Vikings! opens in the Centraal Museum in Utrecht on 7 November 2004. It
outlines how Scandinavian plunderers sowed death and destruction in West
Europe after 800. Vikings! is a joint project of the Centraal Museum,
the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn, the University of Bonn and the Viking
Ship Museum in Roskilde.
A full-scale Viking
Vikings! examines Frankish civilisation on the eve of the Viking invasions,
which took place as of 800. Jewellery, glassware, church treasures and
other finds from the wealthy settlement of Dorestad, presently Wijk bij
Duurstede, make clear just how tantalising this loot was for the Norsemen.
Also on view will be a collection of precious stones from Ribe, and silver
treasures from the island of Wieringen. Loans from Swedish and Danish
museums, the highlight of which is a life-size replica of a Viking ship
from Roskilde, bring to life Scandinavian society of old. Moreover, this
will be the first time that Dutch archaeological finds will be presented
in such a complete fashion, giving testimony to the consequences of the
Viking incursions into the Netherlands.
Massacred settlement in Zutphen
For the inhabitants of the Dutch river delta looting and plundering were
an ongoing reality in the 9th and 10th century. Their costly possessions
were wrested from their hands in the course of raids. That this did not
take place peaceably became apparent several years ago during an excavation
in Zutphen, which brought to light the violence of the Vikings. The preserved
skeletons of murdered villagers are exhibited in the Centraal Museum in
combination with a reconstruction drawing of the raid. Nor were churches
and cloisters spared: the Vikings simply threw away precious manuscripts
because they were interested solely in the expensive metal covers. Peaceful
relations, however, were resumed after the 10th century. Trade rather
than plundering seems to have taken place, as suggested by finds from
this period, such as the Scandinavian whetstones from the 11th century
unearthed in Utrecht. The Utrecht ship that sailed the seas around 1000
and which is now part of the collection of the Centraal Museum shows how
merchandise was transported on the Rhine River.
The Scandinavian raids in West Europe after 800 made a deep impression.
As a result, the image took hold of cruel plunderers wearing horned helmets
and sailing on swift dragon boats, who sowed death and destructions. Whether
the Vikings actually wore helmets with horns or whether the boat s had
dragon’s heads, has never been proven. The fact is that the Norsemen
had a rich culture, with superior shipbuilding and navigation technology
and outstanding gold- and silversmithing. Their wonderful sagas also garnered
much praise: even now their sinuous animal motifs inspire contemporary
jewellery. That the Vikings made a lasting impression is evident from
the fact that they still feature in comic books, Playmobile and in contemporary
music and fashion. This contemporary visual culture also finds a place
in the exhibition, which is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated book
in English, Dutch and German.