There has been a ship on the rim of the horizon all morning. The crowds have gathered; some moan, others stand silent. As the sun starts to drop towards the waterline, a group of men row out towards the bobbing wreck. There is disquiet among the spectators, the ship is in rags, wraith-like against the dying light. It will soon cross over.
Creative response to the Viking Ship Museum
Bygdøy Peninsular, Tuesday 28th October 2014
Last week I visited Oslo. It’s my third visit to Norway’s capital since a close friend took up residence there. One of the ways I justified taking time out of my university reading week was by visiting the Viking Ship Museum. Since reading the Prose Edda I have been absorbed by the sagas and the people who wrote them, so we trekked out to the pretty Bygdøy peninsular thumbing the Oslo Fjord. The ships are housed in a cruciform building. As you walk inside, you're taken aback by the immediacy and the enormity of the Oseberg burial ship. It looms over you as you buy your ticket.
The cross shape acts as four antechambers containing the three Viking burial ships (Oseberg, Gokstad and Tune) and much of the content discovered inside them.
The Oseberg ship is housed in the nave of the building and has an ornate bow and stern and images of sea-serpents carved into the main body. The Gokstad ship and the remains of the two larger vessels live in the north transept, the Tune ship and three smaller craft in the chancel, and the sledges, various textiles and other artefacts in the south transept. There are long galleries for people to see inside all three ships. The space has an acoustic, that invokes the song-like metre of the Norwegian language.
The museum has preserved sledges, ornate bridals, boots, buckets for blueberries, troughs for rye flour and cooking equipment that were buried with the occupants of the ships. The peacock feathers and the boots were the most surprising and intriguing of the archaeological finds.
The museum made no secret of the fact that many of the archaeological finds discovered in the Oseberg dig are endangered due to the original conservation method of using hot alum. They are finely varnished on the outside and rotting on the inside. There's an article on the Viking Ship Museum website if you're interested called Can the Oseberg Viking finds be Saved? It would be sad to see these last material links to Viking culture disintegrate.
first five photographs by Ka Man Mak