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Vikings Storm into Denver Museum of Nature and Science

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I’ve got some bad news for you: Vikings are more than the one-dimensional stereotype of bearded barbarians with horned helmets.

From March 10 until August 13, 2017, the largest collection of Viking artifacts to visit North America is at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The myth-busing Vikings: Beyond the Legend showcases a culture of surprising refinement, complexity, and achievement, inspired by a supernatural world inhabited by Thor, Odin and Freyja, and other gods, goddesses, and giants. Fresh insights revealed through archaeological discoveries and more than 500 treasures show why the Vikings will always capture imaginations of all ages.

The exhibition transports you back to Scandinavia in 750–1100 CE, the Viking Age. “Viking” was not a nationality but rather what archaeologists have come to call the people living in Scandinavia at the time. While Vikings engaged in invading, pillaging, and going out on a “viking”—a term they used themselves to describe raids and trade trips alike—their societies were complex and multifaceted. Vikings were skilled craftspeople, successful merchants, and hard-working farmers whose influence was felt across western Europe and beyond. No one thing defined the Vikings, and research continues to teach us the nuances of these people.

Although the exhibition tells the story of the Vikings through spectacular artifacts, guests won’t find any horned helmets. In fact, no Viking helmet has ever been discovered with horns. This image emerged in the 19th century, popularized by authors and artists who romanticized Norse culture, leading to many common misconceptions. Vikings: Beyond the Legend sets the story straight with artifacts and hands-on activities to reveal glimpses into family and community, religion and rituals, travel and trade, aristocracy and slavery, and the significant role of women.

Highlights include:

  • two replica boats, named Arby and Eik Sande, meticulously re-created using Viking processes and materials of the time. The originals were used for local travel, along the coasts and on rivers.
  • the oldest known Scandinavian crucifix—illustrating the transition between Old Norse religious practices and Christianity.
  • a “ghost ship” represented by a sculpture of 219 hanging iron rivets from an authentic aristocratic burial ship. All the wood from the boat disintegrated, leaving only the rivets situated in the ground.
  • striking examples of the work of highly skilled craftspeople who creatively used textiles, wood, metal, bone, leather, glass, and ceramics to create pieces for domestic life, ornamentation, and battle.
  • activities about everyday life, traditional clothing, the rune alphabet, authentic Viking games, Norse mythology, and a chance to find out just how heavy those Viking swords really were.
  • the Museum’s historical enactors, who set the stage and bring the Viking Age to life.

Tickets

Guests pay $25.95 adult, $21.95 senior (age 65+), $17.95 junior/student (ages 3–18 or with a student ID), which includes general admission. Museum members receive a discount on admission to the exhibition. Timed tickets will be required and advance reservations are encouraged. Group pricing is available. An audio guide in English and Spanish is available for an additional price.

Fun Fact and Tip

Viking women had power. Norse women were both highly regarded and feared.

If you want to ensure your visit is educational, download the DMNS’s student handout that includes practicing using the runes with the rune key.

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