'Vikings: Beyond the Legend' exhibit sails into Cincinnati with 4 ships, 500 artifacts

Opens at Cincy Museum Center on Nov. 11
Viking exhibit sails into Cincy Museum Center
Posted at 6:21 AM, Sep 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-10 06:13:57-05

CINCINNATI -- Vikings are invading Union Terminal as the Cincinnati Museum Center prepares to open its newest special exhibit featuring the Scandinavian seafarers on Friday.

When you think of Vikings, you're probably picturing those burly, bearded barbarians with horned helmets, but experts say that's not really accurate. The "Vikings: Beyond the Legend" exhibit aims to debunk that stereotype by displaying four ships and 500 artifacts that showcase the highly skilled craftsmanship of the Vikings.

"We are really excited that Cincinnati will host our exhibition," said Maria Jansén, director general at the Swedish History Museum. "Don't miss this opportunity to meet new sides of the well-known Vikings!"

The exhibit features four large ships, interactive displays, hands-on challenges and more than 500 artifacts on loan from the Swedish History Museum. Original artifacts show the craftsmanship of people who used textiles, wood, bronze, iron, silver, bone, leather and ceramics to create everyday items and ceremonial pieces.

Guests can virtually excavate a Viking ship layer by layer, uncovering rich discoveries like weapons, tools and animals just as archaeologists did. You can also test your strength using a model of a Viking sword and compete in authentic Viking games.

On Sept. 14, it took about a dozen people to maneuver two replica Viking ships into a warehouse where they'll be held until they make the move to the Museum Center later this month. The Krampmacken is a reconstruction of a 26-foot Viking merchant boat found on Gotland Island, Sweden, in the 1920s, and the Karl is a reconstruction of a 21-foot sailing ship.

The exhibit will feature two more ships. One is a unique "Ghost Ship" of original iron rivets suspended where they would have been before the oak hull deteriorated over the course of 1,000 years.

Perhaps the most impressive ship is the 122-foot Roskilde 6, a partially intact Viking longship excavated from the Roskilde Fjord in Denmark in 1997 and the sole artifact on loan from the National Museum of Denmark. The longship was a Viking warship that was especially fast due to its long, narrow shape, many rowers and shallow draft that helped it navigate Scandinavian and Northern European ports and sail up rivers deep inland.

"The 122-foot longboat will be two-thirds the length of our huge special exhibit gallery," said Dave Duszynski, vice president of featured experiences and customer services for the Museum Center. "It's never been on display in North America before because not many museums have the capacity to hold an artifact this large."

Elizabeth Pierce, president and CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center, called the Vikings exhibit an incredible collection of original artifacts that tell the story of a people whose beliefs, values, skills and culture continue to influence and captivate us today.

A news release from the museum says the exhibit busts the myths of a culture devoted to war and destruction that we know from operas, comic strips, cartoons and sports mascots, and more accurately portrays the Vikings as farmers, artisans, traders and explorers, contributing to literature, religion and navigation.

The Vikings originated from Scandinavia (the modern countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and parts of Finland) but inhabited land throughout northern and eastern Europe, the British Isles, Iceland and North America between 750 and 1100 CE. They were warriors, some who raided and plundered towns both near and as far away as the Mediterranean and northern Africa.

However, the Vikings were also farmers, merchants and storytellers, and their source of status was land ownership rather than brute strength. Plundering aside, they engaged in trade extensively through Europe, favoring their knowledge of winds, currents and unconventional navigational tools as they sailed between trading centers. They worshipped Norse gods like Odin, Freya and Thor but accepted many aspects of Christianity. Unlike their European counterparts, women were the head of the household and wielded great influence in Viking society.

For ticket information, visit the museum website here. Discounted tickets for museum members went on sale Oct 3. General admission tickets went on sale Nov. 1. Tickets cost $19.50 for adults, $17.50 for seniors and $12.50 for children. 

Vikings: Beyond the Legend is a joint venture between and produced by The Swedish History Museum in Sweden and MuseumsPartner in Austria. The Roskilde 6 display is a joint venture between and produced by The National Museum of Denmark and MuseumsPartner.