The Vikings are here!

Vikings: Beyond the Legend is now open at Melbourne Museum.

Members of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Often depicted in popular culture as dirty, bearded, horn-helmeted barbarians, Vikings: Beyond the Legend reveals that actually... the Vikings were a highly refined, well-groomed and cultured lot. 

And as it turns out their helmets didn't have horns.

Now open at Melbourne Museum, this exhibition sets the record straight about what Vikings and their culture were really like.

Two leading Viking experts from the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm are in Melbourne for the opening. Katherine Hauptman and Lena Hejll are the curators of Vikings, Beyond the Legend and are both available for interview for a limited time.

Voyaging to Australia via land and sea, carefully packed in thirteen crates and seven shipping containers, this myth-busting exhibition includes 430 original artefacts and 40 replicas.

On loan from the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, it’s the largest collection of Viking artefacts ever to visit Victoria. Exploring eight key themes, the exhibition provides insights into Viking people, their family life, their homes, religion, death rituals, craftsmanship, raiding and trading culture, and ships.

Visitor looking at the Krampacken, a replica of a Viking merchant boat.
The Krampacken, a replica of a Viking merchant boat.

Among the rare treasures is one of the finest Thor hammer pendants ever found, picture stones used to mark deaths and important events and swords dating from 700-1100 AD. Items that will reveal surprises include incredibly well-preserved tweezers, razors and combs telling us that Vikings took great care of their appearance and personal hygiene. 

While a 1000-year-old piece of bread and coprolite (fossilised poo!) expose a lot about ancient Viking diets. 

And on the question of those horned-helmets? We blame this misconception on 19th-century European artists who added horns to helmets to make their paintings more dramatic. 

Visitors to Vikings: Beyond the Legend will be greeted by the Krampmacken, a replica of an 8.2m Viking merchant boat found in Gotland Island in Sweden in the 1920s. It demonstrates how vital ships were to Viking expansion, travel and trade. 

It also features the first sail to be reconstructed using pictures that depict Viking mast and sails that were found on a 1000-year-old picture stone near where the boat was uncovered. 

Visitors looking a the ghost ship installation in Vikings: Beyond the Legend.
The ghost ship installation

Overall the exhibition demonstrates how most Vikings were farmers and merchants, not the barbaric warriors they are reputed to be.

Fun Viking facts

  • Women in Vikings society were powerful. They were often the head of the household and held great influence, particularly if they were a member of the aristocracy.
  • Plunder and trade were probably closely related. It is likely that merchants also took part in expeditions that resulted in violent raids.
  • Much of the work done by craftsmen of the Viking Age is of such high quality that it is difficult to replicate today.
  • There were three groups in Viking Age society; the wealthy and powerful aristocracy, working free men and women, and the unfree slaves.
  • Old Norse traditions and Christianity co-existed in the Viking Age for several centuries.

Vikings: Beyond the Legend
March 23 – August 26, 2018
Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson Street Carlton
Tickets $14 - $28
Children Under 3 free, discounts for concessions apply, family ticket $70

Interviews are available with:

  • Katherine Hauptman, Exhibition Curator and Director, Swedish History Museum​
  • Lena Hejll, Exhibition Curator, Swedish History Museum 

Media enquiries:

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