Adventures at the Danish National Museum, Copenhagen

April 10, 2019 | Filed Under History | No Comments

My recent business trip took me to Copenhagen (I know, my job is so rough!), where I was able to visit the Danish National Museum. As you might imagine, it’s rich with Viking history, part of the comprehensive overview of 14,000 years of history covered by the exhibits. It’s big. Really big. I spent an entire Saturday there, and did not see everything. (Which means, of course, I need to go back to Copenhagen!)

The museum has several grave finds, and busts of people re-created from various grave sites. This one has the best jewelry:

Danish National Museum - Bust with beaded necklace

Now *that* is a necklace!

The museum also has some amazing artifacts. The Gundestrup Cauldron, for example:

Gundestrup Cauldron

Gundestrup Cauldron

And the Trundholm Sun Chariot! I have been waiting *years* to see it in person!

Trundholm Sun Chariot

Trundholm Sun Chariot

The room it’s in also has a video exhibit about the myth of the sun, which is interesting—except that the room lights dim for the video every two minutes, so it’s hard to get a good look at the chariot.

The museum shop sells full-size replicas of the Chariot, but they were not quite in my price range. Sigh.

And, of course, helmets. These date from 1000 BCE – 700 BCE.

Someone at Marvel must have seen this one.

There are rooms and rooms full of artifacts of daily life—clothes, dishes, tools, and so forth. And then—the Aurochs from Vig, which is 6 feet/2 meters at the shoulder:

Aurochs from Vig

Aurochs from Vig

Our forebears must have been very brave (and very hungry) to hunt this huge beast using only bows and arrows!

Then, you turn a corner, and —runestones!

There’s no railing, so you can get as close as you wish. It’s difficult to describe how massive they are—not just tall (I’m 5’3’/160 cm, everyone and everything is taller than me), but the sheer density of them is incredible. It’s staggering to think about someone having the skill, patience, and time to create these intricate carvings.

The one disappointing thing was the museum food. In need of a rest for our feet and food for our stomachs, we tried to have lunch at the restaurant. We waited at the “please wait to be seated” sign, and were ignored for rather a while. One of the servers finally gave up when we didn’t go away, and informed us that it was impossible for us to eat there, as it was far too busy, even if we were wiling to wait, there would never be a table. We were directed to the downstairs cafe, which has limited (and unappealing) options—a few pastries, some sandwiches that none of us felt brave enough to try, and an assortment of beverages. We caffeinated, and resumed our adventures, but the museum could do much better about fortifying visitors for long days of viewing exhibits.

However, the museum gift shop made up for it! (Note: the shop does sell its goods on the web, and they ship worldwide, in case you can’t get to Copenhagen just now.) I picked up various treasures to bestow upon friends, as well as a few things for myself.

I am quite pleased with this carved horn needle, a replica from the Oseberg Ship:

Oseberg Ship Needle

Oseberg Ship Needle

And this carved horn spoon and bowl for altar use:

Horn Bowl and Spoon

Horn Bowl and Spoon

As well as this adorable plushie raven! (Pictured here with two friends, destined for my friend Karen.) How could you resist that face?

Three Plushie Ravens

Three Plushie Ravens

I certainly couldn’t!

The museum has a dual-language website (Danish and English), with photos and information about many of the items in its collection, as well as the special exhibits. If you don’t have a trip to Copenhagen planned, I recommend checking out the museum’s website—it’s not quite like being there, but it’s a good resource to peruse until you get to Copehnagen to see it in person!


Update April 11, 2019: Someone contacted me, asking that I not promote the museum due to its treatment of staff (laying off a large number of them) and concerns about its current director. I think it’s important to support the institution, and address the issues around the people who run it. I am leaving the post up, because I want people to know about the museum, and I am also encouraging people to do their own research about Rane Willerslev, the director. If people feel that Willerslev is not a suitable director for the museum, they can contact the museum to state their opposition to his employment at the museum. I have my opinion and have expressed it to the museum, but my view on the situation may not match the opinion of everyone who reads this post.


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