The website of the historical fiction writer.

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: http://vikingmetalwork.blogspot.co.uk/

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