battle in this kind of gear is it strenuous?

It is and we have accounts of battles fought on hot days, the Battle of Stamford Bridge,

it was so hot the Norwegians took their armor off and fought without it

and were killed and it's a very different style of fighting if you're used to fighting without armor

you can move more quickly but you're used to protecting yourself in a
different way,

you take chances if you're wearing mail because with this mail over padding

I've got leather under there, leather over wool over linen over my normal clothes

and then the helmet protects the head

So a huge investment on the body of a viking warrior

Absolutely, there's something like six
months of work goes into making this

this shirt you can see if you look
closely every link riveted closed and some have that

some have solid rings
mixed in with riveted it stops them springing apart

The amount of labor that goes into that as well as just the raw materials it's it's colossal

Just fantastic, let's put that over there and just show us some of the weapons,

let's look at a sword c'mon these are

well the sword is the ultimate status
weapon for the Viking warrior

No curator should do without one

Absolutely comes
in very handy on a day-to-day basis!

Actually you know you get a better idea of of it looking at these new re-made weapons

than anything I've ever seen it's really fabulous isn't it and these were incredibly expensive at the time

when you look at the wills weren't they, I was trying to work it out

it's the equivalent of a incredibly high-end sports car in terms of modern purchasing

For the top level sword and the swords come in various values-

if you look at the different swords in this exhibition we've got some quite plain ones,

those are maybe not in quite the luxury league but then we've got the designer swords

there's one particular sword maker Ulfberht he's such a successful name

he's such successful brand that we get swords with the Ulfberht name

etched into the blade or inlaid in for probably 200 years

Designer blades, it's fabulous isn't it?

It is and like designer labels today recent analysis of the blades show that there are the cheap knock-offs as well

So there are blades which it's been calculated are so badly made

with that label on they fall apart the first time you use them in in battle

It's the Viking equivalent of the knockoff Louie Vuitton handbag

And looking at some of these exhibits personal adornment, I mean they're real individualist aren't they?

Some of these Viking leaders in our sources and and that suggests it doesn't it- filed teeth!

Yes, this is an extreme example, as a small number of these are known

always from warrior grave so with horizontal file marks probably coloured in on the teeth

It's on the one hand immediately recognizable,

it's also saying very clearly; if I'm willing to do this to myself what am I willing to do to you?

And meeting that on the battlefield, quite terrifying

But we also have accounts of the Vikings with tattoos from the tips of their fingers to their necks

and to both men and women in the Viking late age wearing makeup to make their eyes brighter

so we can imagine these highly
decorative warriors

It's like Pirates of the Caribbean isn't it kind of Johnny Depp goes Viking

Exactly, exactly I think there's a very good analogy

but the leaders with their bi names you know Ragnar Lothbrok and hairy breeches

and all those kind of please so these are these are guys whose fame went before them

Yes and and some of those names very clear where they come from

you know a name like Thorfinn Skullsplitter no guesses how he got that name,

Einar Buttered-bread, slightly harder to tell

Eric Blood-awe, I've always loved him!

One of my favorites as well

Fantastic Battles, Gareth, I mean we read rather conventional battle descriptions don't we,

in the poetry both the Norse poetry
and the anglo-saxon poetry

Y'know- hacking the shield wall, bord weel cluff fan and all this stuff!

Did they make shield walls? How did they
actually fight in battle line? Do we know?

The shield wall seems to be and
we have one or two surviving representations of this

in stone carvings and so on you stand in a line all shields overlapping

and that provides a solid wall and it's if someone's charging into that

you can make quite a solid barrier against that

The difficulty with that is if you've
got a sword or an axe like the one I have here,

to use this effectively, and again the axe a very common weapon of the Viking raid,

you need room to swing that
effectively if you're packed in with people around you

you can't swing that So there's no room to use that and that I think

is where the Seax, the fighting
knife comes in,

it's useful at close quarters and this is blunted for safety

but the real examples have wicked points and although you can use it as a cutting
weapon

it's ideal at close quarters you can go over the shield you can go under
the shield

and there's a skeleton at Repton with serious injuries to this inner thigh

it's been suggested that particular warrior may even have being castrated

well upwards blow is one of these
the shield what better way to do it

And death in battle, I mean thousands of
Vikings died violent deaths in the Viking Age didn't they

what did they think happened to them after death?

Well according to the later traditions which is what we mostly have

and these are mediated through a Christian viewpoint

they believed that they would go to Valhalla, the Hall of the slain,

and they'd feast there and fight, I mean great!

Everyday you can go out, fight, get killed, wake up again in the evening,

get drunk and do it all again the next day! So it was the perfect afterlife for a warrior

They'd be waiting for the great battle of Ragnarok at the end of time

but until then it was a great after-life and something to aspire to

only the best warriors were chosen and that meant that the Viking gods and Odin in particular

was a pretty fickle god to worship because he wanted the best warriors on his side

which meant he wanted them dead and in Valhalla waiting for that battle that might come

So a treacherous god to worship

Fantastic and I've got to ask you this , Gareth, I mean you know I've known you for all these years

as a scholar of the age and here we are you're in this gear

and you're telling me these stories your eyes are blazing

this is a world which obviously has captivated you for a long time

what is it about it that gets
you?

Well, I've loved the Vikings since I was a small child I still remember the last exhibition back here in 1980

being brought along as a birthday treat

The Vikings grab the imagination and actually all of this stuff, maybe there's still a little boy dressing up in there,

but there's also a lot of practical experimentation I first got into this talking to a re-enactor,

I asked him what he'd learned from doing it and he said 'Wouldn't you learn more just trying it yourself?'

I thought fair enough and that's 15 years ago!

And there's something about their character as well though isn't it do you think?

Oh yes,

When you read their proverbs and their words of wisdom there's such down-to-earth clarity about life, isn't there?

What do you think?

Well absolutely I think that just laconic
humor is very much in keeping with our own today

They've got a certain sense of
grim style

Of course, thousands of Vikings died
violent deaths during the Viking Age

and these are some of them

These bones are part of an extraordinary thrilling find that was made only recently, 2009,

near Weymouth in Dorset when a bypass was being built

and there in a lonely Combe
in an old Roman quarry

were found the bones of around 50 men

Here's the clues: the age range most of them between 18 and 25,

the isotopes in their teeth showed
that they came from the Scandinavian region

not one country but the countries
around the Baltic,

the carbon-dating suggested a date between say the 970s and the 1020s

in other words the reign of Ethelred

the unready the period in English history when the Viking Danish invasions were resumed

and wars were fought with incredible bitterness and savagery right across England

The historian, of course, can't resist speculating: Who are they? Why were they here? When did it happen?

They could just have been a boatload of Danes who got lost and ran out of luck were killed by the locals

during those Wars, they might even be mercenaries Ethelred's government employed danish mercenaries

who on one occasion turned against their employers, maybe these were those kind of men,

who were captured and killed by the local Earl and his thanes

because they weren't killed in battle they haven't got war wounds

their heads were severed and left to one side in the death pit,

there are skulls with slash marks of
swords across them,

there's a hand even, you can see the bones, perhaps the person

lifted the hand up to protect themselves and their fingers were cut off

So who were they they? Maybe something to do with one of the most infamous moments

in the story of Ethelred's reign the so-called massacre of St Brice's day, 13th of November, 1002

When Ethelred's government in despair about the incessant Danish
attacks,

gave the order, so it's thought, to massacre the Danes

of the population of towns in Southern England

Towns like Oxford, we don't know whether it was carried out everywhere

but it seems to have happened in some places,

we'll never know for sure of course, but it's a chilling pointer to the ethnic tensions which

could still bubble up in a country which had been mixed Anglo Danish society

for more than a century

Chop wood in the wind, row out to sea in good weather,

speak to a girl in the dark, the day's eyes are many,

you need a ship for gliding,

a shield for protection,

a sword for striking,

a maiden for kissing

Viking poetry does, on the face of it at any rate,

seem to be describing a pretty male world,

there's all this macho talk about battles and swords and shields

and the odd mention of a yearning for a kind of good woman

So where are all the Viking women? Where's the female of the species in all of this?

She's everywhere And if you're thinking
about Viking armies there's plenty of evidence

that they took women and children with them

on their, especially if they were away from home over many
years,

but probably most women stayed at home and they had full authority within the home

they were there making sure the household was fed
and clothed

and looking after the the young and the old and the sick

And do they have status I mean there's some gorgeous objects in front of us here,

some of which I know belonged to women and you know they look like the woman

who wore that would have had commanded quite some respect

Well there's that there's a chain there that's made of gold,

it's a practical item, it's for
hanging your keys

and women were in charge of all the chests and everything that was the belongings of the household

so she kept the keys but for the chain to be gold that would have been a very high-status woman

and next to it we have a woman perhaps from a slightly different class,

these two oval brooches are the characteristics of your average Viking woman of the free class

The wife of the head of the household, the mistress of the household who had complete charge and authority

within the household and then next to it there's also a wonderful little object

which is an ear scoop for cleaning your ears out and that's made of gold as well

so a practical object but showing the status of its owner

I think we should bring back ear scoops in the 21st century!

They would be very useful

Using it polite society! It would be great wouldn't it! And about religion?

Because what you quite often get in societies at this time and actually earlier

is that women have this very special relationship with the gods and the spirit world,

they're almost supposed to have a kind of hotline to that world,

is that the same for the Vikings?

I think so yes there's certainly they because of this authority they had within the house

they're able to conduct the sacrifices to the gods and spirits so they were often responsible for that

I think there is good evidence for that they also practiced healing

they knew their herbs and and other ways of getting people better

and some of them probably did things that we would describe as sorcery

that's quite difficult to find out exactly how they did that

I mean that must have given them status in society, if you're in charge of magic?

Absolutely and probably some such women were feared

There a lot of stories about mad women who practice magic

and people were very afraid of them really because of their powers

You sometimes get references to them being military sorceresses as well

so they're actually there on the battlefield

Yes, so these are the Valkyries they were the assistants of the god Odin

so they went to battles with him

they helped Odin select those warriors who would die in battle and be taken to Valhalla

Once they got to Valhalla they served
drink to the warriors there

But, I mean, these are imagined creatures I mean if we look at we've got some fabulous swords here

Would we ever have seen a real flesh-and-blood Viking woman wielding something like this?

Well, I would say the sword is the male weapon par excellence

Swords are the status symbol of the elite male warrior

however our view keeps changing with new finds

and there's a very exciting find that was made just over a year ago in Denmark

by a metal detectorists, a very
small silver figure of a female,

very clearly female, she has long hair in a
plait down the back,

she has a long dress and she's holding a shield and a sword

and it's very, very interesting because normally Valkyries are associated with
spears

They normally have a shield and a spear,

it would be very unusual for Valkyrie to have a sword because of the male associations of the sword

so I don't quite know I haven't quite worked out what that figure actually means

but she does have a sword, there's no doubt about it, it's a female figure with a
sword

That is what is so brilliant about archaeology you get these new little pieces in the jigsaw puzzle

which slotted in can give you a whole different picture

because there is a Byzantine source that talks about in a being a battle with the Vikings and the Byzantine army

go and kind of rip the armor off and lo and behold some of the fighters are women

they say and I don't know if that's just a story but but they reported it as fact?

There's a very similar story in Old Norse poetry about a Valkyrie she's on in battle with Odin

and the hero, Sigurd, comes along and cuts open her armor it turns out to be a woman

but I think that's still that's still part of a Valkyrie myth

it says she's in it very much an imagined figure not a real one

I tell you what unfortunately I'm almost certain actually women's experience of the battlefield

would have been: the battle would have happened and then one or other army wins

and the women then become plunder they become human booty

and there's actually there's some really horrible evidence of that over here

what you've got here your think really
is it's the kind of chilling truth

of that story of Viking adventure

Well certainly what we have here are leg irons and there an iron collar from
Dublin

Dublin was the center of the slave trade so it's very likely that
this is something used to restrain slaves

slaves that have been captured
perhaps as a result of war

Hmm and then we actually use a word don't we the whole time

that the Old Norse for slave was a was thrall

And we talk about being in thrall or enthralled by people, we should remember that, shouldn't we?

Yes, well, slavery is very important part of the Viking world

and as I say Dublin was the center of the slave trade and it's it's very interesting

because where did these people end up? Now both men and women were captured as slaves

I think a lot of them were ransomed back by their families or sold on

but quite a lot of them also ended up travelling with the Vikings to Iceland

The DNA evidence from Iceland shows that something like sixty percent perhaps of the female population

of Iceland has its origins in in Britain and Ireland

and it's quite likely that many of these were slaves that the Viking settlers brought with them

It's still very sobering though isn't it looking at that cos I know there are some sources

that say the Vikings looked after their slaves very well but still I mean that and and a thousand times over

just represents so many personal tragedies

Well if you were a slave you had no rights whatsoever you were just the property of your master

Quite different from the people we were talking about earlier who had their freedom

But the Vikings were not just raiders, plunderers and slave traders

In many of the lands they invaded they settled down

and in time they took on the culture and the Christian religion of the conquered peoples

As the Vikings extended their power and
influence along the seaboard of Western Europe

and across the British Isles they founded kingdoms in Northumbria and Ireland,

in Normandy, of course, the Normans were originally Vikings

and eventually they came to rule England as a whole

which brings us to this manuscript, just take a look, this is the Liber Vitae

the book of lives, of the monastery of the new minster in Winchester

It was the family shrine and the mausoleum of the dynasty of Alfred the Great,

the kings of Wessex and the creators of the kingdom of England

and this was the book which contained the names of the benefactors of the
monastery

whose souls the monks would pray for

and here in a full-page picture in
pride of place is a young Viking

just look with his beard it's Knut the son of Sweyn Forkbeard, the King of Denmark

he's got one hand on the gold cross that he's giving as a gift to the monastery

and I love this detail his other hand holding the hilt of his sword

He'd conquered England with the sword

Knut conquered England in 1016 he ruled till 1035 eventually controlling a great north sea empire

not only England and Denmark but Norway and parts of Sweden

and in that time the young Viking became a respected member of the Christian community of Kings in Europe

He issued Christian laws he went on pilgrimage to Rome

And, of course, he's remembered in famous
English folk story in which

he puts his throne on the seashore and commands the waves to go back

just to show his sycophantic courtiers that there are limits to a king's power, even to that of Knut the Great

The first millennium is a rich melting
pot of culture and ethnicity

and we have assembled a crack team of experts who've been tracing the legacy of that cultural mix

right across time, Martin Findell is a historian of language and can literally read the runes,

Jane Carroll is working on Old Norse and Old English and in particular Old English place-names

and Turi King has become a household name thanks to rediscovering Richard III underneath that carpark

through DNA analysis and is now working on a large scale project tracing the genetic legacy of the Vikings

Now Martin, there are runes in this room aren't there?

Yeah, there are several objects with runic inscriptions in the exhibition

We've got in the corner the very impressive replica of the Jelling stone from Denmark

with the inscription dedicated by Harald Bluetooth

One of the most interesting objects I think is is the Hunterston brooch,

it's a very, very fine quality brooch made probably in the 7th or 8th century in Southwest Scotland

and it's a nice example of the different
cultural mix that you've got in that part of Britain at that time

the art styles are used by the Scots and by the Anglo-Saxons are already influencing one another

and then in the 10th century this brooch was reacquired by somebody and reused

and it has an inscription on it in Viking runes or Viking period runes

and it says 'Melbrigda owns this brooch'

what's most interesting about that is we've got this reuse of an of an old beautiful object

with an Old Norse inscription using Scandinavian Viking writing

but the name on it is is Celtic

it shows the the the influence of the language and the culture between Scandinavian, Scots and Northumbrians

What about in the 21st century? Apart from in graphic novels and fantasy TV series,

have the runes stayed with us?

Well they pop up all over the place in
in popular culture,

one of the examples that everybody will be familiar with is the Bluetooth logo,

which is what runologists call a bind rune

it's two runic characters joined together it's it's an H and a B,

Harald Bluetooth's initials and the reason for that is that one of the engineers

who was working on the bluetooth project happened to be reading an historical novel about Vikings

and decided that as Harald brought together the Danes under his rulership

that was a good analogy for the way bluetooth enables different types of devices to

talk to one another and communicate

Very good, so thanks to him we've all got a little bit of a Viking in our pocket

What about the landscape that we walk through, I mean in Britain is that
still a Viking landscape

as far as the names are concerned?

We're certainly walking through a linguistic a Viking landscape,

so every day we're using words which are Scandinavian origin,

even though obviously we think of them as being English

and is 'egg' a Viking word? That's what I've been told

Yes

I love that 'egg' and 'window'

So we think of them each we throw an egg at a window we think of the Vikings!

And also on the signpost we see
place names which are derived from Scandinavian as well

And what are the clues if we're trying to find Vikings on landscape

but what do we need to look out for?

Well in England the most obvious one is names ending in BY

so this is a very common Scandinavian word which means farm or village

so if I give you a couple of Leicestershire examples we've got Oadby,

the first element of that is possibly the personal name Auði's

or possibly an adjective æðra which means desolate or waste

and then Somerby another Leicestershire example

the first element of that is probably the Scandinavian personal name

which means summer traveler

so those are two -by names but some of the very important places have Scandinavian names

so Swansea for example means Sweyn's
Island

and Fishguard has the Scandinavian word for fish and the Scandinavian word for enclosure in it

so those are those are two examples of
major places which be ar Scandinavian names

And what about family names?

Yes, so a number of surnames which are still in use in the present day

derived from Scandinavian personal name so

a surname like Brand for example might come from the Scandinavia name Brandon,

the surname Gunnel come comes from the Scandinavian woman's name Gunhild

which was very, very popular in the Middle Ages,

Tully is another family name which derives from a Scandinavian personal
names

so these linguistic traces are all around us

This is where our work overlaps because I use surnames as a way of looking for men

who might have Scandinavian ancestry so my work is looking at the genetic legacy of the Vikings

and I'm really interested in looking in areas where we know that the Vikings got to

and this is how I use surnames, so surnames in this country are about on average 700 years old

and if I'm looking for people with very, very old surnames tied to the north of
England

probably that's because their ancestry comes from there

so even though the Vikings didn't have hereditary names

I'm looking at people who've got surnames that probably originated about 700 years ago in the north of England

and then looking at their DNA in particular the Y chromosomes to see whether as a group

they've got higher proportions of Scandinavian ancestry in areas that we know the Vikings got to

I know you've actually taken a sneaky DNA sample from Gareth, Michael and Neil

I was devastated that I couldn't be involved

but that would be very, very interesting to see how Viking they are

Yes I need to do their Ys (laughs)

Tell me, kind of off the record, do you think you can tell if people have a bit of Viking in them?

Ok so that that is actually quite an
important thing you cannot look at a man's Y chromosome type and say that's Viking,

or so on and so forth but I mean given the number of ancestors that we all would have had alive

at the time the Vikings were around it's safe to say that we will all have Vikings somewhere in our family tree

we've all got a bit of Viking ancestry somewhere

That is amazing, there's a little bit of Viking in all of us

That's right!

Thank you so much!

What is this dream? cried Odin

just before dawn I dreamed I was preparing Valhalla for a new hero

I woke the guard of the dead and bid them rise up

cover the benches, clean the
cups,

tell the Valkyries bring wine fitting for a great chief,

noble heroes are coming from the world,

my heart is glad

So we're nearing the end of our
live broadcast preparing our Viking boat burial

I'm with Professor Neil Price who's carrying a mysterious looking Viking artifact, on which more very soon

Neil, now a thousand years ago to the day a great battle was fought at Clontarf outside Dublin

between the Irish kings and the Vikings inwhich thousands were killed

including the great Irish hero Brian Boru

and this week hundreds of
re-enactors have recreated that battle

to vast audiences tens of thousands

Neil, a thousand years ago exactly to this evening the Vikings would be burying their dead at Clontarf

What do we learn about them from their burial customs?

Well there are many many different kinds of Viking burials, including cremations,

but what all of those funerals have in common is a sense of spectacle,

of drama, of ceremony and remembrance

and also above all the idea of preparing a dead person for transition to a new life in the next world

with all their possessions intact sometimes human possessions people could take their slaves

into the grave with them so if you imagine a warrior like those who died at Clontarf

buried with his weapons and armor fighting fit to wake up in the next world and off he goes

In Valhalla as we're taught in school!

That's the men but women too

Viking women could receive burials every bit as spectacular as the men

and just now inside we heard about some of sorceresses,

people buried with with amulets and charms and hallucinogenic
drugs

and that's where this comes in

a staff of sorcery a kind of witch's
wand

Whoa! it looks like something you'd find in Ollivanders wand shop in Harry Potter, doesn't it?

Exactly yeah

and the kind of woman that would have wielded one of these might well have been a funeral director

we're learning more about them all the time

A Viking female funeral director brilliant Neil thanks
for sharing your scholarship with us tonight!

Over to you Bettany!

Well whatever the Vikings imagined their afterlife would be

the reality is that they do still live on in the genetic code of many millions of us

and results of that DNA test of Michael, Gareth and your good self Neil

will be published on the British Museum's website in just a couple of weeks

just tell me, honestly, are you going to be horrified

or really secretly rather pleased if you
discover you are a true child of the Vikings

More than pleased! I'd be delighted

I come from the west of Scotland so I think there's quite a chance that there's some Viking blood

and I love the idea of my ancestors a thousand years ago sailing up the Volga

no I'm hoping

although I have to say I have you down is coming from from poet stock perhaps

rather than kind of genocidal raider

Well, I think as the statue of Odin shows

the poetic and the genocial will can co-exist

What's so interesting about the
Vikings, isn't it, is that whatever your genetic inheritance

actually they are almost inescapable but because they have had such a massive impact

on the shape of our modern world

That's absolutely true they obviously shape the British Isles in lots of ways very much today

but more than that they've shaped the
whole of Europe

because they established the Baltic as the other Great Sea, with the Mediterranean

where ideas move from east to the west

and the view of Europe from Scandinavia that the Vikings had

embracing the Islamic Middle East
and the Christian Western Europe

that's a really interesting idea
for the world now I think

It's so important that that as global
populations we have to remember how intimately connected

we have been for centuries

Forever yes

But what we mustn't do though, is we mustn't whitewash the Vikings,

because they did also do some truly horrific things,

they did they destroyed wonderful things

but in an exhibition you can't, of course,
show what's been destroyed

what we can show are the things that the Vikings made and kept

and those things take us back to that world and not just the world of their actions #

but the world of their thoughts and their poetry to the Great Norse sagas

with their tales of heroes and Dragons and the great burning ships

the ships carrying the heroes into the afterlife, that goes on

So for good and for bad they will still live on in our imaginations

I hope so

and now Michael has been dealing with a huge number of queries and questions about the exhibition

so back to you Michael!

We've had messages from all over the
country

quick ones for Gareth: Kat from Swansea you talked about dendrochronology

how does it actually work?

Well dendrochronology is the
analysis of tree rings

so as long as the timber is well enough preserved

you can see from the spacing of the rings in the wood how old the wood is

and where it comes from and that's how we know the ship was made in Norway in the 1020s

Brilliant you're gonn a love this one
this is from Steven in Liverpool

Why do we not see any Viking helmets with wings and horns on them?

That's because they're an invention that they invented in the 19th century,

it's what the Victorians and that and
pre Victorians thought Vikings ought to look like

rather than what they did look like it

I'm very, very disappointed though they were in my ladybird books when I was at school

Mine too!

Have we got time for one more? Fantastic

This is a great question: what do contemporary Islamic writers say about the Vikings?

They give us a mixed view we're told by one of them on the one hand they're the filthiest of God's creatures

but he also talks about how tall and good-looking they are

so they're pretty pretty damning on personal hygiene

but they quite like the look of them

Even-handed thanks very much Gareth, brilliant exhibition

Thanks for being with us tonight

Well as our crew of mildly intimidating 21st century Vikings

take up their final positions for the burial

it is time for us to bid you
farewell

we hope you've enjoyed yourselves if you want to learn more
about the Vikings just go to the British Museum website

Britishmuseumorg

and please carry on speaking to us on Twitter #Vikingslive @British Museum

Michael they've kept us in one another
for 90 minutes!

We're gonna leave you now with the Vikings and their torch lit
burial

from the British Museum live in London goodbye or as the Vikings say Far Vel!

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