The Norse Vikings were most well known for their war-like nature and barbarism. Their legacy in the modern times is one of a tribe of violent and cold warriors whose only ambition was to spread as far as they could, tearing down any opposition in their way.
But the more we’ve learned about the Vikings, the more we’ve come to understand that these were a complex and deeply-religious people, and that much of their conquering came in the form of retaliation to the early Christians.
We’ve also learned that the Vikings highly valued artwork, and over the years archaeologists have discovered a number elaborate decorations that they would apply to just about every item in their daily lives – it was a very different existence to our modern existence of TV, Internet, online blackjack, and digital art.
Oseberg is one of the most prolific types of Viking art style, and was prominent throughout most of the 9th century.
Much of this artwork can be linked back to the earlier religion of Animism, where focus was put on beasts and their different forms. Oseberg was a popular variant that lasted around 150 years.
First discovered as a set of bridle mounts from a ship found in Borre, Norway, this style contains elements of both Oseberg and jelling, both of which were popular during the Viking reign.
While we still see some of the beasts common in Oseberg, much of the other decoration has taken on a more angular and uniform appearance.
Jelling seemingly started around the 10th century just as Oseberg was dying out, and lasted for about 75 years.
The animals in jellings have a much stronger “s-shape”, and are almost always intertwined with each other. Borre and jelling share many similarities, and are often found together on the same piece of artwork.
This is a direct descendent of the Jelling style, and was most common through the last half of the 10th century.
The animals involved in Mammem decoration have lost most of their twisted and intricate nature, and artists opted rather for more natural-looking animals, such as lions, birds, serpents, and even some foliage patterns. The name of this style comes from an axe head that was discovered in Mammem, Denmark.
Once Mammem had come to an end, Ringerike took over, finding prominence from about the start of the 11th century.
While there are still lions and foliage in Ringerike, they were also often matched with rune carvings. Animals in the Ringerike style tend to be thin and curvy, with much larger, almond-shaped eyes.
Urnes was the last of the art styles to emerge from the Viking era, having started around 1050 and lasting to the 12th century.
It earned its name from a stave church located in Urnes, Norway. The church is covered in ornate wooden panelling that depicted a series of different animals, with snakes being quite prominent.