Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Berlin

  "The Vikings"    Special Exhibition from Oct. 2014 - Jan. 2015 in the Martin-Gropius-Bau
I must report with regret that once more a major exhibition, orchestrated by a major museum, put form above function. The typical signs are
1. Bad lighting. The mueum has succumbed to the "keep-things-in-the-dark disease" like so many others 1).
Two examples for that:
  • The famous skull with the filed teeth was put on a lightbox, i.e. illuminated from behind. The marks on the teeth were completely invisible.
  • The equally famous figures from a game were not prominently displayed. These figures were carved from walrus tusks and show three guys, probably berserkers, biting into their shields. It didn't matter, however. If you found them you couldn't see much; they were so badly illuminated that they were almost invisible.
Since you can't properly see these items in the exhibition, I show them below:
Viking and Viking artifact
Viking (diseased) with stylish teeth
Berserkers (?) biting their shields (late 12th century)
2. Wrong information. The pictures below tell it all:
Viking exhibition Berlin 2014 Ulfberht swords
Ulfberht swords in the exhibition
Large picture
Viking exhibition Berlin 2014 Ulfberht 
swords; text
Ulfberht swords and the explanation going with it
+VLFBEHRT+ a medieval trade name.
The best sword blades from the Frankish empire were imported to Scandinavia under the trade name +VLFBEHRT+. Ulfbehrt swords consist of a blade made from carbon-poor, homogeneous steel that was hard and at the same time elastic. That those swords were highly valued is demonstrated by the silver- and copper engravings, especially on the hilt.
It is hard to put more nonsense into so few words. Let' see if you got it all:
  • The swords were not imported but exported to Scandinavia. That's just a grammatical mistake. However, they weren't exported either in the normal sense of the word since this was strictly forbidden.
  • The blades are carbon lean? They are rather very high in carbon.
  • Hard and elastic is nothing special for steel.
  • The swords were valued because of the "Ulfbehrt" inscription, rather clumsily done in most cases, and not because of pretty noble metal parnaphelia.
  • There is never a silver or copper engraving on an Ulfbehrt blade. The sword in the middle in the picture above is an exception. It looks like it has the whole "Ulfberth" inlaid in silver (in a garbled version), thus implying that it is a late fake. However, it might be real "VLFBERHT". The silver was put there (painted on, more or less) by some over zealous museum curator in recent times.
  • The Ulfbehrt swords shown (altogether 7) actually had rather plain hilts, while some of the normal swords had very elaborated hilts.
More to the Ulfberht's can be found here.
No more need to be said, except that taking pictures is forbidden for no clear reason.
Nevertheless: Go see it, if you can. They do have a book!

1) Other museums / exhibitions that have succumbed to the "keep-things-in-the-dark disease" are

With frame With frame as PDF

go to Critical Museum Guide

go to Critical Museum Guide: Landesmuseum Württemberg; Württemberg State Museum, Stuttgart, Germany

go to Critical Museum Guide: "The Vikings" Special Exhibition from Oct. 2014 - Jan. 2015 in the Martin-Gropius-Bau

go to Critical Museum Guide: Moesgaard Museum in Aarhus; Denmark

go to Critical Museum Guide: Neues Museum in Berlin, Germany

go to Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg, Germany

go to Cyprus Museum

go to Museums in Athens and Olympia

go to Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte (Halle)

go to Large Pictures 1

go to The Frankish Empire And Its Swords

go to Large Pictures chapter 11.4

go to Large Pictures 2 - Chapter 11.3

go to Sword Names

go to Vikings

go to 10.1.5 Copper Final

© H. Föll (Iron, Steel and Swords script)