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Objects from the collection

Image may contain: Straw, Tree, Still life photography.

The mask is from Kasai, which today is one of 26 regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The people of this region are known as the Kuba. Kuba is a central African kingdom which had a golden age spanning from the 18th to the 20th century, before the region was colonized by Belgium (1885–1960).

Image may contain: Wood.

The Sealskin blubber bag, greasiest museum exhibit ever.

When we made the “Arctic Experts” exhibition in 2011 about the Netsilik Inuit and their meeting with Roald Amundsen, the sealskin blubber bag was one of my favourite objects. Who could resist a 110-year old ringed seal skin totally oozing with greasy yellow seal blubber, so messy that the conservators had to place the bag in the displays on a specially designed bed of plastic? And which, to top it all, smells rancid.

Image may contain: Fashion accessory, Jewellery, Gemstone.

While at work in the autumn of 2015, archaeologist Line Hovd made an unusual discovery. A gold ring suddenly appeared amidst the dark soil. The ring tells a story of fidelity, magic and the fear of disease and madness in medieval times.

A group of archaeologists were engaged in a major excavation project at Sørenga in Oslo, where the new Follo railway is planned. First, however, the ground must be examined archaeologically, thus creating an opportunity to find such treasures.

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Certain aspects of human existence seem to be the same in all ages. A fondness for beautiful, glittering things is one of them. In our modern age, we have many such things to take pleasure in – e.g. gold, silver, precious stones – but as early as the Stone Age, people had discovered materials that could be used as beautiful ornaments to impress those who saw them. Amber was one such material.

Image may contain: Coin, Gold, Metal, Currency, Money.

In its collections, the Coin Cabinet of the Museum of Cultural History holds several hundred coins from Iran. These are mainly silver coins, spanning 2500 years of Iranian coinage history. The coins stem from a variety of periods, ranging in time from the Achaemenide dynasty (approximately 550–330 BC) to the end of the Sassanid dynasty (AD 224–651).

Image may contain: Wood.

In the autumn of 2014, a unique find was unearthed in Reinheimen National Park. It had been a long, hot summer. The snow cover in the mountains receded continuously and the old ice had started to melt. The glacial archaeology response team in Oppland county was on high alert. Having lain protected for centuries by the ice, a ski gradually became exposed, and the archaeologists were there.

Snake head carved from wood.

The conservation of six Viking Age wooden objects from the Oseberg ship burial took place 50 years after their excavation in 1904. As the delicate carvings could not be properly preserved by methods available in the early 1900s, these objects had to wait in tanks of water until a better method came along some time in the 1950s.

Of everyday objects excavated from a pre-industrial city context shoes and leather are some of the most frequent. Commonplace and personal objects such as shoes can give us some insight into people’s lives in the medieval cities.

Madonna sculpture from the Middle Ages with an unusual headdress.

When cataloguing all the museum’s painted medieval sculptures some years ago, I came across a sculpture that challenged both my imagination and knowledge. I refer to a Madonna figure from Lisleherad Church in Telemark that came into the possession of the museum in 1878. The old church had been demolished in 1873, and a new church built. A local farmer had taken care of the Madonna, and later the parish priest ensured that it was sent to the University of Oslo’s collection of national antiquities in Christiania (C8737).

The grude dagger

An unusually long flint dagger from Grude in the district of Jæren was recently returned to the Museum of Cultural History after spending 25 years in Stavanger. If it could speak, the dagger from Grude would tell of swords, and of the time when bronze first arrived in Scandinavia.

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In 1924–1925, a large ritual deposit – a metal hoard – was ploughed up on the farm of Vestby in Hadeland. Since 2000, this event has been the subject of the open-air play “The Bronze Bucks”, in which Ragna, the girl who found the spectacular objects, plays the main role. A play could equally well be written about the life history of the two strange bronze figurines buried there in the sixth century BCE together with some very unusual pieces of jewellery.

Viking sword from Lesja

Far into the mountains of Oppland in Norway a sword from the Viking Age was stumbled upon by reindeer hunters during the fall of 2017. This sword has now arrived for conservation at the Museum of Cultural History.

Image may contain: Artifact, Metal, Nickel, Font, Fashion accessory.

Mystical signs inlaid with gold bedeck the magnificent hilt of the Langeid sword – a Viking weapon infused with Christian symbolism and laid in a pre-Christian grave while the new faith was conquering the last regions of Norway.


In the latter part of the Viking Age, a type of axe intended for use only in battle was developed. Streamlined and elegant, but at the same time a powerful lethal weapon. The broadaxe was a weapon to rival the sword as the foremost symbol of a warrior.