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Exhibit explores Norse culture

By BOB GROSS , Of The Daily Oakland Press 11/29/2003

November 29, 2003

Aniruddha Mayasandra is clad in a round helmet and leather jerkin - with stylish steel chain mail inserts - and Ragnarr Thorbergsson is demonstrating why Vikings didn't wear helmets with horns.

"It doesn't make sense," said Thorbergsson, a Viking trader outfitted with spear, shield, sword and knife. A sword swung from above would glance off a round helmet, he said - a helmet with a projection like a horn would catch the heavy steel sword, breaking the wearer's neck. And that wouldn't be something that Aniruddha, a 9-year-old from Rochester Hills, would enjoy. "I just wanted to try it on," he said.

Thorbergsson is actually Neil Peterson from St. Agatha, Ontario - near Toronto. He and other members of the Dark Ages Re-Creation Company - which has its own Web site at - were at the Cranbrook Institute of Science on Friday as part of a three-day demonstration of Norse life called "Vikings and More." The event, which is held in conjunction with a traveling exhibit, "Full Circle: First Contact," about the only Norse encampment uncovered in the New World, continues 1-4 p.m. today and Sunday at Cranbrook. Visitors Friday tried on Peterson's leather armor, round helmet with noseguard, and shield. They also struggled with a mail shirt - an unwieldy mass of steel links weighing nearly 35 pounds, virtually impossible to lift with one hand. Kevin Kriebel of Ortonville brought his family to Cranbrook, including his two sons, Alex, 11, and Aaron, 9. "They loved the mail," he said. "They loved the chain mail." He said the family took advantage of a holiday to visit the Vikings.

"They wanted to see the Vikings," he said. "The kids are learning about them, and we wanted to reinforce what they're learning." They learned that not everything Viking is warlike. Richard Schweitzer, a re-enactor from Orangeville, Ontario, was making music on a variety of stringed lyres, horns, whistles and flutes. The Norse culture was, for the most part, an oral one, so not many tunes have survived the years, he said. "The earliest that we have is a tune found in the Codex Runica in Denmark, a law text from the 12th century," he said. "Somebody stuck this tune at the bottom of it." He picked out the haunting melody on a lyre, singing softly in Norse: "Last night I dreamed a dream of silk and fine fur." The Full Circle exhibit runs through Jan. 4, 2004. For information, call (877) 462-7262 or visit the Cranbrook Web site at
      Updated: 4 Dec, 2007
Text © The Oakland Press, 2003
Photographs © The Oakland Press, 2003
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