The word “vandal” these days is associated with acts of senseless violence and destruction. However, this new exhibition explores the history behind the actual Vandals, a Germanic civilisation that stretched across Eastern Europe to North Africa in the 5th century. “The Vandal Kingdom” hopes to offer visitors a new perspective on this unfamiliar culture and infamous word.
Curator Astrid Wenzel said the show in Karlsruhe is the first of its kind. “Throughout the world, there has never been such an exhibition about the Vandals,” said Wenzel, who is an archaeologist. The museum employed a ten-strong team to prepare the unique items sent from Tunisia, Algeria, Italy, Spain and the United States.
Despite the Vandals’ terrible reputation, Wenzel said the violence they administered across much of Europe was “no worse than other migrating tribes.”
In the 4th and 5th centuries AD, raiding and plundering was the most common way to acquire material assets for various Germanic groups and the rich but weakened Roman Empire seemed particularly appealing to the Vandals. Wenzel said the Vandals performed a “logistical masterpiece” in 429 when 80,000 tribesmen crossed from Spain to North Africa in commandeered ships.
The exhibition shows how the Vandals also adopted the Christian faith on their journey from the area that is today’s Poland, across Germany, France, Italy, Spain and finally to Africa. It features early Christian relics from Tunisia, in addition to some 300 other items, such as stone sarcophagi, precious jewellery, mosaics and ceramics.
The exhibition will runs until February 21.