Who were the Vikings? If you are a fan of How to Train Your Dragon or any of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy works: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings (1955), and The Silmarillion (1977), you may think you know the Vikings.
If you really want to know the Vikings, go beyond the legend at the international exhibition Vikings (8th-11th centuries), making its only U.S. stop, opening Friday, February 27 and running through October 4, 2015 at Chicago’s Field Museum.
The exhibition Vikings, showcases nearly 500 ancient artifacts that explore some of the misconceptions surrounding these early Scandinavians. Through recent archaeological discoveries–many never before seen outside of Scandinavia–new insights into their lives are showcased through mythology, symbolism, domestic life, death rituals, travel and trade.
Artifacts include: exquisite jewelry, metalwork, and objects made from glass, bone, and amber.
In addition to the highly-informative signage connected to the artifacts, the exhibition offers some interactive activities where visitors can virtually excavate a boat grave, play a game that entertained Viking families hundreds of years ago, lift a Viking sword and listen to Viking myths.
Here are some things you may not know about the Vikings.
- The word “Viking,” is derived from Old Norse, and means a trade ship or a raid.
- Our favorite day of the week, Friday, was named after the Norse goddess of married love, Freya which became Friataeg which translates to Friday in English.
- Old Norse names are found in every day of our week except Saturday.
- Viking helmets, didn’t have horns. Viking helmets were, in fact conical, typically made from hard leather with wood and metallic reinforcement. The idea of Vikings wearing horned helmets came about in the 19th century when romanticised views of the Viking people became popular.
- Viking women were liberated—at least for the times. They could inherit property, divorce, and fight in battles.
- The popular image of Vikings brandishing swords and as callous pirates was not the common one. Most Vikings were farmers.
- Vikings didn’t call themselves Vikings.
- The majority of Vikings were blonds. If not blond by birth, darker-haired Vikings—usually men—would use a strong soap with a high lye content to bleach their hair.
- Odin, the most powerful Norse God, only had one eye—having sacrificed the other one for wisdom.
- Dying in battle was seen as the most prestigious way to depart life, as it would guarantee you a seat in Valhalla, an enormous hall ruled by Odin where fantastic banquets were held each night.
Want to learn more? Check out Vikings at the Field Museum.
Admission: Tickets to Vikings are included in both Discovery and All-Access passes to the Museum. Special discounts available for Chicago residents. Visit the Field Museum website for prices and to purchase tickets. The Field Museum is at 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. The 146 Museum Campus bus will drop you off across the street from the museum.
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