Vikings are perhaps most famous for their legendary longships. Larger and more agile than anything sailing at the time, these ships made it possible for warriors and merchants to travel long distances quickly. This lead to widespread trade along the European coast and beyond, and far ranging conquests as distant as the Middle East and Asia.
The Conservation Process
How do archeologists stabilize wood that has been submerged for more than 1000 years? As wood ages, its cell walls begin degrading, which allows water to seep in and destabilize the cell structures. One technique for stabilizing ancient wood begins by immersing the degraded material in a chemical bath. The material then must be vacuum freeze dried for months, later emerging as preserved timbers that are solid enough for display.
The Jelling Stone
Considered by many historians to be Denmark's official birth certificate, the Jelling Stone is an important landmark in Viking history and is one of the earliest official depictions of Christ in Scandinavia. The stone, carved at the order of King Harald Bluetooth around the year 965 CE, served as the official declaration confirming the new nation of Denmark as a Christian nation.
Shaped from silver, this Valkyrie figure depicts an armed warrior woman whose name Valkyrja means “chooser of the slain.” In Viking mythology, the Valkyries are said to collect the bravest fallen soldiers from battle and carry them to the afterlife in Odin’s great hall, Valhalla. Not only did they act as messengers, these fierce shield maidens could decide themselves who lived and died in combat.
With six to seven farms in a village, each farm would be centered upon the family’s longhouse, whose wooden structure resembled that of their famous longships. These longhouses could span anywhere from 50 to 250 feet in length. With large elongated fireplaces in the center of their homes, these massive structures allowed for cooking and keeping warm in the harsh Scandinavian winters.
Fashion and Clothing
This reconstructed Viking age cloak is lined with marmot fur and incorporates rare, costly gold threads and fine silks, a style influenced by Byzantine court fashions. The original cloak was found in a Danish chamber-grave attributed to a high-ranking nobleman known as the “Magnate of Mammen,” and dating back to approximately 970 CE.
Witness these historical wonders of Vikings for yourself at Vikings: Beyond the Legend, open through March 3, 2019.