Lore-and-Saga Living history services and resources for schools, museums and heritage sites. Viking and Roman in school sessions and craft demonstrations. teachers notes and worksheets. Vikings, Saxons, Romans, national curriculum, invaders and settlers, key stage 2, history, teachers information, living history interpreter, in school sessions, storytelling, Roman resources, educational presentations, Viking lore, runes, Roman lore, Viking saga, living history interpretation, Viking resources, Odin, Viking crafts demonstrations, Roman cookery display, Viking silverwork, Roman games, chronology, Viking games, Roman school visits, Viking runes, national curriculum history key stage two, Viking school visits
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Lofotr.

Summer 2004

The Viking longhouse reconstruction at Borg.

One of the things I enjoy about the work I do is the opportunity to work in some spectacular places. In 2003 I was contacted by Are Pedersen of Lofotr, the Viking Museum at Borg to provide a craft demonstration for a few weeks in 2004. The museum is based around the reconstruction of the largest Viking longhouse found so far and is today one of the most popular visitor attractions on the Lofoten islands in the North of Norway.

Gary Waidson demonstrating Viking age leather working techniques in the longhouse at Borg

I was asked to demonstrate Viking age leather working techniques in the longhouse as part of a living history project in the peak summer season.

The timing of the project fitted in well with the British school holidays and a number of other craftspeople would also be present including my good friend Ken Ravn Hedegaard, an archaeologist and very skilled bronze caster.

Ken arrived a week later than myself with Jana Kruse, another craftsperson I had heard of, she was there to recreate a “Tating” ware pitcher that had been found at the site.

Jana Kruse with the finished Tating ware pitcher
Jana Kruse working the clay to recreate a Tating ware pitcher
Ken Ravn Hedegaard working the bellos to melt bronze before a casting can be made

Many of the things we recreate as living history could easily be described as lost arts. Some crafts have become redundant in our modern world while others, though still practised, have been completely transformed by modern tools and materials.

Very often the only way to accurately recreate an artefact from another age is to use the same tools, methods and techniques as were used when the artefact was created.

To work closely and learn from knowledgeable and like minded craftspeople who are dedicated to the accuracy of their chosen discipline is a privilege I try to take at every opportunity.

I am also rather fond of Viking ships and the museum also boasts some fine reconstructions including a full size copy of the ship found at Gokstad.

"Lofotr" a full size reconstruction of the "Gokstad" Viking ship and a smaller 8 oared boat.On the deck of "Lofotr" a full size reconstruction of the "Gokstad" Viking ship.

It is only when you see a Viking ship afloat that you can truly appreciate what a powerful tool it is. The “Gokstad” ship fully laden and filled with ballast weighed about 30 tonnes but floats in less than 3 feet of water. Such boats were a key to the success of the Vikings

 

Summer 2005

Following the success of my visit in 2004 I was delighted to be invited back to Lofotr in 2005. This time the project was the completion of a high status scramaseax for the chieftain of Borg. The blade of this long knife had already been made by Stefan Hugel, a highly skilled blacksmith working for part of the Summer in the museum’s own forge. The completion of this project would involve work on antler, leather and silver and represented a very interesting challenge.

Viking Scramaseax mounted with silver fittings
Viking embroidery based upon the Osberg tapestry

This year, Debbie was also able to accompany me on the trip. She had been commissioned to work on a large embroidered wall hanging for the longhouse.

Our stay coincided with the first “Viking Market” organised by Lofotr. This gave us a great opportunity to meet Viking scholars and re-enactors from all over Scandinavia and Europe who were visiting and participating in the week long market. Particularly enjoyable were many fascinating evenings we spent with four members of “Kvasir”, a group studying and promoting a greater understanding of ancient Norse culture.

Viking banqueting hall

The wall hanging Debbie would be working on was to be hung in the main banqueting hall and since I had last been at Borg the pillars of this hall had been extensively decorated with the carvings of Kai Johansen. To say that the effect was magnificent would be an understatement.

Viking woodcarver

Kai is one of the best woodworkers I have met and when last year I heard of the mammoth task he faced with these carvings I fully expected to find him still hard at work when I arrived this year. My first sight of the completed hall in it’s new splendour truly took my breath away.

It is this continuing commitment to craftsman ship which has made the longhouse at Lofotr such a wonderful site and such work is totally in keeping with the high status of such a large building in the Viking age.

The blade of the Scramaseax that I was to work on was already an extraordinary piece of workmanship. Made with a lamination of pattern welded steels on a carbon steel blade core this would have represented the leading edge of metallurgical technology at the time of the Vikings. For the hilt I had managed to source a good piece of reindeer antler in the North of Norway which I carved and inlaid with an interlacing dragon in the Viking style.

To reflect the status of the chieftain the hilt and scabbard would be mounted in silver and inspiration for this was found in Salisbury Museum in the form of a Saxon blade found at Laverstock. The design would need to be adapted but this gave us the basic pattern for the Borg Knife.

The Borg Seax

Postscript.

For many of us this project gained a particular poignancy late in 2005 due to the sudden and tragic death of the bladesmith Stefan Hugel in a hunting accident. I consider it a privilege to have worked with such a fine craftsman and his passing will leave a gap that I do not think can ever be truly filled. 

 “Wealth dies, men die too, but I know something that will never die,

The name and reputation of a good man”

 

The Banqueting hall at Lofotr Viking Museum

Summer 2006

Well here we are again. Lofotr, the Viking Museum at Borg, seems to have become a regular trip for us in the school holidays now.

It’s always a great experience  and it helps to keep our knowledge bang up to date.

During the excavation of the site at Borg an interesting artefact was found. it was bronze but had been gilded and silvered and appeared to be a fitting from some kind of horse harness. Ken Ravn Hedegard had been asked to reproduce copies of the item.

This year I was asked to make two bridles, one for the museum display and one for the chieftain’s horse.

Here we can see one of the finished bridles with a modern bit being modelled by ”LauFor the museum an iron bit is to be reconstructed based upon another Viking age find.

Bridle
Viking embroidery based upon the Osberg tapestry

Debbie, of course, was continuing her work on the wall hanging based upon the Oseberg Tapestry

Since our last visit a considerable amount of work had been done to the hanging but there is probably still a years work left to be done.

Anyone doubting the status of such objects should just see the hours of painstaking work that goes into such textile decorations.

As I mentioned above I have a soft spot for Viking ships  so when the opportunity to go sailing on the open sea in Lofotr came up this year I leapt at the chance.

A longship in full sail is an incredible piece of engineering and the trip was all the more memorable for having the crew in full costume, something which sadly is rarely done on other such ship replicas.For more pictures and information  visit the Viking Ships page.

As if to wave us good-bye this year, Lofoten had one more surprise to offer us. On our final night we were treated to a magnificent display of the Northern Lights. Although I had seen the Aurora before in the North of England this was a highlight of our stay that I’m sure will remain with us for many years

Viking ship in full sail
Aurora over Viking longhouse
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Lore-and-Saga Living history services and resources for schools, museums and heritage sites. Viking and Roman in school sessions and craft demonstrations. teachers notes and worksheets. Vikings, Saxons, Romans, national curriculum, invaders and settlers, key stage 2, history, teachers information, living history interpreter, in school sessions, storytelling, Roman resources, educational presentations, Viking lore, runes, Roman lore, Viking saga, living history interpretation, Viking resources, Odin, Viking crafts demonstrations, Roman cookery display, Viking silverwork, Roman games, chronology, Viking games, Roman school visits, Viking runes, national curriculum history key stage two, Viking school visits
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