Review: Viking Dead

A six-part documentary series in which archaeologist Tim Sutherland takes us on a roundtrip to some of the greatest Viking finds in Scandinavia and England.

The Viking age lasted only a few hundred years and most of it took place in a handful of remote countries in the North, but the topic never seems to stop fascinating people. It’s also a fact that new discoveries are always being made; mass graves, treasures, VIP burial sites, buildings and ships. In this TV series we’re taken to some of the greatest finds, hosted by archaeologist Tim Sutherland. We’re introduced to a mass grave in Dorset, the site of the first “official” Viking invasion in Lindisfarne, the very well preserved Oseberg ship in Norway, the Viking ship museum in Roskilde (Denmark), and to an excavation site in Estonia. Local experts and a couple of recurring historians and archaeologists add their comments, supported by historical footage, old photographs, and limited mount of re-enactment.

Tim Sutherland (pictured above) is a competent host (having had an extensive and varied career in archaeology and academia for over 30 years) but if you already know a bit about the Viking age from books, studies or other documentaries, there are only a few details you might learn from this series. It’s interesting to see the Viking impact in Estonia and the relatively new mass grave in Dorset, but we already knew that Vikings traded, plundered and sailed the seas. A topic that is difficult to investigate, but worthy of more investigation, is why the Vikings thought they should expand the way they did. Was it pure greed or power ambitions, or did they feel threatened and thought attacking was the best defense? A train of thought that could have been investigated further in stead of devoting two episodes to ships, no matter how fascinating they are. They are already covered well in other documentaries.

The omission of the huge burial sites in Uppsala, Sweden is another puzzle. They are the physically largest remnants of the Viking age in the world, and would represent Viking society well, seeing that the series focus on relatively basic Viking knowledge in general.

In summary, Viking Dead is quite an ordinary documentary series that I suppose is aimed at the general audience; history buffs may seek additional enlightement elsewhere.

Rated 6 of 10.

Shown on UKTV, Viasat, 2018.