The BP exhibition
6 March – 22 June 2014
Supported by BP
Organised by the British Museum, the National Museum of Denmark, and the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
The Viking World
They journeyed boldly;
Went far for gold,
Fed the eagle
Out in the east,
And died in the south
Gripsholm Rune-stone (c. AD 1050)
The sophisticated maritime technology of the Vikings enabled them to reach four continents, an unprecedented achievement in world history. These routes opened up opportunities for trade, plunder and settlement that changed the course of European history.
North Atlantic route
In the AD 800s and 900s, the Vikings travelled west across the Atlantic to the largely uninhabited Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland, and eventually even to North America. Evidence for Viking settlement has been excavated as far afield as L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada.
From their homelands in Scandinavia the Vikings crossed the North Sea to Britain and Ireland, travelled down the Atlantic coast of France and Spain and onwards to the shores of North Africa and the Mediterranean. Contemporary chronicles describe Viking raids on monasteries and settlements, and Scandinavian communities were later established in places like Dublin, Normandy and northern and eastern Britain.
Vikings made use of extensive river systems in the East to reach the markets of the powerful Byzantine Empire and Islamic Caliphate via the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. In the process they founded new trading settlements in Russia and Ukraine and contributed to the development of a new culture, known to Arab writers as the Rus.