Vikings in the British Museum – an exhibition cinema documentary.

Yesterday we visited (me, Hafkitta, Snorri and Bartek of Ulfhoednar)  the cinema in Sopot to see the new multimedia project made by the British Museum. At first we weren’t sure what to expect of this documentary. An overall quality of this product was good, however, as hardcore Viking Age reenactors we had many objections  – especially to analysis performed by specialists. It seems that Polish archeology and reenactment are still superior to British. My examples of these bad analyses are:

a) a specialist claimed that the silver hoards deposited by Normans were treasures buried “for better times” while majority of Polish and Russian scholars is sure that these were “speditions of silver to Valhalla”. We have many examples of such behavior in sagas. To name a few: Bui in Jomsvikingasaga, after being heavily wounded in the battle of Hjorundsvagagr, picks up two treasure chests belonging to him and jumps out of the drakkar to the sea for certain death – from the battle, with silver  – directly to Valhalla. Another one is Egill Skallagrímsson and Skalla-Grímr Kveldúlfsson of Egil’s Saga. Skalla-Grímr drowns his silver hoard in a swamp while convinced that he is going to die, and Egill himself buries his hoard with the help of his slaves (slain afterwards in a somewhat “a caribbean pirate” manner) while nearing his death. In fact there is a lot of findings on Polish and Russian territories of silver hoards found in swamps – noone who would’ve wanted to dig the hoard up after some time would drown it in the swamp or lake.

b) a lady professor  wasn’t convinced (or rather, she didn’t want to accept facts making her beliefs go before the historical facts) on participation of women-warriors in the Norman expeditions – and it is proven in many places (I’ve been posting this on the subject) and by many digsites.

Harby valkyrie – a shieldmaiden. The only 3D depiction of a warrior woman of Viking Age.

c) another professor-reenactor has shown his equipment which made us, the fans and amateur scholars of histry and reenactment laugh – his Gjermundbu helmet had some kind of strange animal tail attached (a pure fantasy – unlikely to happen); moreover his sword had a fuller starting approximately 3,5 centimeters from the crossguard. Now – I know only one type of swords in history that had this kind of fuller and neither of these is an early medieval weapon. These are executioners swords from XV century onwards. A shame really – a professor should know what he or she’s doing.

A very important thing – if you ever will come to the Central or Eastern Europe to face our Polish  or Russian  warriors on the battlefield, be sure that what you call a reenactment fight is in fact a theatrical mocking of hits in comparison to what we do. There was a British reenactment fight shown in the documentary. It made us laugh at first.  I can say only one thing – arm youself very well, buy a health insurance policy and train a lot before facing our guys in battle. We do fight, for real, maybe except for thrusts – these would cause real fatal casualties, not the usual broken bones, joints and bleeding…

d) Making the reenactment boat burial with gas burners (sic!) is a real shame. You won’t find such an atrocity here in Varangian and Slavic Lands. As Ragnar Chaos said – The British Museum  guys “spoiled the boat”.

A reliquary looted by Vikings with an inscription “Ranveig owns this casket”


Now the good things. The exibition contained items from not only Scandinavia, Iceland , Ireland and0 GB, but also a lot of our Polish stuff went there, showing examples of items you will never find in Western museums – like the viking navigational instruments e.g. So if you’re able to visit the museum itself, by all means go there! They have the biggest drakkar made by Normans ever (35 m long, could take 3 times the crew of a regular drakkar). Various items of material culture, loot robbed by Normans in many parts of the known world. Even we learned a lot from this part.

My favourites:

– an ironing board (an epic rare find)

– Odin in woman’s dress – showing his feminine aspect of a sorcerer wielding Seiðr magic

– reliquary looted by one of Northumbrian convents with runic inscription “Ranvaig owns this casket’ (absolutely great proof of a belief that words have power and inscribed item will always, even in the afterlife, belong to the owner; a casket – Ranvaig’s (because it’s a female name) partner had to be a fun fellow – he probably threw away some poor christian saint’s bones and gave this “casket” to his spouse for storing her personal belongings)

A summary: go and watch this one, but bear in mind there’s a lot more to the matter, and if you’re really interested in it, you’ll find it. If you happen to have an opportunity to visit the Museum itself.. well if you do then I envy you and may Perun and Thor curse your guts! 😉

Odin The Sorcerer in woman’s dress.