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Look, the old tenants left some stuff behind

This place has had so many previous owners, and they left so much of their junk behind. Europe, I mean. It’s tough for an American to take.

F’rinstance. In 1962, five Viking ships were dug up in the Danish town of Skuldelev, so they built a museum to hold them in the nearby city of Roskilde. In 1997, they went to enlarge the museum and accidentally dug up nine more Viking ships in the parking lot.

I know, right?

Anyway, one of them was the longest Viking ship ever found. It’s about a hundred feet long, and there’s maybe twenty percent of it left. Curators boxed the thing in flat-packs, like Ikea furniture, and shipped the whole business over here for a big show about Vikings in the British Museum.

They put a £135M extension on the place to house this (and displays like it). We saw it on TV the other night; it’s way cool. The whole end of the building opens so they can drive big objects right in.

On display with the ship is the Vale of York hoard, a collection of Viking silver found by father and son metal detectorists in a field in Yorkshire in 2007.

There’s a lot of that going on these days, too. Amateur metal detectoring leading to big finds, I mean. And for once, the government got wise and works with detectorists through the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Most detectorists know to stop everything when they make a good find and call in the experts.

By law, individuals have to report precious metal finds to a government officer. But here’s the smart part: if any museums want the artifacts, they have to offer the finder a fair market value. So looting is, like, nonexistent. It’s like having a giant voluntary army of archeologists combing the countryside.

If you’re at all interested in this stuff (and you probably wouldn’t be here if you weren’t), any of the links above will take you to hours of thrilling geekery.


Comment from dustoffmom
Time: March 31, 2014, 11:38 pm

Color me true geek as I find this fascinating! Thanks for the post about it. (But I found both the V&A and the York RR Museum way more fun than the Brit.)

Comment from The Neon Madman
Time: April 1, 2014, 1:33 am

One of my dream vacations would be to spend a week or so at the British Museum. To be able to take my time and wander through at my own pace, examining everything from mummies to marbles to ancient documents and…… well, you get the idea. Something like Burgess Meredith in the old Twilight Zone episode, but without breaking my glasses.

Comment from P2
Time: April 1, 2014, 2:09 am

My ex father-in-law dug up so many roman coins in his garden in Ipswich he just started tossing them in a jar like ha’pennies…. The stuff is everywhere!

Comment from tomfrompv
Time: April 1, 2014, 3:59 am

So why did the Vikings bury nine ships in a parking lot? None of your links explains THAT little fact.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: April 1, 2014, 4:19 am

Yes, but did those ol’ Vikins impregnate my great great great grandma?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 1, 2014, 10:48 am

Neon, I used to spend a week every year at the Smithsonian. It was awesome. And all it cost me was transport and hotel (hoo boy, I stayed in some scary, scary Best Westerns).

They talked about it on the TV program, Tom. The Skuldelev ships were deliberately scuttled in the water to blockade the harbor. But I think the ones in Roskilde were burials, possibly funerary.

Comment from Pirata Viator
Time: April 1, 2014, 11:57 am

I was just in London/Southern England the first half of March and went to the Viking exhibit at the British Museum. It was a very cool display. I’ve always thought they were an interesting chunk of history.

Also, why does Europe bury their things in parking lots? Kings, boats, whatever. Need it gone? I’ve got a carpark that’s perfect!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 1, 2014, 12:49 pm

What, and you didn’t come to tea?

They also bury stuff under elementary schools a lot.

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: April 1, 2014, 1:26 pm

Ah, the Vikings. Artifacts from the days when folk all over Europe trembled to hear the name “Northmen.” Nowadays the scariest thing the Scandinavians do is to off some giraffes in a zoo. (Yes, scary if you’re a giraffe, but still.)

Comment from Pirata Viator
Time: April 1, 2014, 1:26 pm

I’m sorry I didn’t pull the “creepy stranger from the intarwebz” card and stalk you.

But I did spend some time in Rye on a recommendation I read here a while back. Wonderful little town. Picked up a copy of an A. Conan Doyle book from 1919 in The Tiny Book Store which was a highlight for a book nerd like me. So thanks for the tip on Rye!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 1, 2014, 4:11 pm

Love Rye. We were there just the other day for a lecture (well, la-di-da!). The whole area is richly worth exploring.

Britain has plenty of crappy ugly modern cities, but they’ve done an astonishing job keeping huge areas unspoiled. Lots of little Tudor villages and rolling fields of sheep, all heavily protected.

Here’s where I admit I’m not a hardline libertarian — it’s the iron hand of government zoning that has kept the beautiful places beautiful.

Comment from Subotai Bahadur
Time: April 1, 2014, 4:53 pm

Lots of little Tudor villages and rolling fields of sheep

Why does that phrase bring to mind images that might be more appropriate to Monty Python or the Goonie Show? Gymnastic sheep?

Subotai Bahadur

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: April 1, 2014, 5:47 pm

The thing about these Viking funerary ships is, these were not wealthy cultures by modern standards. Building a great one of these ship just to bury it was an enormous expense.

So why did they do it?

Not just a few times, but many times. And with considerable amounts of goods, including treasure.

There’s similar issue with the Egyptians. Why did they bury so much gold with the Pharaohs?

Why did the living give up so much for the dead?

They must have had some very strong beliefs about it. I don’t think we today can truly grasp how they felt. No one today would put a billion dollars into the coffin of some tycoon or politico, however important.

Comment from Mojo
Time: April 1, 2014, 6:35 pm

…spam, spam, spam spam, spam…

Comment from surly ermine
Time: April 1, 2014, 7:30 pm

Cool! I likes me some viking shit, onward to the links!

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: April 3, 2014, 11:16 am

Makes one wonder what one of those Vikings would think of the NIMITZ, doesn’t it?

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