The Well-Laden Ship: Viking exhibition soon to reach America
11 April 2018
In late April, a ship will reach New York bringing the exhibition “The Vikings Begin” which will embark on a two-year tour of the US. On display will be a selection of 1,300-year-old items from the pre-Viking Age. Usually in storage at Gustavianum in Uppsala, they have never crossed the Atlantic before. But now the mysterious world of the early Vikings will be revealed to a wider audience, with a premiere at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut in May.
The exhibition The Vikings Begin – Treasures from Uppsala University was produced by Gustavianum, Uppsala University Museum, in collaboration with archaeologists at the University. It aims to shed new light on the emergence of the Viking Age, based on advanced research and a trove of world-class objects from the University’s collections.
This will be the first time items from this period have been displayed in America. The exhibition contains magnificent weapons, and also small treasures such as jewellery and objects of magical significance.
It tells the story of how the Viking Age began, and describes how the objects relate to the rest of the world; their spiritual and supernatural connotations; the role of war; the importance of water, waterways and trade routes, and how they affected development.
Viking society dominated Sweden, Denmark and Norway from around 750 CE until the mid-11th century – some 300 years. During this time, the Vikings travelled far and wide in the world. Their settlements have been found on the shores of the Baltic Sea and banks of Russian rivers, in the Byzantine Empire and what is now Britain, along the Mediterranean coast and in North America.
Gustavianum curates a magnificent cultural heritage. Its huge collections include an assemblage of spectacular objects from the burial site in Valsgärde, north of Uppsala. There, Uppsala archaeologists have carried out two major excavations, in the 1920s and 1950s. The jewellery, weapons, textiles and utility items found by researchers have greatly boosted our understanding of Nordic society in ancient times.
Among the most intriguing aspects of the burial ground in Valsgärde are the long period in which it was used and the variety of grave types represented. There are numerous finds from the centuries preceding the Viking Age. The objects from Valsgärde tell a complex and interesting story of why and when Viking society actually began.
A few years ago, Neil Price, a Professor at Uppsala, jointly with archaeologists John Ljungkvist and Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, received a large research grant from the Swedish Research Council for the their “Viking Phenomenon” project. The collections from Valsgärde, in particular, are a key set of material evidence for answering questions on the rise of Viking society. For this reason, items from the collection are included in the exhibition that is now to be shown in the US.
In the exhibition, the objects create a story in six “chapters”, which give an idea of how society in the Vendel period developed and which features of Viking society were already beginning to emerge in the early 7th century. The researchers have provided documentation for articles and themselves written essays for an exhibition catalogue. In addition, Gustavianum has created scenography in which the objects are given prominence, as valuable treasures that tell stories of our ancient times.
“The Vikings Begin is a comprehensive and professional production of a kind that’s new to Gustavianum and Uppsala University,” says Marika Hedin, Museum Director at Gustavianum. “It’s a completely finished exhibition with walls, lighting, pictures, films and security fittings, which can be installed and packed up in a week.”
Keen interest has been shown by American museums, and to date bookings at three have been made:
- Mystic Seaport in Connecticut
- Nordic Museum (the revamped Nordic Heritage Museum) in Seattle
- American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis
At the beginning of April the entire exhibition, except the items flown by courier, was loaded into three large containers. At the time of writing, they are on board a ship somewhere in the Atlantic, heading for New York Harbor.
The sheep – Gotland’s symbol of sustainability
14 juni 2022
Sheep are the strongest symbol of sustainability on Gotland, according to Gurbet Peker. Not only do real ones graze all over the island, you can even find sheep sculpted in concrete in Visby. Peker researches the day-to-day lives of lamb farmers i...
Can democracy solve the climate crisis?
13 juni 2022
Hello Linda Wedlin, organisor and moderator of a panel discussion during Almedalen Week with the theme ‘What knowledge and what kind of democracy is needed for a successful climate transition?’ What are you going to be discussing?
Mapping people of the past by means of their bones
09 maj 2022
What is the best way to find out about a human being or animal that has been dead for perhaps several centuries? “Study the bones” is what Sabine Sten, professor of osteoarchaeology, would say. They can reveal an individual's age, body length, DNA...
Transforming space and society in Kiruna
24 mars 2022
State and corporate ideas about nature, people and the future played a decisive role in the development of Kiruna as a mining town over a century ago. Since 2004, when 6,000 Kiruna residents were informed that they would have to move because of gr...
New light cast on female pelvises in University collections
04 mars 2022
Many of the University’s museums currently hold preserved specimens of embryos, fetuses, newborns, and women’s pelvises. During the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, these formed part of embryological and obstetric collections at...
350 years old remains in a Stone Age site in Portugal
25 februari 2022
An African man who lived just 350 years ago was buried in a prehistoric shell midden in Amoreira in Portugal. This was very surprising because Amoreira and other midden sites in the Muge region are well known by archaeologists for the cemeteries o...
ERC Starting Grant for historian of ideas
31 januari 2022
The Starting Grants awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) in its 2021 call have been announced. The awardees include an Uppsala researcher: Ylva Söderfeldt, Senior Lecturer at the University’s Department of History of Science and Ideas.
Saying and doing are two different things
18 januari 2022
COLUMN. While more and more people say Yes and Amen when you ask them about the importance of living in a more environmentally conscious and sustainable way, few actually change their behaviour, writes Katarina Graffman, PhD in cultural anthropology.
Telling the story of Sweden’s Jews
11 november 2021
"There are many ways of being Swedish, and being Jewish is one of them." These words set the seal on Carl Henrik Carlsson’s history of the Jews in Sweden (Judarnas historia i Sverige). Carlsson is a researcher at Uppsala University, and his book h...
Campus Gotland students unearth Iron Age warrior
10 september 2021
Uppsala University archaeology students’ summer excavations on the island of Gotland turned up an exciting surprise: they found a warrior, with sword and spurs, in an Iron Age grave in Buttle Änge. Now the skeleton and grave goods will be analysed...
How Linnaean learning spread far and wide
07 juni 2021
An inspiring middle-school teacher sparked Linda Andersson Burnett’s interest in history. Now a researcher in the history of science and ideas at Uppsala University, she is currently studying Carl Linnaeus and his influence, which extends far beyo...
Elly Griffiths is giving this year’s Adam Helms Lecture
03 juni 2021
Each year, Uppsala University and the Swedish Publishers’ Association arrange a lecture in memory of the publisher Adam Helms. This year’s lecture will be given by the internationally renown British crime novelist Elly Griffiths on 16 September 20...
New thesis: Finery for fashionable ladies
11 maj 2021
When the first descriptions of knitting and crochet were published in Swedish, in the mid-19th century, such handiwork was described as the finest of all feminine handicrafts, for the benefit and pleasure alike of the trend-conscious, diligent mid...
Linnaeus’ complicated relationship with racism
07 maj 2021
Since June 2020, Carl Linnaeus has been a subject of debate in Sweden and around the world. What sparked it off were the actions of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Statues of slave owners have been lambasted or destroyed. In Sweden, the dis...
Conspiracy theories characterise views in and about Europe
03 maj 2021
Conspiratorial narratives of internal disintegration and external threats affect views in the European Union and Europe to an increasing extent. Our trust in society is put to the test in crises such as COVID-19 when various groups are singled out...
Nordic conspiracy theories through the ages
01 mars 2021
Conspiracy theories are becoming more common in the world, and the Nordic countries are no exception. Are some conspiracy theories unique to the Nordic countries? What typical narratives are disseminated? And when did this really start? A new book...
The plague year of 1710 was also a difficult year
24 februari 2021
As historians, it is our job to take a step back and give perspective to our current situation. For anyone looking back, it isn’t hard to find other difficult years. In Sweden’s past, 1710 was undoubtedly one such year, writes Jonas Lindström, res...
Sustainable development the focus of new graduate school at Campus Gotland
21 januari 2021
On 18 January, Uppsala University’s new multidisciplinary graduate school opened at Campus Gotland. Its focus is on sustainable development. This involves research on key societal challenges within changing energy systems, sustainable consumption,...
Archives crucial for Freemasons’ identity
22 december 2020
The Order of Freemasons’ meticulous archives are fundamental to their identity. The unique structure of the masonic archives reinforces the secrecy and mystique of the self-image that has been fashioned by the Order — and characterises it in the e...
Grants for research on the impact of AI on people and society
15 december 2020
In a major 10-year national research programme, two Wallenberg Foundations are supporting research on the impact of the ongoing technology shift, involving digitalisation and artificial intelligence, on our society and our behaviour. Two of the gr...