Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This August, I spent two weeks in Norway to visit friends and learn more about Vikings. The land was indescribably beautiful, and the people so open and friendly. Here are some pictures I took of authentic Viking artifacts and various shots from the mountainous lands of Jotunheimen, the so-called Land of the Giants.

Jim in front of an actual Viking farmhouse from the 12th Century. Notice the small doorway and the sophisticated interlocking log designs. Who knew that the Vikings invented "Lincoln logs?"

I loved the carved decorations on this Tenth Century Viking drinking horn.

Jim with his wife Allison and son Jake atop a pre-Viking burial mound on the island of Hanko from around 500 B.C. Kings, queens and other royal personages were laid to rest beneath these large mounds called "barrows" usually placed on hilltops near shore so that they could be seen from ships at sea.

Authentic Viking belt buckles and a silver decorative war helmet.

chessmen carved of walrus tusk ivory (others of whale teeth) believed to have been crafted in Trondheim, Norway, during the 12th century and now housed in the British Museum. All the chess pieces are sculptures of human figures, except the pawns which are smaller, simple sculptures resembling carved gravestones. The knights are mounted on tiny horses holding spears and shields (foreground, bottom photo), and all of the human figures have decidedly glum expressions. Note the berserker rook (seen in sharpest focus in photo above), wild-eyed and biting his shield with battle fury.

Real arrow and spear points used by Vikings circa 900 AD.

The Vikings made wheels for their ox-carts and horse-drawn wagons out of solid oak--hubs, spokes, wheel and all.

Jim with Old Norse historian Per Linge discussing a famous Viking sea battle that took place between the Swedes and the Jomsvikings around the year 1000 AD.

Wisps of early morning fog hug the higher elevations.

A burial stone atop an early Bronze Age barrow.

Trolls attack!

The serene beauty of Sognefjord.

Jim with his Norwegian mountain guide, Brita. (The blurred finger seen in the lower left hand corner shows that this shot was definitely taken by a professional photographer.)

Some of the peaks in Jotunheimen, the Land of the Giants.

One of the many glaciers in Jotunheimen.

A silver-decorated Viking drinking horn.

A cool column depicting all of Norwegian history in Elvesaeter.

Another peak in Jotunheimen near Lom, Norway.

Jim halfway up the mountain (and out of breath) around 11pm at night.

One of the countless "turf roof" cabins still common today in Norway.

My guide Brita with a real Lapplander named Pil who was selling reindeer pelts and other souvenirs.

This is the hut where he lived. Although it was very rustic living miles from any running water or other conveniences, he did have satellite TV so as to never miss a World Cup game.

The carvings seen in the Viking era are truly extraordinary and a little scary too.

A real Viking war axe from around 912 A.D. When I looked at it and saw how sharp it was I could only wonder how many goats and sheep -- and men -- it actually helped to slaughter.

Real leather shoes preserved from the Viking era.

A dung fork, at lower left, and other wooden spades above it.

Here are some real Viking ships built between the years 815 and 890 AD. They were excavated in the late 1880's from farms in Vestfold, Norway, where centuries before they had been used as burial chambers. Archaeologists have determined that the Oseberg ship (at bottom), as it is now called, had been used as a grave ship for a woman of high rank, perhaps a queen, who died in 834 AD. The burial mound is believed to have been plundered by grave robbers in ancient times, since no jewelry or gold or silver objects were found in the grave. 22 meters in length, the ship was built of oak planks using the Old Norse ship-building technique known as "clinking." By its number of oar holes we can conclude that the ship was rowed by a crew of thirty men. The ship had no seats, and the oarsmen probably sat on their own wooden ship's chests. Like most other Viking ships of the era, the oars could be drawn in when the square sail was raised to catch the wind. The steering oar, or "rudder" (at top), was place
d on the right aft side of the ship -- the starboard side.


We also visited a historical site
just east of Fredrikstad, Norway, where Bronze Age petroglyphs from long, long ago can be found carved into the flat stones there. There was a downpour of rain the day we went. Modern scientists have painted the carvings red so that they can be more easily seen. Here are some photographs taken by my friend, film director Harald Zwart.