How have recent excavations changed our view of the Vikings? Key Question 4

Using the Mantle of the Expert approach, pupils help a confused museum curator to write high quality captions for 11 images that MIGHT show the Vikings in a more positive light. It is crucial that they get it right. Important Scandinavian visitors are coming to see the exhibition tomorrow! Imaginatively differentiated, the lesson uses a combination of Gallery and Prove it! activities to provide excellent preparatory grounding.

“Vikings as we traditionally know them are basically a concept invented in the 19th century,” says Gareth Williams, curator of the British Museum’s exhibition, Vikings: Life and Legend. “They’ve been depicted as big and muscular and with very silly helmets, because how else would a Romantic Viking dress? Disappointingly for those of a Romantic, or indeed comic-book, inclination, there is little historical evidence that Vikings wore horned helmets — much less ones with wings, which are still popular with Viking re-enactors today. Very few horned helmets have survived, and those that have were more likely used for ceremonial or religious purposes, and probably not during the period of the Viking age.”

Learning objectives

  • Pupils grasp the significance of archaeological evidence especially finds at Yorvik;
  • they can identify which sources historians use when making
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