Dave Hrepr Margr Meiðmar

On Saturday we went to the Vikings: life and legend Exhibition at the British Museum. As photography wasn’t allowed, I will attempt to portray the experience through quotes and verse.

I thought the crowd was thinning but it isn’t

The museum let in around 20 ticket holders every 10 minutes. As queuing theory predicts, this staggering was rapidly lost as the members of the previous group who wished to read every label and listen to the entire audio commentary had not moved from the first displays.

Our slot began at 1:40 pm, so by the time we arrived the space in front of most of the cabinets was solid.

Fortunately some of the labels were repeated above the displays as well as below, so we didn’t have to study everything through a mesh of elbows and heads.

There are only so many swords I can look at, especially when I’m not allowed to play with them

The displays were a mix of breadth and depth. There were several hordes with slightly different contents which is more piles of coins and jewellery than would sustain passing interest, but only single instances of drinking and eating utensils.

Which end’s the front?

The centrepiece of the display are the remains of Roskilde 6, set in a massive metal reconstruction of the ship when it was whole. I was doubly impressed by the implications it raised: first, it is an immense construction, so really shows the skill of Viking shipwrights; second, it is much larger than the usual long-boats, so drove home how small the boats that crossed the known world were.

Can you read it?

Although Roskilde 6 is the big-ticket, my favourite exhibit was the replica of the larger of the two Jelling rune stones. Painted as it would have been when first raised. Impressive enough as a huge sculpture, it is doubly stunning slashed with primary colours.

Unfortunately the depictions of Christ replacing Oðinn and a serpent wrapped around a lion were (quite reasonably) chosen as the best sides, so – despite leaning as far over the barrier as I safely could – I didn’t get a chance to try out my rusty Old Norse.

How about a cup of tea?

Then – after the long journey home from the Danelaw – we drew up our long boats at Higginsofa and reunited with Jasper Fuzzy-Breeks and Una the Deep Miaowed.

I thoroughly recommend it if you can get tickets. My overall impression was:

It boiled with breath
But valiant vikings were
Very fun to see


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