Vikings in Sydney
The viking ship Jorgen Jorgenson has been built by the Australian National Maritime Museum as part of the new exhibition "Vikings - Beyond the legend" which opens on the 19th of September.PT2M46S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2topd 620 349 September 13, 2013
The Vikings, according to popular perception, filled their time with raiding, looting and pillaging (and worse) and they did it all wearing horned helmets.
But new archaeological research suggests they have been victims of a poor press and weren't really that bad after all. At least not all the time.
Viking wives held an important role in society, went on some of the looting excursions, and were entitled to get a divorce - pretty advanced for women's rights in the ninth century.
Recreation: Chris Morgan on a Viking ship at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Photo: Tony Walters
A new exhibition from Scandinavia Vikings - Beyond the Legend opening on Thursday at the Australian National Maritime Museum will try to correct a few of the misconceptions. Maria Jansen, director-general of the Swedish Historical Museums in Stockholm, said Vikings had become international celebrities.
''In fact, apart from perhaps Abba, Ikea and Minecraft, they might even be considered one of our most well-known trademarks,'' she writes in the guide to the exhibition.
Among the new take on Vikings is a rethink of the way the Viking age is defined. It was previously regarded as starting and ending in violence - beginning with a raid by Norsemen on a monastery in north-east England in 793 and ending with the battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire in 1066.
The word ''Viking'' really means an activity. Men, women and even children could go on ''a viking'', meaning a commercial trip or raid.
The exhibition's curator Gunnar Andersson said he was trying to look behind the myths. ''There was no such thing as a horned helmet and they weren't any more bloodthirsty than any other people in Europe,'' he said. ''They just took the opportunities that were there in Europe at the time.''
He said there was evidence that women were more independent in the Viking age than they were later in the Middle Ages. ''We know that they could divorce if they weren't happy with the marriage, they were the masters of the household,'' he said.
''We know from excavated graves in Russia there were a lot of Viking women. They came along on the voyages not just as wives, they were heavily involved in trade.''
Stephen Gapps, a curator at the maritime museum, who did a PhD in historical reconstructions, said evidence from Germany in the 19th century was responsible for the partly debunked image of the Viking.
''There was some sketchy evidence and early archaeology from which the romantic image of the Viking with the big horned helmet was born and then that was perpetuated by Hollywood.''
The Viking age is one of the most popular for historians for re-enactment. Chris Morgan, of the New Varangian Guard group, said: ''Our group is very serious about the accuracy of what we are doing. Everything we have is based on actual finds.''