After visiting the Swedish Royal Palace and having a quick lunch in Gamla Stan, we made our way to the Swedish Historical Museum. It is located north-east from Gamla Stan, in the neighbourhood of Östermalm. It’s relatively close to the centre of Stockholm, so you can easily walk or catch a tram there.
The Swedish Historical Museum offers a great presentation of Sweden, from pre-history to the present. Exhibitions often change, which makes this museum interesting for both tourist and locals. Another thing that makes this museum very attractive is that it has free entry and is very much family friendly. Their opening hours do vary, depending on the time of year, but generally they are open 6-7 days. You can hire Audio Guides in a variety of languages (also available on Smart phones) for a small fee.
The exhibition that we were most intereseted in seeing today was the Vikings/Vikingar. This exhibition tells the story of the peoples who lived in Sweden between AD800 and AD1050. These people were not all Vikings who travelled across the sea to pillage neighbouring lands. Rather these early Scandavians were farmers and hunters. Some the highlights of this show that we would see is the girl from Birka, the female chief from Öland and the landowner from Vendel.
After reading the text on what this exhibition was about we passed by wall with series of printed artworks that personified the pre-Swedish culture, and a piece called Lapidarium, which are fragments of rune stones. this museum has the largest collection of runestone fragments and we did see quite a few runestones while we were here.
Wealthy farmers and aristocrats often had rune stones and picture stones raised in their memory. They were made by speical stone-cutters and were painted in strong colours. Picture stones have mostly been limited to the Götland island.
Unna’s rune stone, which was raised for the memory of Unna’s son Östen, who passed away while in his christening robes. It is from Torsätra and is almost 1000 years old. Raising rune stones was the traditional way early Scandivians remembered their loved ones. In Sweden there about 2,500 and most are from Uppland province. First two stones in series of stones below (from the left) are from Götland. The third Runestone from Torsätra (runestone) in Uppland and was raised in memory of a Swedish king’s tribute collectors who fell ill and died during a trip to Gotland. It reads “Skule and Folke have raised this stone in memory of their brother Husbjörn, he became ill when taking teaxes on Gotland“. The little black and red runstone is from a church in Resmo, Öland island and is a modern interpreation of how it may looked. It reads “Ina had the stone raised in memory of Sveina her husband.” The last picture depicts a stone lid from a coffin from Husaby in Vastergotland, in memory of Styrbjörn.
These two display cases present Arab Silver and Otto’s treasure. There have been over 1000 Viking Age silver hoards discovered in Sweden. The largest ever found weighed over 6 kg and it was from Sigsarve, gotland island. It contained jewellery (whole or hacked) and 1382coins (mostly Islamic). Otto’s treasure or Vårby treasure was discovered by Otto Ludvig Jonsson in 1871. He found it Södermanland, unders a stone in Vårby. It was buried by a wealthy family in the mid-10th century and was probably placed their as a sacrifice for the gods or hidden for the future. It contains jewellery, belt fittings and beads and a few items are from the East.
The picture below is of the Magnate from Vendel. His body was dressed in his most expensive clothing, surrounded by very important objects and buried in a ship would would travel to the kingdom of the dead. He was from a powerful clan in Uppland and this family lived on a large estate. The display case contains many of the items that were in his ship. They include well-made items for self grooming and weapons, which highlight his wealth and role as war leader.
These Implements of Death demonstrate the kinds of weaponry used in war and feuds. Spears and axes were comon weapons, whereas swords were held by higher status and often had their own names.
The Princess from Birka was buried in a timber burial chamber and its contents demonstrates that she an high-ranking professional warrior or at the very least woman that held high status in Viking society. Her grave contained objects for self groming, jewelerry a knife, whetstones, whalebone board to press linen and Thor’s hammer ring.
Alcohol was very much part of the Viking Age and the most popular were mead and ale. The picture stone from Tängelgårda, Gotland island. It depicts two men battling around a large vessel, which may be refering the story of Oden stealing mead from the giant Suttung. The display case contains Funnel glasses, Persian bowls, glass game pieces and a small mirror. These items were typically used by arsticrates and drinking was an imporant aspect of aristocratic lifestyle.
In this exhibition, I didn’t see any objects from the Sami culture, but there were a couple of wall text explaing who they were. The Sami were a semi-nomadic tribe of peoples that occupated Northern Scandinavia and are known for their reindeer husbandry. They did trade with the Vikings and their religioun was quite similar to the Norse mythology.
Off in a corner in the exhibition was a quiet area for children. Here you could read books and listen to a story (Swedish/English) using headphones. It was a nice break for Octavia who wasn’t very excited about museum artifacts and text.
Årby boat is a burial boat from Årby in Uppland and is the best-preserved Viking-Age boat from Sweden. Although the grave had already been robbed of jewellery and weapons, the was still some objects and skeltons inside. It was found in wet clay, which preserved the wood and objects quiet well.The body of a man or woman would have been place on a bed of grass and it would have been covered with parts of a cart, oars and wooden planks. Inside the boat their were food bowls, wooden spoon and game board. Outside the boat, a 6 year old stallion and dog were found, which would have been sacrified for the voyage. The horse was hit in the head and decapitated and the dog given a fatal blow to the back of the head. The dog was slim like a greyhound and had a small rope lead with it.
This is an amazing replica of the Birka girl and her grave. The museum was able to replicate her using her cranium to assume what she would have looked like. They wouldn’t know the colour of her eyes and hair, but they do know that the Birka Market was visited from peoples all over Europe. She was only able six at her time of death and she was place in a wooden coffin next to the Birka castle around 1200 years ago. This was probably my favourite thing to see at this exhibit. I just wish there was more text about her.
These display cases contain jewellery, dress accessories, the keys held by the ladies of the house and combs owned by men and women.
These are replicas of typical clothing of people during the Viking age.
This ship is a model of the Gokstad ship and is 1:6 scale to the original from Norway. You can actually see this ship Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. It is an example of the how well built Viking ships were. The Viking built several different types of ships, depending on their use. Some were more suitable for shallow and coastal waters and others for were for the deep sea. The real Gokstad ship was dated to 895AD, 24 metres and was designed as a seagoing ship.
This large model is of the Viking Age Town of Birka, which is situated on the island of Björkö in Lake Mälaren. The model is 1:30 and depicts the town at around 800AD. It was pretty amazing to watch the town go from day to night and it was very well done and detailed.
This picture stone is from Tängelgårda, in the north of island of Gotland and was made duing the Iron age. This stone depicts Odin as the God of war and death. He was also a god of creation, poetry, widsom and a master of Seiðr. It also shows Sleipner (shapeshifter), who was owned by Odin and travelled the world; and human warriors travelling as a band.
The Ruler of Öland was a woman and she was buried in regal splendor and surrounded by powerful cultic implements. Her grave was found in Kopingsvik, on the island of Öland. There was an old Norse female cult leader, Völur, who was known for her skills of predicting the future and her name meant staff carrier. This woman was buried with a staff and it is believed that she could actually be Völur. The staff is made of iron and browns and it has a small house on the top of it. This staff demonstrates that she was a cult leader and an aristocrat from a wealthy clan. She was wrapped in a bear skin burned in a ship with a man and then the man was buried with his own rich gravegoods in a nearby grave. Her grave also contains a bronze dish from Western Europe, a jug from Persia, runic plates to protect against evil or disease.
The illustration below depicts a 300 year old aristrocratic grave mound, which had a Christian monument rebuilt on top of it. This Christian grave was found in Valsta, Uppland and is from the early 12th century. The three crossed stone coffins were use to emphasis the change from heathen to Christian beliefs. The smaller illustration shows a 10th century grave of a 20-year-old woman. Since she was not cremated, it is though that she was buried within the Christian belief. However, she was buried with Tor’s hammer ring, which suggest she may not of held Christian believes. The rune stone depicts two figures walking through a doorway holding a cross. On the back of this stone, it is written “Nikulaus had the stone erected in memory of Syhsa his father”. Nikulaus is a Christian name, so it maybe illustration Nikulaus’s father entering the gates of heaven.
This last photo is from the inside looking out into the museum’s central courtyard. This museum is quite expansive and if I had more time before closing I would of loved to see more of the exhibitions.
I hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of what the Swedish History Museum has to offer. Have you visited this musem, what did you think?