‘Vikings’ Season 4, Episode 12: Was That An Emu In Kattegat? Did The Vikings Actually Travel To Australia?

Episode 12 of History’s Vikings showed what appeared to be an Australian emu in the town of Kattegat. So, was it really an emu, and, if so, what was it doing there?

SPOILER ALERT: This article discusses Season 4 of History Channel’s Vikings as well as historical aspects of the Vikings. Please proceed with caution if you wish to avoid spoilers.

Episode 12 of History’s Vikings opened with Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) in the town of Kattegat, watching everyone as they traveled past him. At this point, a man cart passes Ragnar that is loaded up with what appears to be an emu.

History's.Vikings,' Season 4, Part 2, Episode 12, Ragnar and Ivar, Australia
[Image by Bidgee (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons]

Emu’s are a bird native to Australia, a country that was not discovered by Captain James Cook until 1770. Season 4 of Vikings is likely to take place some time prior to Bjorn’s raid on the Mediterranean estimated to be around 860. This leaves a significant time gap between the Viking age and Australia’s discovery by the Europeans.

So, was that even an emu in Kattegat? The image is brief, and it certainly does look like an emu, but, could it be an ostrich? After all, the Vikings did go past Africa as they traveled the Mediterranean. But, considering Bjorn has not yet made this expedition at this point in Vikings, it seems unlikely they would have an ostrich. Although, the animal could have been traded from another area and made its way to Kattegat that way. But, even if you take into consideration it could be a female ostrich, as you can see from the image below, they lack the green-tinged skin around the head that emus have and was present in the brief image of the bird in Episode 12 of Vikings.

History's 'Vikings,' Season 4, Part 2, Episode 12, Ostrich, Australia
[Image by Nicor (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

So, could trade from other areas perhaps have brought emu to Kattegat, much in the way an ostrich might have? Did anyone even trade with Australia at that point in time?

While Captain James Cook is credited with discovering Australia, as far back as 1606 saw Dutch explorers touching down in Australia according to Museums Victoria. Prior to that, there was also trade between the Aboriginal people and Indonesia. However, this is estimated to have been occurring no earlier than the 1440’s, still giving a gap of hundreds of years between the Vikings and Australia trading with other areas.

So, is there any evidence at all to suggest the Vikings traded with or traveled to Australia?

According to an article by the ABC in Australia, some people believe the Vikings could have touched down on Australian soil. However, as Sydney-based archaeologist Denis Gojak, points out, this is based on nothing more than what he calls “pseudoarchaeology.”

Pseudoarchaeology is described by Archaeology Expert as “false archaeology.” It can also be described as alternative archaeology, fringe archaeology, fantastic archaeology, or cult archaeology. Basically, it is any form of archaeology that falls outside the rigid structure of the archaeology discipline. Quite often this pseudoarchaeology can be attached to conspiracy theories or articles written by fake or satire news sources.

History's 'Vikings,' Longships, Australia
[Image by Bernard Walsh/History]

So far, the only items belonging to the Vikings found in Australia have been attributed to items brought in by people at a later date in time. As yet, no structure or evidence of Vikings landing in Australia have been uncovered and certainly no records in any of the older texts or manuscripts involving the Vikings indicate they ever traveled to or traded with Australia.

While it seems the emu placed in Episode 12 of Vikings was there to suggest the Vikings traded as far away as with Australia or the Pacific islands surrounding it, it is also possible it was placed in the episode as a sort of Easter egg for fans. After all, the actor who plays Ragnar Lothbrok is Australian and he is the one who does a double take at the bird as it passes him by.

What did you think of the emu in Episode 12 of Vikings? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below!

Vikings returns to History Channel with Episode 13 on December 14, Wednesday, at 9 p.m. ET.

The synopsis for Episode 13 (entitled “Two Journeys”) is below.

“Ragnar’s fleet is shipwrecked and washes up on the Wessex coast, but without enough survivors to form a credible force, Ragnar and Ivar have a difficult decision to make. Rollo meets his Viking comrades again and can’t resist the urge to join Bjorn’s voyage, risking his marriage and his new Frankish identity. Ragnar too is taking a risk as he carries Ivar towards the Royal Villa in Wessex – throwing himself and his son upon the mercy of King Ecbert.”

[Featured Image by Bernard Walsh/History]