The exhibition 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 ship
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.

Horned helmets?
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.