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Archive for April, 2014

One Day. Two Museums, Four Exhibitions, One Lecture and a bit of Shopping Part Four

As you might have gathered from reading these posts and hopefully my book as well, I have a bit of an interest in Norse stuff. Needless to say, when the British Museum put tickets for this exhibition on sale, I got booking and was not disappointed.

The museum has now got a new exhibition space and the Viking’s Life and Legend is the first of the major exhibitions to be displayed here. 20140426_144616
Inside there are a wide range of objects including the remains of weapons, hordes (including the Vale of York horde), coins from all over the world (and it was interesting to find out that the most common coins that have been found in Scandinavia from this time were from the Islamic world). There are quotes from both Norse sagas and accounts of people that came into contact with the Vikings, including Islamic scholars and Christian monks. There is a recreation of the Jelling Stone in Denmark which has an early Norse depiction of Christ and the centrepiece: the remains of the Roskilde 6 longship from the Viking Ship Museum in Denmark, the longest surviving longship from this time.

I would go into more detail with this and the other exhibitions but I really think you should see them for yourselves to really do them justice.



One Day. Two Museums, Four Exhibitions, One Lecture and a bit of Shopping Part Three

Before going to the exhibition itself, I went to a lecture all about Viking Art, presented by Dr Jane Kershaw. This lecture looked at how art was used in different ways in Norse culture, such as ships, warfare, settlements, power and religion.

A Viking ship is a work of art in itself and was an integral part of Norse culture. Ships were used not only in transport, trade and war but also in funeral rituals with old vessels, such as the Oseberg Ship, used as burial chambers or set alight. Being a shipmaster was essential for a king of chieftain and one saga describes how Olaf Trygvasson, King of Norway, could run along the oars of a ship while juggling swords. The ships were used in images, such as serpents, and much of this was reflected in the names given to them. Decorations were also important with carvings and metalwork used on the prow heads, etc.

Art was widely used in Viking warfare with warriors wearing armrings, tattoos, weaponry that was decorated with inscriptions and carvings (although these could have been just ceremonial) and, in some cases, filed teeth that would have been coloured to give the warrior a more fearsome look.

At the height of the Viking Age, people from Scandinavia began to settle over much of the Northern Hemisphere, from North America to Russia. Fashions were influenced in terms of clothing, hairstyles and jewellery in both genders.

Arm rings were a symbol of power, handed down from a chieftain to a warrior. The more rings a man had on his arms, the more powerful he was. These, and other objects, were also a form of currency, with links broken off as payment. As gold is easy to shape, payment can be melted down, forged and displayed to visitors.

Episodes in Norse Mythology have been displayed in all kinds of ways from carvings in wood, metal and stone to poetry. As time has gone by and Norse culture begins to adapt to Christianity, both Christian and Old Norse myths have been intertwined.

This lecture was very interesting and if you want to read on here is Jane Kershaw’s website:

One Day. Two Museums, Four Exhibitions, One Lecture and a bit of Shopping Part Two

Having a bit of time to kill before going to a lecture on Viking Art, I decided to go and look at two other collections the British Museum have currently got on display.

‘Germany Divided: Baselitz and his Generation’ displays work by the East German artists, Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz, Blinky Palermo, A R Penck, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter. These artists grew up and came of age during the Second World War, witnessing the blitz in Germany and the division of their country by the Allies. These six artists came from East Germany, which was part of the Soviet Sector and soon became the Deutschland Democratic Republic and all six crossed to West Germany before the Eastern government clamped down on migration. Their work reflects not only the tyranny of Socialism but also their disapproval of Capitalist Western values.

‘Gems of Chinese Painting: A Voyage Along the Yangzi River’ shows a selection of paintings from the sixth to the nineteenth centuries of the Yangzi River in South-East China. There are landscape scenes and calligraphy that shows how one place can be shown in different styles. This is a preview to a major exhibition the museum is having later this year about the Ming Dynasty:

One Day. Two Museums, Four Exhibitions, One Lecture and a bit of Shopping Part One

Last year, as you may remember, I went to London to see three exhibitions in one day (Pompeii and Herculaneum, Treasures of the Royal Court and David Bowie). This year I thought I’d go one better. Over the next few days you can find out some of the things that are going on in the Capital at the moment.

At the Natural History Museum you can go back to Britain a million years ago. The exhibition shows how the landscape of Britain changed many times over the course of this period, with it being joined to the European continent and cut off due to the Ice Age. It also shows the various animals that would have inhabited Britain at this time. Bears, wolves, hippos and lions all roamed the British Isles at various points, depending on the temperature.

The exhibition also showed the tools that early humans in Britain used such as flint knives and a video demonstrated how these were made. There is also the oldest known spear in Britain on display too. Towards the end are models of a Neanderthal man and a Homo Sapiens and speculation on what caused the Neanderthals to die out, along with evidence of interbreeding between the two species.

The exhibition ends with a piece on genetic ancestry where famous people have had their DNA examined to see where their ancestors originated. This is very interesting and just goes to show that all humans, despite our differences, are one and the same.

Want to know more? Go and see it!

Linking Up

Having a little look at my Twitter the other day and I noticed that people can publish their blog posts straight away. Wondering how I can do this myself, I asked a friend and fellow blogger and she very kindly talked me through it, so let’s see how that goes…

Anyway, what have I been doing lately? On Saturday I took the hovercraft over to the Isle of Wight and had a look around Carisbrooke Castle and Yarmouth Castle. I was very lucky to get an annual membership of English Heritage for a year so I’ll be touring around the UK for a bit this summer!


Carisbrooke Castle

Yarmouth Castle

Yarmouth Castle

I can recommend both of these places if you’ve got a day on the Isle of Wight:

So, let’s see if this works…

March 2014 Readings

Are you all enjoying In the Shadow of the Gods? I do hope you are. Please let me know what you think (unless you fancy doing a spot of trolling…)

Anyway, this month I read the following books. Do have a look at them.

1) Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson. A book set at the turn of the Millennium with some fantasy elements. Very good.

2) Viking Gold by V. Campbell. This is a book aimed at young adults but can be read by adults too. A gripping adventure set around the time of the Norse discovery of America.

3) Viking: Odinn’s Child by Tim Severin. A fantastic book. If you are enjoying Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon series then you will like these. I can also recommend his book on the Brendan Voyage if you enjoyed Viking Gold (which I’m sure you will!)

4) Jack of Spies by David Downing. Taking a break from the list to see how other spy books are written. This is set just before the First World War in 1913 and gives an insight into life in China, the USA, Britain and Ireland. Very interesting.

Sorry for the lack of Sharpe but Sharpe’s Enemy has not yet returned to the Library. No wonder he’s not good friends with Mr Sharpe…