Vikings are extremely popular in modern mass culture. Be it because of the bloody series of the same name or the muscular Marvel-hero Thor? Or because of the borrowings in The Lord of the Rings and in Game of Thrones? Did you know, for example, that Vesteros is a real city in Sweden? The Stockholm History Museum has taken the challenge not only to create “the largest exhibition about the Vikings in the world.” It has tried to present as many as different aspects of their lives as possible. As truly as possible.

Vikings' ironing board

So this is what I will do too. I present to you selected accents from the exhibition called The World of the Vikings. In the photo above, you see a fabric smoothing kit. The board was made of whale bone, and the “stone” on top is a drop of glass. The fabric was stretched on the board and rubbed with the “stone” until the cloth was smooth and shiny. They didn’t say how long it took. Provided that the iron is not hot, even today we would be spending quite some time at the ironing board.

The price of life in the Vikings society

The cost of human life is presented above. Gutalagen, the Gotland Law, defines the following “prices” for murder: (a) of free men and women from Gotland – about 4.8 kg of silver; (b) of free men and women from other countries – 2 kg; (c) of non-free men or women – 225 grams. Nothing new there, I think. The non-free had several different groups. Some could choose their jobs, and others were given the chance to be promoted to supervisors of the other non-free or even farm managers.

Old snow-shoes

The Scandinavian winters, the authors of the exhibition write, were long and heavy; the paths became slippery and the rivers froze. The studied funerals showed mass bone breaks and healings. The Vikings had to come up with ways to reduce these risks. They began to make metal spikes to attach to the soles by leather strips. In the photo above, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Viking crampons. They were also attached to the hooves of the horses. And from the meta-tarsal bones of cows they made … skates.

The favourite decoration of Freya and the Vikings

It seems that the Vikings have also suffered from the will to wear, figuratively speaking, the heavy artillery of their wealth on themselves. Above is a brooch or rather a buckle for a garment made of gold and decorated with ornamented animal figures. Since the people were apparently practical, they decided to simultaneously provide for a good relationship with the gods, so the jewel was made in the form of Brisingamen, the beloved brooch of the goddess Freya. Frankly, some scientists believe that men did not wear it at all, thus heavy it is.

A Christian Viking tombstone

Christianity in Gotland seemed different from other places. It is not uncommon for the new religion to step on the old and figuratively speaking, to recycle old customs, rituals and the accompanying toolkit. The decorated tombstones were part of the culture of the North centuries before the arrival of Christianity. In the Vikings World exhibition, you will find many beautiful patterns from the old times. But you probably have not seen one like on the photo above. They went with beautiful wooden churches, of which there are not many preserved today.

A medieval Easter egg

And speaking of Christian heritage, this here is a very old medieval Easter egg. It is made of roasted clay but is hollow; there is an opening at the bottom, and inside something still unidentified is rattling. According to the authors, these eggs show the close links between Scandinavia and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. There is other evidence as well, such as coins made in Kiev Rus, where strangely enough, Christian crosses have been printed alongside Islamic decorations.

Coins with Christian and Muslim images

It is time to pay attention to the stories about Vikings hygiene. The medieval Arab diplomat Ibn Fadlan describes his meeting with the people of the North while traveling along the Volga in the early 10th century. According to him: “They are the dirtiest beings in the world of Allah; they do not wash after they urinate or after having sex. They do not wash their hands after eating. They are like wild donkeys.” The quote is from the exhibition, I would not be accused of xenophobia. But was it really so? Archaeologists may have found other facts. Check out this photo:

Viking hygienic set

You see different-sized combs, supposedly both for beards and mustache. A razor blade. Tweezers, washing tins. The rare preserved medieval drawings show the Vikings neat and cut; women with nice hairstyles, men with trimmed beards. Look into the small items in the bottom right corner of the photo. Will you guess what this is? Ear-cleaners! The combs were hooked on the belt along with a knife and various amulets. And the one worn as a pendant is the sharpener for the knife in question. In fact, a rough stone, but not devoid of beauty. Like this:

Knife sharpener of the Vikings

You may find more about our Swedish adventures here.