Want to sit on the throne in a Viking mead hall? And wander around among Viking burial mounds where the old Kings and Queens where put to rest? Then you should head to the Midgard Viking Centre and walk in the footsteps of the Vikings.
This museum is home to the majestic Borre burial mounds, and on the museum grounds is a replica of an impressive mead hall believed to have been standing in this area. I spent half a day at this sight and here’s a blog post that hopefully inspires you to visit as well.
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Viking artifacts at the museum
The Midgard Viking Centre has a nice collection of artifacts that have been excavated from burial mounds on the area and other nearby places.
Above you can see a spear head, which was found north of the ship mounds at Borre.
There are also some harness mounts (see photo below), in a typical Borre style, which were found in a male grave just outside the town of Tønsberg. This is a high value object, and in total only twelve of these exist in the world. Typically these are found in high status graves.
Another high status item at the museum is a penannular brooch. It’s 39 cm long and weighs 346 grams, which is quite oversized, and must have belonged to someone wealthy.
Learn about Viking life
The museum is quite interactive and you can encounter “Vikings” who will teach you about Viking life. One interesting part that I learned a lot about was textile dyeing.
Most textiles in the Viking ages are made from wool or hemp, and the Vikings would give them all kinds of colors by using plants.
They would put rocks onto the fireplace to heat them up, and then put the rocks into buckets full of water. When the water was warm enough they would add different kinds of plants which would give various colors to the water.
The yarn or readymade textile was then soaked in the water and would absorb the color from the plant. The plant named woad would give a blue color. Tansy would give a green/orange color, and dyer’s weed would give a yellow color.
With this in mind we can imagine that the Vikings wore quite colorful clothing, and most likely also had colorful sails on their Viking ships.
Viking burial mounds at the museum
Strolling around the burial mounds at Borre is quite an experience. It really makes you feel being close to the Vikings and their culture.
When the Icelandic saga writer Snorre Sturlasson wrote Heimskringla around the year 1230 he mentioned Borre. One of his sagas tell of five Kings living in this region, and some of them might be the ones that are buried in these mounds.
But why the burial mounds? The Vikings believed strongly in the afterlife. So when someone passed away they would need to take with them many of their worldly possessions.
As a result of this you can find burial mounds all over Norway. Some of them are quite extensive and could consist of an entire Viking ship and many artifacts. While others are smaller and more simple. It all depended on one’s level of status in society, and how much wealth and power one possessed at the time his/hers passing.
Several Viking ships have been excavated in Norway, and they are believed to have been burial sights for Kings, Queens and other important people. Check out my article about the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.
The Viking mead hall
Remains of several mead halls have been found on the grounds of the Midgard Viking Centre, and the museum has put much effort into creating a replica of one of these impressive structures. We don’t have any of the old halls still standing in Norway, but thanks to archeology, written sources and iconography we can get an understanding of what they looked like.
In Norwegian we call them Gildehall (feasting hall), and these are believed to have been an important gathering site for the Vikings. These halls were not housing, but meant for welcoming guests, exchanging gifts and to make new alliances. Perhaps the best known mead hall is Valhalla, where Odin sits and receives all the warriors that have died in battle.
The mead hall at the Midgard Viking Centre is a work of art and impressive craftsmanship. With a richly decorated interior and an open flame in the middle, one can be seated on the throne and take in the Viking ambiance.
The fact that such a hall has been standing in this area, shows that this was an area of Norway that played an important role during the Viking ages.
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A day at the Midgard Viking Centre is a day well spent for anyone interested in Viking history. To get there from Oslo you can take a train to Tønsberg, and from there ride a bus to “Kirkebakken Borre”. The total travel time would be about 2 hours, and you can check the schedule here. If you have a car it’s just about 1 hour of driving.
I hope you enjoyed this article! Tusen takk, thanks a lot for reading and please share it with anyone you think might be interested.