Ragnarok, the Viking Apocalypse, is said to bring about the end of the world on 22 February
Ragnarok, the Viking Apocalypse, is said to bring about the end of the world on 22 February Reuters

A new exhibition at the British Museum in London explores the myth of Viking warriors as bloodthirsty looters and pillagers.

The latest historical interpretations place warfare and a savage warrior mentality at the heart of the Viking character.

Norse leaders such as Eirik Bloodaxe, Thorfinn Skullsplitter and Harald Hardruler lived up to their names. In revenge for the defeat of the Viking Ragnar or "Hairy Breeches", his sons carried out the ritual killing, the so-called "blood-eagle" of King Aelle. His chest was cut open, his ribs split and his lungs pulled out and spread over his chest like the wings of an eagle.

Vikings: Life and Legend, which opens at the British Museum on 6 March, will exhibit a range of deadly killing weapons such as shields, axes and swords.

During the Middle Ages, records show that monks on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne were put to death. Chroniclers of the time said: "Some of the brothers were put to the sword, several they threw out naked, and others they drowned in the sea. Never before has there been such terror in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race."

Their brutality was legendary, particularly to those they had captured. Having imprisoned King Edmund of East Anglia, they used him for archery target practice. The Archbishop of Canterbury was bludgeoned to death with ox bones.

Some dispute the savagery of the Vikings as unfounded. However, a new study by researchers from the University of Oslo, Norway, has found grisly evidence that Viking slaves were put to death when their owners died.

According to researchers, Viking graves found in Flakstad, Norway, contained the remains of up to 10 people. One of the archaeologists of the study, Elise Naumann, said that the research team concluded that Viking slaves were sometimes buried alongside their masters.

The Vikings believed that Ragnarok or Twilight of the Gods would signal the end of the world on 22 February. It's thought that the sun's rays will turn black and the earth will be subjected to extreme weather, with a mass flood drowning the world's population.

Watch the video to find out more about the Vikings