Myths of Vikings unsheathed

New exhibit at the Pump House Steam Museum sheds light on the humanity of the Vikings

The jewellery that Vikings wore is made of glass and colourful beads.
The jewellery that Vikings wore is made of glass and colourful beads.
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Notoriously violent, Vikings are often associated with the imagery of weapons and brutishness, but visiting the Viking exhibit earlier this week at the Pump House Steam Museum allowed me to see the human side of these conquerors.

An all-encompassing visual description of the Viking way of life, the exhibit displayed a plethora of cultural symbols.

Packed in a small room inside the museum, I found myself circling back over and over again to the wall that had different pendants and paintings that were made during the time of the Vikings.

Also on the wall hung tiny wooden carvings the size of Christmas ornaments used as play things for children. Stone carvings used for memorial rune grave placed on an adjacent wall and had intricate drawings etched on it, symbolizing the life of the deceased.

What stood out to me the most was the unique way the Vikings used their gold and silver to design small figurines, as well as jewellery and clothespins.

The jewellery from the Viking era varied from necklaces to brooches and what I kept looking at was the depiction of animals in the brooches. They were always grasping themselves or each other and often — the scenes that were depicted were violent.

Though these particular pieces of artwork had a cruel undertone, there were other pieces that showed the uplifting side of the Viking’s creations, such as the beautiful use of colours in the necklaces and bracelets, which were adorned with glass beads and amber stones.

The Vikings: Master Mariners, Traders, Colonists and Artisans provides a creative depiction of what life was like for the Vikings. To my pleasant surprise, there was a Kingston connection in the exhibit — posters that described what our city was like back in the time of the Vikings. It was exciting to see pictures of what Market Square looked like thousands of years ago before it became the central hub it is today.


The Vikings: Master Mariners, Traders, Colonists and Artisans is on exhibit at the Pump House Steam Museum until Dec. 1.

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