Oseberg Tapestry: Artifact Of Viking Horned Helmet?

Viking Oseberg Tapestry opens a question as to whether the Vikings had horned helmet

Viking artifact always excites us to the core with unpredictable and interesting stories behind remains. Among the most controversial (yet awesome) Viking artifact is the Viking Oseberg Tapestry from Oseberg burial mound.

Oseberg Excavation in the 20th century

Viking Oseberg excavation has always excited Viking scholars and enthusiasts. Back to the beginning of the 20th century, sons of the owner of Oseberg farmland started to dig their farm to find some artifacts. And they did find something – remains of a ship. It was quite a long process for the archaeologists to bring the Oseberg ship to the light.

The archaeologists excavated the Oseberg ship and Oseberg burial mound in 1904 in Norway
The archaeologists excavated the Oseberg ship and Oseberg burial mound in 1904 in Norway

The ship was a part of the burial mound as well as many valuable treasures, including a tapestry hanging inside the burial chamber.

Oseberg Tapestry

The special part of the Oseberg tapestry is what it depicted.

The tapestry dedicated to the deceased inside Oseberg burial chamber which possibly dated back to the 9th century was in a very bad condition. Because of the bad condition, the scholars spent years obtaining information from the tapestry.

The tapestry featured a scene of ritual. The right side of the fabric remnants showed horse riders and walking people with spears on their hands approaching a building which was possibly Viking temple.

The left side of the tapestry depicted a religious ritual with three horse-drawn wagons with people following on foot.

The left side of Oseberg Tapestry
The left side of Oseberg Tapestry

However, the most special thing was the leading man of the ritual. “He” was much larger than anyone in the ritual. While other people held a spear in their hand, he held a sword upside down. A spear was a common weapon in the Viking Age while sword was a weapon of royalty and holiness. “He” wore a horned helmet which captured the most attention of the scholars.

This was because scholars believed Viking horned helmet was a fabrication of modern art. They had claimed Viking horned helmet was not historically true until they found out this tapestry. For long, the Viking scholars believe the Viking drinking horn is something horned in Viking Age.

If we put horned helmet in practice, it was not an ideal thing for battle to be honest. Although it looked intimidating, the horned helmet could prevent the warriors from attacking quickly. It was unpractical even for the skilled warriors.

Yet, scholars questioned whether the Vikings had a horned helmet for their religious procession only or not. Although no artifact of horned helmet has been found, possibility was that the Vikings had used horned helmet for rituals only. The key point is not about the horned helmet in battle only. It revolves around the horned helmet in daily life of the Vikings as well.

Leave a Reply