Vikings Return to North America $3 Million Exhibit of Norse Artifacts to Tour Continent

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- A thousand years ago, adventurers in open wooden ships sailed out of the North Atlantic mists to become the first Europeans on American shores. They return tomorrow in a major Smithsonian exhibition: Vikings, the North Atlantic Saga.

"The Viking spirit of exploration surmounted barriers," King Harald V of Norway said in previewing the show. "That spirit is as highly prized today as it was then."

On the 1,000th anniversary of their discovery of America, the National Museum of Natural History hosts the $3 million exhibition of artifacts, tracing the lives, travels, jewelry, religion, clothing, poetry and impact of the Norse.

William W. Fitzhugh, curator of the exhibit, stressed that the focus is on more than the terror brought by the Norse.

From their landing in America 500 years before Columbus, there is evidence of settlement and widespread trading with other Norse colonies in Greenland. The Vikings also honored poetry, and much of their history is preserved in sagas written and passed down.

The goal of the show is to tell their story, "not just as raiders and plunderers but as heroes of western expansion who moved with their families and livestock to form new settlements," Fitzhugh said.

While the Vikings traveled widely -- from Iceland in the north to Constantinople in the South, from Russia in the east to Newfoundland in the west -- the show focuses on their arrival in America.

The warrior spirit of the Vikings is not ignored, however, with the exhibition including a carved memorial stone from the isolated abbey at Lindisfarne off the coast of England. The Vikings arrival there on June 8, 793, marked their first mention by foreigners. …

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