Going Viking
Room 3
Ranvaig's Casket
Ranvaig's Casket
Danish National Museum 9084
Photo: Courtesy Danish National Museum

Beginning with the attack on Lindisfarne Monastery, England, in 793, small bands of Scandinavian warriors made violent incursions into European towns and religious centers. The historical accounts of their daring raids on these bastions of Northern European culture are undeniable, although the frightened monks likely exaggerated and dramatized the details of the events.

But Viking pillaging of places such as Lindisfarne were not brought on by a love of violence, as popularly assumed. Rather, the intense political rivalry between Viking chieftains demanded the constant influx of precious goods, primarily from raids but also from trade. Successful leaders then gave these items to their followers in exchange for loyalty.

Ranvaig's Casket
The most famous piece of Viking loot is this copper and enameled box, which was taken from a Scottish (or Pictish) church. It was then given to a woman in Norway, who carved on the bottom in runes, “Ranvaig owns this.” Archaeological finds like this confirm reports of raiding and looting.

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Alesund, Norway
Alesund, Norway
Photo: William Fitzhugh


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