The Viking Garden

What did the Vikings eat and how did they use natural resources?

Photo: Axel Dalberg Poulsen, NHM

In the Viking Garden, plants, rocks and animals that were used during the Viking Age are displayed in a 33 m long ship-shaped time machine made in corten steel. A visit to this unique and unusual garden feature is also an aesthetic experience. Among other things, it includes a caged hemp plant. The Viking Garden is a permanent outdoor part of the Botanical Garden, at The Natural History Museum, and was developed in collaboration with the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo.

The Viking Garden brings the visitor back to the Viking Age (ca. 793–1066 A.D.), which is an important period in Scandinavian history and one of the most popular topics for visitors to museums in Scandinavia. So far, the focus has been on the Viking cultural history but, not least because of the mobility of people during that time, the period can also be used to illustrate human’s relationship with nature. We emphasize the important natural resources of the Viking Age; not only the cultivated species.

The Viking Garden is located in the arboretum next to the street of Jens Bjelkes gate in an area of the Botanical Garden that was hitherto little visited. In the long term the surrounding area will harbour mostly Nordic plants and a nature trail traversing indigenous species.

The feature is attractive to children who can learn how the Vikings used nature and affected the landscape by transporting plants, animals and rocks. Intercultural exchange is not something new. Already a thousand years ago, the Vikings took souvenirs from the plant and animal kingdoms, such as coriander, peach, peafowls, and silk. Some plants were imported on purpose; others came with the ballast as seeds. Soapstone used for pots etc. was one of the important export commodities from Norway during the Viking Age.

In the Viking Garden, you will find a bench commemorating Jens Holmboe, professor at the University of Oslo. He investigated the plant remains that were excavated in the Oseberg Viking Ship.

Now and again, different Viking events will take place in the Viking Garden, such as markets, plant dyeing, carving of soapstone, and other activities bringing alive the importance of nature.

The Norwegian DNB Savings Bank Foundation and the Research Council have contributed to the Viking Garden that opened on 31 August 2014 during the bicentenary of The Natural History Museum

Photo: Axel Dalberg Poulsen, NHM

Photo: Axel Dalberg Poulsen, NHM

Photo: Axel Dalberg Poulsen, NHM

Published Oct. 13, 2014 6:59 PM - Last modified Oct. 13, 2014 6:59 PM