Everything You Didn’t Know About The Vikings

Published on 12/02/2018
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When thinking of Vikings, the image that comes to mind tends to be hulking, grizzly, and vicious barbarians who mercilessly invaded and enslaved nations all over Europe. This image is only partially true, as they did burn down churches and pillaged villages, but they also did a great deal of exploring and were excellent navigators, and settlers. They founded cities and traded just about everything all over the world. They were a relatively gender-equal society compared to others at the time, and they laid down the foundation for all kinds of civilizations.

The Days Of The Week

Most of our days of the week are actually named after their Norse gods. Tiu (Twia) is the English/Germanic god of war and the heavens who is identified with the god Tyr – and equivalent to the Freek god, Ares. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are named after the gods Woden (father supreme of the Norse gods), Thor (Norse god of thunder), and Freya (Norse goddess of love, beauty, fertility, and marriage).

The Days Of The Week

The Days Of The Week

Not Actually Vikings

The Vikings were not technically called, well, Vikings. The name stems from a verb in Old Norse that means ‘a pirate raid’. Scandanavians referred to the people who would raid as ‘going Viking’. The Scandanavians gained an affinity for ‘going Viking’ with time which is what eventually caused the change in the noun. They actually used to call themselves Norse, Norsemen, or Danes.

Not Actually Vikings

Not Actually Vikings

Their Helmets

Despite Hollywood’s portrayal of grizzly Vikings who wore bear pelts, held large shields, swords, and horned helmets, the Vikings didn’t actually look like that. There is no record of Vikings wearing horned helmets at all. The misconception may have begun with 19th-century painters who portrayed the Vikings with a horned cap as a derogatory feat. It stemmed from northern European descriptions of the Vikings by the ancient Greeks and Roman chroniclers.

Their Helmets

Their Helmets

Skull Cup

Despite their rather vicious reputation, the Vikings were raiders, invaders, and traders, but they did not drink out of skull caps. To further disprove the fact, the earliest record of any civilization drinking out of human remains was in fact by a Greek historian named Herodotus. In his book ‘Histories’, he named Scythians (Eurasian nomads) the ones who did drink out of skulls. While there may not be archeological evidence to prove this, there isn’t anything written in the books about Vikings taking part in this not-so-pleasant tradition. However, they did drink out bones, just not human bones – cattle horns. Maybe this is where the rumor began in the first place.

Skull Cup

Skull Cup

Honey Mead

As we’re already debunking myths, we can safely say that Vikings did not drink the blood of their enemies. They did, however, drink Mead. It is also known as the golden nectar of the gods or as metheglin. This drink was made of fermented honey, water, and occasionally yeast. They sometimes added spices and herbs like ginger, cloves, rosemary, hyssop, and thyme. The spices affected the drink as it had all kinds of variations to make it sweet, light, dry, rich, or bubbly. The Vikings definitely drank a whole lot of mead, and not just because of the fun side-effects, but because it had medicinal properties as well. Since they didn’t have the ability to make wine like the Greeks, they used the honey they had to make mead. Since honey is an antibiotic that tasted delicious, the nectar has blood-purifying properties, helping with digestion, and stimulating the immune system.

Honey Mead

Honey Mead

Proper Hygiene

Despite being known for rowing massive ships, farming, and sailing across seas, the Vikings had surprisingly good hygiene for their time. In excavations, tweezers, razors, combs, and ear cleaners were found made of animal bones as well as antlers. It also says on History.com that Vikings enjoyed dips in hot springs and they showered once a week. In any case, we figure it must have been difficult to build up a sweat in the cold climates of Iceland and Scandinavia.

Proper Hygiene

Proper Hygiene

Blonde Is Better

As it turns out, the most common natural hair colors of Vikings were brunette, red, or black. However, the ones born with blonde hair were seen as more attractive. Men and women alike used a soap with high quantities of lye so it would strip the color of their hair so it appeared more blonde. In addition, it was known that lightening the hair helped manage head lice, which turned out to be a little bonus.

Blonde Is Better

Blonde Is Better

Engraved teeth

There were some cultures where engraved teeth represented one’s status or it was simply a fashion statement. However, anthropologists haven’t figured out why the Norse had notched teeth. They were all filed evenly, with lines on the front of the teeth. They had found 24 male skulls with the same lines on their teeth. The practice could have been developed once they encountered West Africans who would file their teeth when they traveled to Spain and the Mediterranean according to National Geographic. The only difference being that the Africans filed their teeth into sharp points and not evenly. Just one other place in the world also filed their teeth evenly, and that was in the Great Lakes of America. It may have been a way to represent an ornamentation or achievement.

Engraved teeth

Engraved teeth

Excellent Navigators

Vikings were a force to be reckoned with both in and out of the water. Their ships were impeccably crafted and were some of the best ships in the world at the time. Not only that, but they were also excellent ocean navigators. No matter the conditions, they were able to navigate. If they didn’t have the sun or stars to guide them, they are believed to have used what is called a sun-shadow which helped them get to where they wanted to. Thanks to their amazing navigating skills, they were able to reach the rivers of Russia, Germany, and they even traded with Arab and Eastern countries.

Excellent Navigators

Excellent Navigators

Warrior Women

Turns out women were warriors as well. They may have been rare, but the Byzantine-era historian Johannes Skylitzes wrote on History.com that women did in fact fight alongside a group of Vikings in 971 AD in the battle against the Bulgarians. A 12th-century Danish historian spoke of female Vikings, describing them as “communities of warrior women as shieldmaidens who dressed like men and devoted themselves to learning swordplay and other warlike skills.” Almost all the information that we have about female Vikings comes from literature or nearby communities. There were multiple accounts of female warriors in the Viking raids who were known as Valkyries. In Norse mythology, they are warriors who raise the souls of the fallen warriors to Valhalla.

Warrior Women

Warrior Women

The Beginning Of Dublin

The Vikings actually established Dublin, just in a rather brutal manner. They created settlements in Iceland, Greenland, Normandy, and Newfoundland in Canada. In addition, they raided neighbors like Great Britain. Since they were there often, they began setting up posts. In the early 9th century, they invaded Irland and established a kingdom named Dyflin that eventually became the modern-day Dublin. It became a major trading post for a variety of goods, from fabrics, metals, weaponry to horses. The Vikings ruled over Dublin for 300 years and even melded with Celtic people.

The Beginning Of Dublin

The Beginning Of Dublin

Slave Trade

As one would expect, maintaining farmland or a household is a lot of work. For the Vikings, it would have been impossible without the labor of slaves. Or as they liked to call them, ‘thralls’. Human trafficking was one of the Vikings’ major economic trades, like the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. There were Vikings who became rich by abducting people from various settlements around Northern Europe. Normally they abducted women and young boys.

Slave Trade

Slave Trade

Survival Of The Fittest

According to History.com, the Vikings valued physical strength more than anything. In order to survive, they relied on good health to get them through battles and tending to their land. This priority was handed down to each generation. They needed to be self-sufficient with their lifestyle as it was so physically demanding. Because of this, if there was a child that was born sick or with defects, the Vikings would abandon them.

Survival Of The Fittest

Survival Of The Fittest

Expert Traders And Raiders

In the Viking lifestyle, trading was essential. They created many trails for trading routes and had more mobility than most groups of their day. This was mostly due to their excellent ship-building skills. It is actually believed that they were the first Europeans to reach North America. However, they just sailed for trade. The Vikings even got as far as Africa to get precious goods. Excavated Viking burial sites revealed dirhams (thin silver Arab coins from 750-950 AD)as well as Chinese silks and Persian jewelry, suggesting an expansive trading network, trading everything from slaves to furs and amber.

Expert Traders And Raiders

Expert Traders And Raiders

Justice Systems

The Vikings’ justice system was rather similar to ours. They had an oral culture without any written texts that established law and government. The free men gathered in their communities and created laws as well as decided cases in special meetings that were called a Thing. There was a Thing in each community. They had a plaintiff, a defendant, and a jury, just like our legal systems. For the most part, they were made up of a local and powerful family, or sometimes several families. When a malefactor was tried and found guilty, he would either be fined, declared semi-outlaw, or fully outlawed. This meant they were completely banished and were to receive no help from the community, and his property would be confiscated.

Justice Systems

Justice Systems

Women’s Rights

Compared to the Viking women in Iceland and Greenland, Viking Age Scandinavian women had much more freedom. They were able to own property, request a divorce and reclaim their dowries if their marriages didn’t work out. If their husbands died, they were expected to take over his previous roles as providers for their households. Through this, women were able to obtain economic opportunities that were rare for women in other parts of Europe. There were even women who were warriors, traders, and farmers.

Women's Rights

Women’s Rights

They (Probably) Discovered America

Compared to the Vikings, Columbus hadn’t discovered much. Leif Erikson had stumbles across the North American continent. He was the son of Erik the Red who was a legendary explorer. Leif is said to have been the first European who discovered North America accidentally when he was attempting to make his way to Greenland. He ended up reaching the shores of Vineland, known today as Newfoundland. There were rumors about its abundance of grapes and a lush landscape, but Lief did not hold any interest for the scenery. After taking one look at the new land, he turned around and set sail for home, returning to Greenland with his men.

They (Probably) Discovered America

They (Probably) Discovered America

Onion Soup

Battle and war came hand-in-hand with being a Viking. At times, when warriors would return home, they would typically be sporting some serious gashes and cuts. So, in order to determine whether a wound was fatal or not, women would whip up this soup made of onions, leeks, and herbs. Then they would ensure the men eat every last bite of it. Once they were done eating, the women would smell the open wound. There was a wive’s tale at the time: if the women were able to smell the soup in the wound, that meant the wound was fatal. If not, the women would take care of the wound for recovery.

Onion Soup

Onion Soup

Berserk

The Vikings were known to be savage in battle. So much so that the most gruesome warriors were known as berserkers. The name stemmed from the suggestion that the berserkers wore bearskins and were blessed by Odin himself, the god of war. These chosen warriors would get themselves to a state of intense frenzy and supposedly a supernatural power that they were able to bite the edge of their shield and ignore the pain. There are a couple of hypotheses to figure out what really happened: one reckoned it was simply adrenaline. The second suggested it could have been shrooms. There were rumors that Vikings would consume ‘magic mushrooms’ before a battle.

Berserk

Berserk

Their Body Structure

When people think of Vikings, they tend to have a certain image in mind: rippling muscles, leathers, and furs. Well, we’re here to tell you that was not the case. Vikings did not look like body-builders, the majority of them were lean and around 5’7″-5’9″. They dedicated most of their time to the wheat fields. Most of the Norsemen were farmers and carried a scythe. They maintained a balanced diet of grains, proteins, and greens. While some of them did pillage, not all of them did. As you recall, ‘Viking’ was an action and not a title. Those who didn’t partake in Viking would spend their lives as farmers.

Their Body Structure

Their Body Structure

Burials

Contrary to popular belief, the Vikings did not burn their deceased, they buried them in boats. Just the most honorable Vikings were buried with ships, as they loved their boats. Because of this, being buried with a boat in their time was the greatest honor. Just like the ancient Egyptians buried their honored in pyramids. Another similarity between the two traditions was the reason behind the extravagant burial. The Vikings, like the ancient Egyptians, believed that the ship would help the dead reach their final destination, much like the pyramids. Both men and women were able to receive this honor, and at times sacrificed slaves as well.

Burials

Burials

Bargained Marriages

Marriage is a ritual, whichever way you look at it. It doesn’t matter if the ritual includes a price for the bride and a dowry, it still is a binding contract, confirming the unity of two people to a single household. For the Vikings, it was no exception as women were expected to get married between the ages of 12-15, with their marriages arranged even before that. In the marriage arrangement, the groom’s family were to pay a price to the bride once the couple was married. The bride’s father paid a dowry. There was even a set agreement between the families should the couple divorce.

Bargained Marriages

Bargained Marriages

They Intermarried

Having invaded many countries during their three-hundred years in power, it makes sense the Vikings would mingle with a rather diverse crowd. They also established settlements. National Geographic has stated that some five-hundred years before Columbus had set sail to America, a Native American woman went to Europe along with the Vikings. This discovery was made by inspecting their DNA. Scientists have found that more than 80 living Icelanders have a genetic sequence that is also found in Native Americans. They are still working to identify if this was caused due to blending and intermarriages. It is confirmed that Norsemen intermarried with Celtic women in Ireland.

They Intermarried

They Intermarried

Not All Together

Vikings were somewhat similar to biker gangs. They traveled together, taking whatever they wished. In addition, they had no colony or country they belonged to, which meant they didn’t even recognize fellow Vikings. During their time, there were many countries that contained a wide variety of Vikings spread out through them. During the times they weren’t battling on foreign shores, they were picking fights with their neighbors. The Vikings were a rather aggressive bunch, and they only expanded to find newer and better resources. When they weren’t busy battling, they were settling in new grounds.

Not All Together

Not All Together

Avid Farmers

This might come as a bit of a surprise, but Vikings weren’t constantly battling and at war. Most of the Norsemen were simple farmers. Since they were constantly moving around and establishing settlements, they grew a lot of oats, wheat, and barley. They ground them to make flour, porridge, and ale. Aside from the grains, they also grew vegetables like onions, beans, and cabbages. To top it off, they raised livestock such as pigs, sheep, goats, cattle, chickens, and geese. They had a relatively domestic lifestyle. Farming was not as exciting as sea-faring, which is why Hollywood tends to mainly portray the more adventurous Vikings.

Avid Farmers

Avid Farmers

Starting Fires

While we may have many simple ways to start a fire naturally out in the wild, in the 19th century, they didn’t. Because of this, the Vikings used a fungus named Touchwood which was plate-shaped and grew by tree bark. They boiled the mushroom for several days in urine. Yes, we’re serious. They would then take the boiled fungus and pound it until its texture was like felt. The sodium nitrate in the urine would allow the fungus to smolder so the Vikings were able to take the fire with them wherever they went.

Starting Fires

Starting Fires

Skiing Vikings

Surprisingly enough, skiing was a favored pastime for the Vikings. There is some speculation that the Russians may have invented the sport even earlier. The BBC has reported that fragments of ski-like objects were discovered in 1960 that dated back to 6,000 BC in Northern Russia. The Vikings used skis for recreational purposes and competitive sports for the most part. In addition, it was an efficient way to get around. It got to the point where skiing was so popular that they worshiped a god of skiing named Ullr who was also a legendary archer, skater, and hunter.

Skiing Vikings

Skiing Vikings

House Mice

Vikings were one of the many civilizations that were responsible for spreading house mice all over the world. According to National Geographic, there was DNA research that indicated a genetic pattern that was found only in mice that originated from Norway, which pretty much confirmed the Vikings spread them as Norway was their home base. Another research discovered that cats were on board with the Vikings and also with them on land. It is believed that they were there to help reduce the mice population.

House Mice

House Mice

Valkyries

Women a rather rare to hear about when it comes to mythology. Other than Greek mythology, that is. However, there is one female presence that will strike fear in the heart of men and that is the Valkyries. They are powerful beings who are adorned with swan feather, shields, and chainmail who are Odin’s prized warriors. They were the ones who decided the fate of fallen warriors. Only the most fierce and brave would be allowed to enter Valhalla and meet Odin. The rest were sent to Freya’s field, Folkvang.

Valkyries

Valkyries

Navigating Through Stones

This used to be just a myth, but since then it has been proven to be true. Viking sunstones baffled experts since their discovery. The Smithsonian reports that not until 1967 did anyone figure out the mystery. That year, Danish archaeologist Thorhild Ramskou thought of the idea that chunks of crystal found in Scandinavia could have been used to aid the Vikings in navigating during gray, cloudy days, at sea. So, in 2011, experts decided to put it to the test. They used a common crystal named Iceland Spar which was a type of calcite that might have been used by Vikings when at sea. When they held the transparent crystal up to the sky and rotated it, “the crystal polarized and depolarized light in a certain pattern which could reveal the position of the sun.”

Navigating Through Stones

Navigating Through Stones

Cat Lovers

While dogs are great, cats were the perfect lap warmers in the harsh Greenland winters. They were kind of a big deal for Vikings. So much so that Freya, the fertility goddess, had a chariot pulled by two blue-gray cats. Aside from them being able to get rid of vermin, they made good companions. In the true spirit of things, the BBC has reported that Thor, the Norse god of thunder, attempted to prove his immense strength by lifting a mythical, giant, cat. However, he was only able to lift a single paw.

Cat Lovers

Cat Lovers

Painted Shields

We’re aware the Vikings had swords, but what were their shields like? Well, they used to paint them. And not with symbols of their loyalty or anything like what we would think. They painted the shield in any color, so long as the wood grain was properly hidden. Why, you ask? Because if their enemy were able to spot the weakest point to strike, you could be sure they would strike there first. Another thing that made their shield more special was its shield boss, otherwise known as sköldbucklawas. This was the metal center that they used to bash attackers.

Painted Shields

Painted Shields

One Room House

The typical Viking home was rectangular and contained just one large room. The open space would revolve around a central hearth where the cooking and spinning would be done. For the most part, women stayed home and took on the responsibility of keeping up the house and tending to the cattle. Not only that, but the women were also in charge of the dairy. These rectangular houses were discovered in Sweden, Newfoundland, York, and Dublin. Most of their homes were created with wood, stone, and turf.

One Room House

One Room House

Decent Food

What did the Norsemen eat other than onion soup and stew? Turns out not much else. However, they did have similar food choices to ours at times. For example, when working on the fields, the Norse men would eat some cottage cheese with a bread crust. They would also have a little bit of dried fruit like a plum or crabapple if they were lucky. They normally ate leftovers from dinner for breakfast the next morning, which was boiled lamb bones, grains, beans, peas, carrots, and turnips. And if they had a feast, they would serve various meats, cheeses, fish, and dried fruits drizzled in honey. Let’s put it this way: the average Norseman did not starve.

Decent Food

Decent Food

Makeup

If you watch the History Channel show, ‘Vikings’ you would remember seeing some characters donning face paint, both men and women alike. Turns out the Vikings wore some liner made out of crushed antimony, burned almonds, lead, oxidized copper, ash, and soft semi-precious stones. It wasn’t just for looks, the liner was used to protect their vision while out in the sun.

Makeup

Makeup

Ships Like Tanks

The Viking longship was one of the most progressive vessels of its time. It was able to hold 25-60 men. Some of them were said to be able to hold up to 100 men. The raiding crew sat on the top deck when sailing at 10 to 11 knots. The ships were adorned with intricately carved mastheads shaped as dragons as well as iron-clad bows. The dragon was made to strike fear into their enemies and intimidate anyone in the vicinity of the ship. Even the propped-up shields on both sides of the ship were used as an intimidation tactic.

Ships Like Tanks

Ships Like Tanks

Legendary Swords

The Vikings were known to be ruthless in a battle, capable of withstanding almost anything their enemies would put them through. Clearly, they had the right weapons to face their opponents. Most terrifying of all the weapons they carried were their swords. They had a variety of different kinds, but none other was more mighty than the Ufberht. It’s rumored to be made of metal so pure that its existence baffles archaeologists today. They were used between 800 and 1,000 AD and would have to be forged under 3,000-degree heat. This was an impossible temperature as it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution, some 800 years later, that humans were able to create such heat. Only the most skilled and elite of the Vikings were able to carry an Ufberht.

Legendary Swords

Legendary Swords

The Louvre

Back in 1190, the first king of France, Phillip II, commissioned the construction of a 100 ft. tower – complete with a moat – to keep out the Viking invaders. This structure was only built to keep Paris safe from invaders since it cost so much money to rid of the Vikings in years past. In the beginning, the Louvre was not made to house artworks.

The Louvre

The Louvre

Social Status

In Viking tribes, there were four levels in their society. Kings, Jarls, Karls, and Thralls. As you can guess, the King was the ruler and owner of the land. A Jarl was the highest nobleman under the King and was given territory by the King to rule. Most of the Viking population was made up of Karls. These were the free people farmers, traders, and builders who were able to own land as well. The Thralls were the slaves.

Social Status

Social Status

Wordsmiths

Some of the words we use today in the English language stem from Old Norse that the Vikings used. Words like ginger, skull, hell, ugly, weak, husband, wife, cake, freckles, and slaughter all come from the Norse language originally.

Wordsmiths

Wordsmiths

Board Games

As it turns out, Vikings were quite fond of board games. One game they played was called ‘Hnefatafl‘ and it was a strategy game played on a checkered board. The game incorporated figurines to represent two rival armies, similar to chess.

Board Games

Board Games

First Recorded Encounter

The first Viking encounter was recorded Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It described a Norweigan group of men arriving in England that were mistaken for merchants by a royal official. When the official requested they come to the king’s manor to pay trading taxes on their good, they murdered the official.

First Recorded Encounter

First Recorded Encounter

Sweden

There is a remote valley in Sweden where people still speak in Old Norse. Up until 100 years ago or so, they were still using runes as well. The language they use is called Elfdalian.

Sweden

Sweden

Rap Battles

Back in the fifth century, the Vikings actually began to have rap battles. Yes, you read that right. They called it Flyting at the time, but it essentially consisted of a poetic exchange of insults between two people. As time went on, this became a form of entertainment.

Rap Battles

Rap Battles

King Of England

Believe it or not, but a Viking actually became the King of England for five weeks. Crazy, right? His name was Sweyn Forkbeard, and in 1013, on Christmas day, he was declared the King of England after a Viking invasion took place. Just five weeks later, Sweyn died while still the King.

King Of England

King Of England

Yule

Before Christianity became an official religion, the Vikings had celebrated Yule, which is essentially a similar holiday. It began on December 21st, and they would brew their own beer and have celebrations. As time went on and Christianity became an official religion, they pushed the holiday to the 25th. In fact, at one point the King of Norway was so serious about Christmas beer that each household was required to brew some for the festivities. Whoever didn’t was fined or even had their property taken away.

Yule

Yule

Armed And Dangerous

In the Viking world, each man was required to carry weapons with him. For the most part, they carried swords, chainmail, and a helmet. However, they rarely actually used their swords. They used spears for the most part while in battle. Each man’s gear would reflect his social standing as well, so only the most wealthy would have all the weapons listed.

Armed And Dangerous

Armed And Dangerous

They Had Hobbies

Just like any other person, the Vikings had hobbies. They played a variety of sports, from wrestling to fist fighting and knife throwing. It’s not all that surprising that even their games had an aggressive edge to them.

They Had Hobbies

They Had Hobbies

They Were Bodyguards

In the Byzantine Empire, there was an imperial bodyguard named the Varangian Guard which was made up of mostly Vikings. Nowadays, the Byzantine Empire would be where Turkey is. Eventually, the Norsemen began to work as mercenaries for the Empire.

They Were Bodyguards

They Were Bodyguards

Raids

At one point, when Vikings raided Christian settlements, the invasions became extremely brutal. So much so that a lot of the monks and priests began to believe that the Vikings were sent by God to punish them for their sins.

Raids

Raids

Two Meals

Nowadays, the norm is to have three meals a day, right? Well, for the Vikings, they only had two meals every day. The first would be served an hour after rising, and the second meal was served in the evening, at the end of a working day.

Two Meals

Two Meals

Graffiti Runes

You would think that the runes carved on stones that were discovered must have serious meanings. Well, that would be incorrect. While there were some runes that held meaning, a lot of the runes discovered were, in fact, just the Viking’s form of graffiti. Things like “Ofram the son of Sigurd carved these runes” and “These runes were carved by the man most skilled in runes in the western ocean” were carved on many stones.

Graffiti Runes

Graffiti Runes

Bluetooth

You might not have noticed this before, but you’re probably using a Viking symbol in your day-to-day life. Since the rise of smartphones, to be exact. Around the year 958, there was a Viking king named Harald Bluetooth. He ruled over all the tribes in Denmark and even conquered parts of Norway. The man who developed the technology behind Bluetooth had been reading the book ‘The Long Ships’ while it was in development. The developer, Jim Kardach, decided to name his technology in honor of the Danish king. To make the logo, he combined the king’s initials, creating the famous logo we know today.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth

Unicorn Horns

It is said that at one point, a Viking traded a narwhal horn with a European trader. The catch? Well, the European traded believed the horn came from a unicorn. This is where the famous myth of unicorns’ spiral horn was born. Since the narwhal only lived in the far north, the Vikings were able to take advantage of the myth and sell the horns for incredible amounts of money. It got to the point where Europeans firmly believed that the horns held magical properties. By Medieval times, people believed that unicorn horns carved into cups would protect the one drinking from them, meaning they could never be poisoned. Not to mention, they thought the horn could also cure melancholia or depression.

Unicorn Horns

Unicorn Horns

Warrior Poets

This might sound slightly surprising, but aside from inventing rap battles, Vikings were warrior-poets. They believed that poetry was a gift from Odin himself. As a matter of fact, Old Norse Poems were the first to feature end rhymes.

Warrior Poets

Warrior Poets

Named By Vikings

Did you know that the name Russia actually stemmed from the Viking Norsemen? They traveled and traded through the Eastern European rivers. In fact, they were called “the mean who row”, or “Rus”. Later on, they are the ones who formed the Tsardom of Russia.

Named By Vikings

Named By Vikings

Greenland

Aside from discovering America before Columbus, the Vikings discovered southern Greenland centuries before the Inuit arrived. As the Inuit expanded south, they attacked the Norse settlements, contributing to the disappearance of Europeans from Greenland for hundreds of years.

Greenland

Greenland

Odin’s Ravens

It is known in Norse Mythology that the God Odin had two ravens. They were named Huginn (from the Old Norse word for “thought”) and Muninn (from the Old Norse word for “memory” or “mind”) and they would fly all over the world to collect information about all kinds of things for Odin. The two ravens are mentioned in the Poetic Edda as well as other stories that were written in the Viking Age.

Odin's Ravens

Odin’s Ravens

Drinking Horns

Nowadays, drinking from a horn would seem quite barbaric, but during the Viking Age, it was awfully convenient. Drinking horns are mentioned in two prominent Norse sources: the Poetic Edda and Beowulf. It’s written that mead was served in drinking horns.

Drinking Horns

Drinking Horns

Legally Killed

There was a complex social structure in Norse tribes. As we’ve said, there were several levels of people and their social status. In fact, kings were chosen as exceptionally strong leaders and fighters who had the ability to protect and defend their people. To resolve problems, the Norse would meet in assemblies, with the king having the final say. Those who had committed serious crimes officially had no protection, meaning that anyone could legally kill them.

Legally Killed

Legally Killed

Not Much Writing

Gathering information about the Vikings is a bit of a challenge since they never did much writing. This means that a large part of their own history will never be known as they never wrote it down. Most of what is known about Viking raids and customs source from the documentation of their enemies. Proper research on the Vikings didn’t begin until the 20th century.

Not Much Writing

Not Much Writing

Reindeer Hides

It has been said that Vikings sometimes used reindeer hides as battle armor. It isn’t certain if this was more efficient than chainmail, but one of the greatest chiefs in Hålogaland, Thorir Hund, had worn reindeer fur to battle. He claimed the fur he wore was enchanted and protected him from sword blows.

Reindeer Hides

Reindeer Hides

Joined Burial

In Viking tribes, when a wealthy landowner dies, his slaves would often be sacrificially killed and buried next to him. This practice is mentioned in Viking sagas and Arab chronicles. In addition, the bones showed that the slaves had a diet that was based heavily on fish, while their masters ate more meat and dairy products.

Joined Burial

Joined Burial

Fenrir Grayback

Named after the ferocious giant wolf in ancient Viking mythology, Fenrir Grayback is a werewolf in the famous Harry Potter books. In Viking mythology, Fenrir is said to be the son of Loki and the giantess Angrboða.

Fenrir Grayback

Fenrir Grayback

Boat Builders

Known for their impressive boat building skills, the Vikings were very much ahead of their time. They invented the keel – the central spine along the boat’s bottom – which made the boats easier to steer and more stable. Not to mention how it allows the boats to float high in the water, making a landing on beaches much easier. The boats they built were exceptionally long, hence the name “longboats”. This allowed them to travel a lot further than most vessels back then.

Boat Builders

Boat Builders

Swords

The most precious weapon the Vikings carried was their swords. They often named their swords things like “Widow-Maker” and “Corpse-Bramble”. The swords would be passed down in the family for the most part. The reason behind the importance of these weapons is that they were seriously expensive to make due to the intricate craftsmanship required for the job. Not all Vikings could actually afford to own a sword. They used a few different weapons, such as spears and long axes.

Swords

Swords

France Invasion

In March 845, Vikings invaded Paris with 120 ships containing over 5,000 men. They plundered the city and Parisians attempted to attack in two groups as retaliation. However, the French didn’t succeed, leading to the hanging of many of their men. Seeing they had the upper hand, the Vikings refused to leave until they were paid 5,670 lbs of gold and silver.

France Invasion

France Invasion

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