The Norse, Decoded

Were the Vikings really bloodthirsty berserkers? Or were they merely misunderstood?

Canada’s History

December 14, 2017

Were the Vikings really bloodthirsty berserkers? Or were they merely misunderstood?

A new exhibition in Ontario is exploring the complicated and captivating legacy of these fierce Scandinavian fighters.

Vikings: The Exhibition launched in November at the Royal Ontario Museum and runs until April 2018.

The exhibition “provides visitors with a holistic perspective on who the Norse were, how they changed through time, and how they constantly pushed the boundaries of their world through innovation and exploration,” said Dr. Craig Cipolla, ROM associate curator of North American archaeology. “The archaeological materials and interactive displays in the exhibition allow visitors to experience Viking culture and history in revealing and surprising ways.”

The exhibition consists of more than five hundred artifacts. They come from the Swedish History Museum as well as from Canadian sources, including Parks Canada, The Rooms museum in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa.

Highlights include two reconstructed Viking boats, the Arby, and the Eik Sande. Both vessels have been faithfully recreated using Viking processes and materials. Also on display is an authentic Norse weapon that was the centre of a twentieth-century hoax: the “Beardmore Sword,” which was planted in Northern Ontario in the 1930s in an attempt to fool archaeologists studying the Viking presence in North America.

This article will also appear in the February-March 2018 issue of Canada’s History magazine. 

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