Of all of the options for a day in Reykjavik, the Brawny Sherpa and I choose to learn more about Vikings. We head to the Settlement Exhibition, more formally named the Settlement Exhibition Reykjavik 871 +/-2. It’s a small and very contemporary museum built over the remnants of a Viking settlement that date back to the year 871 or so. Ghostly apparitions depict life as a Viking, show where fires would have burned in the home, give a sense of life as a Viking.
The museum itself is dark and soothing. What basically looks like a pile of rocks and dirt takes up the center of the space. The low lights and the low ceiling and the centrality of this old settlement instill a sense of reverence. How really did these Vikings live? This would have been survival at its grittiest, unless those forebears happened to have discovered a hot spot, which, for me, were I a Viking, would have made all of the difference. Vikings apparently conquered and took, bringing women from other places with them. Whether and to what extent the women’s accompaniment was voluntary isn’t entirely clear to me.
While I am here, I wonder about privacy, whether there was any at all, whether women dressed in animal skins or actually had cloth. I am surprised to see beads and other adornments from this time on display. In these most rugged of conditions, someone was making an effort to look pretty. What was ‘pretty’ back then?
I clearly have much to learn about Vikings, about life in Iceland during the first millennium, about male-female roles in this time period. The Settlement Exhibition is a good place to begin an inquiry.
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