Viking Art

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Viking Art


the art of the Vikings, produced between the late eighth and the 11th century. Examples include artifacts found in burial chambers (for example, the Oseberg burial, Norway) and in sepulchers on ships. Stelae and stones from this period, with runic inscriptions and with reliefs depicting complex stylized zoomorphic motifs and human figures, have been found in Scandinavia and on islands of the North Atlantic.

In the middle of the eighth century, the late animal style prevailed, with extremely stylized zoomorphic depictions that appear lost within the geometric interlacings of lines. In the late eighth and the ninth century, Viking art became more dynamic and expressive (for example, the heads of fantastic beasts, from Oseberg, ninth century; Museum of Viking Ships, Oslo). With the spread of Christianity in the late ninth and the tenth century, flat and ribbon-shaped interlaced lines were combined with depictions of human figures, animals, and Christian motifs. Ornamentation became greater in size. During the 11th century, the symbols of the lion, the snake, and plant life predominated in the decoration.

Viking structures included long dwellings with a gable roof supported by two or three rows of pillars. Stone or wooden walls were erected on a stone foundation. In Denmark, southern Sweden, and southern Norway, frame structures seem to have predominated. The remains of fortifications, circular in plan, and the foundations of wooden-framed boat-shaped houses have been discovered in Denmark (for example, at Aggersborg). The fortifications were surrounded by earthen ramparts and were divided into four equal sections by two roads.


Kendrick, T. D. Late Saxon and Viking Art. London, 1949.
Wilson, D. M., and O. Klindt-Jensen. Vikings Art. London, 1966.