My level of fascination with the recent discovery of an intact Viking boat burial site on the Ardnamurchan peninsula in Scotland couldn’t be any higher. The fact that the burial site is undisturbed lets us know this is just as it occurred one gloomy day more than 1,000 years ago. We have an actual Viking axe now, a sword, a spear, and a bronze ring pin. But where is his horned helmet and skull drinking vessel?
Well, the archaeologists from the Ardnamurchan Transition Project did find a fragment of a bronze drinking horn, but it wasn’t a skull. Okay, so they didn’t find a horned helmet, but they did find a shield boss – a piece metal positioned in the center of the shield – that gives us an impression of just how grand our Viking may have been.
To put it succinctly, the horned helmet image comes from Norse mythology, which was largely shaped during the 19th century (in a romantic spirit of the times), and which was modeled after Greek mythology and the pantheon of the gods. However, there are actual petroglyphs from the Nordic Bronze Age (2,000 years ago) depicting horned helmets. Bits of history and myth were synthesized to create something new.
So what they (these myth spinners) did was move this horned helmeted warrior image (which were real for the Bronze Age) up to this supposed Golden Era of the Vikings (900-1100 AD), and make it to appear as if this was an accurate historical context. I’ll call it an anti-malapropism, since a positive malapropism projects present-day ephemera on an event from the past, whereas these myth-makers dress a more modern event with an ancient cultural phenomenon.
Well, if you feel as if you’re tethered to an epicycle of historical phenomenology from the suction cup of my expansive loop, I wouldn’t blame you one iota of a scintilla. Free yourself if you can, and try to untie the knot of Nordic barbarianism while you’re at it. The aforementioned Wikipedia entry also elaborates further on how or why we have so many illusions, so many Phantasms about Vikings in our dippy little heads.
Well, there’s Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen and don’t forget the usual suspects, the Nazis, who saw the Viking warrior as a role-model for their perceived Germanic master race. A policy of aggression and military superiority might be rationalized by looking back on the achievements of these Nordic warriors, scavenging Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and even Russia.
With the recent discovery of a noble Viking warrior (a real man, I might add) on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, can we now debunk these deceptive myths once and for all? Not entirely, but we are seeing for the first time a real event, just as it happened. Our remnants of bone, ax, and shield remain pagan; he probably never converted to Christianity, and furthermore, believably, never guzzled mead in a gold-laden drinking skull. But exactly what he was up to during his days on earth must remain a mystery. A good outcome of this valuable archaeological find is we now feel motivated to trace how and why the Nordic myth ever came about in the first place. Let’s get started!
Viking – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia