Vikings at the British Museum: great ship but where's the story?
"The longship at the heart of the British Museum's new Viking exhibition is spectacular – but the rest of the show is a bloodless collection of bowls and brooches" writes Jonathan Jones. I've not seen this, and won't but I am not sure I'd agree with what Mr Jones says here. He obviously wants more blood, and the trend in exhibitions (which the BM pioneered with their earlier Viking exhibitions as I recall) has always been to move away from an image based on the sagas and chronicles of atrocities written by monkish victims. It does sound a bit though as if the exhibition is going more for decontextualised objects (the portable antiquities) rather than presenting a culture using them. Is that what's happened here? I'll try and get the catalogue anyway.
I'm intrigued by the mention of:
cases of smallish, similar objects throw visitors straight into some thorny problems of archaeology. How do Viking artefacts compare with things being made at the same time by Baltic and Slav peoples? One of the first cases offers a chance to find that out.I suppose it depends how well those "thorny problems of archaeology" are articulated, and this is directly related to my concerns about the narrativisation of portable antiquities by everyone's favourite antiquities Scheme. The question of the difference between something made in Scandinavia and something made in Scandinavian style elsewhere is fundamental to the understanding of the site I am working on at the moment, a cemetery on the lower Vistula with 'Viking' (but are they really) objects in the inhumations. I am curious what that case looks like, anyone going?