IKEA, Viking-style: longboat to arrive at British Museum in 'flat pack'
Huge wooden warship dubbed the Norse 'weapon of mass destruction' at the centre of new exhibition dispelling 'fluffy bunny' scholarship on Vikings
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Thursday 26 September 2013
The latest flat-packed timber to arrive from Scandinavia should provide more excitement than the usual trip to IKEA, as it is almost 1,000 years old and described as the Viking version of a "weapon of mass destruction".
The 37-metre wooden longboat, which was discovered in Roskilde, Denmark, will be the star attraction at the Viking exhibition which will open at the British Museum in March.
Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said: "We previously had no idea there were ships that big; that they could bring several hundred armed men that fast. It was a terrifying, targeted weapon of mass destruction."
Vikings: Life and Legend marks the first major exhibition on the subject at the British Museum for over 30 years.
It will explore their "extraordinary expansion and cultural network" from the 8th to the 11th century.
The longboat, known as Roskilde 6 and the largest ever discovered, is dated to around 1025 AD. It will be displayed in the new exhibition space at the museum, which is close to completion.
Around 20 per cent of the wooden longboat survives. It is mounted on a steel frame that suggests the original shape of the vessel. It is currently on display in Copenhagen and will be disassembled and "flat-packed" with each timber put into its own box at a regulated temperature and brought to London.
The show will put warfare and the warrior identity back at the centre of what it meant to be a Viking, after recent attempts to play down the violence by the "fluffy bunny" brigade. The museum director described the Vikings as "thinking thugs".
Curator Gareth Williams said: "We have sometimes forgotten in recent years, while emphasising the trade, settlement and craftsmanship, that what Viking originally meant was being a pirate, marauder and raider.
"We're in danger of getting too much of a fluffy bunny account of them. Here we're trying to provide a balanced view of the warriors as well as the culture; it's not either or," he said.
"Their reputation as raping and pillaging is a cliché, but it’s a cliché that has some justification. We can't get away from that."
One Viking cliché that the British Museum dispelled was that of the warriors' helmets. Mr Williams revealed there is no evidence there were horns attached, and said the traditional image was likely to be little more than a 19th century fabrication.
Other objects visiting for the first time include weapons and looted treasures, while the Vale of York Hoard will be on show in its entirety for the first time since it was discovered by metal detectorists near Harrogate in 2007.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
- 5 Rashida Jones speaks out against male-centric porn saying 'women should have sex and feel good about it'
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
The secret joke hidden in Silence of the Lambs' most famous line
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account