Surprising Facts About the Vikings

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Surprising Facts About the Vikings

 

Much of the understanding and information we have of the Vikings emerged during the 18th and 19th centuries when a lot of people were greatly fascinated about their culture. Upon hearing the word “Viking,” many of us think of fierce, seafaring warriors with horned helmets. These Norsemen came from the rugged coasts of Scandinavian Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. They reigned in these places for over 300 years, which is known as the Viking Age. Their reputation in history is quite bloody.

Vikings attacked defenseless villages in Western Europe and the British Isles armed with weapons to rape and murder people. They initiated bloody raids against Christian monasteries, peaceful villages, and settlements. They struck fear into the hearts of their potential victims. However, there are still a lot of things that we don’t know about the Vikings.

 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

Vikings Didn’t Wear Horned Helmets

Back in the 1800s, Scandinavian artists created imagery of Vikings wearing horned helmets. This was inspired by descriptions of northern Europeans by ancient Greek and Roman chroniclers. Since then, movies, books, and television shows have portrayed them as horn-wearers. But the truth is, Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets. Depictions coming from the Viking Age showed that they were horn-free. 

 

Photo Credit: paologhedini via Pixabay

 

They Used Urine to Start Fires

Vikings didn’t have lighters or any tool to start a fire. Thus, they would collect a tree fungus called touchwood, which they would boil for several days in their own urine. After that, they would pound the mixture into a felt-like substance. It was easily combustible since urine contained sodium nitrate, allowing the material to smolder rather than burn. 

 

Photo Credit: Ancient Pages

 

Vikings Buried Their Dead in Boats

Vikings deeply loved their boats, as these allowed them to traverse rivers, fjords, and coastal waters. These boats also had a special purpose: to bury the dead. According to History, an online site that features everything related to history, Vikings believed that these vessels would help the dead to reach their final destinations. Most of the time, prominent raiders and women were buried there, surrounded by weapons, valuable goods, and sometimes even sacrificed slaves.

 

Photo Credit: Steemit

 

They Were Hygienic

Usually, Vikings were portrayed as messy and untidy raiders. However, excavations of Viking sites showed tweezers, razors, combs, and ear cleaners made from animal bones and antlers. This means that they valued personal hygiene. History on the Net, an online site that aims to provide historical information that is simple for viewers of all ages to navigate, said that historians also believe that the typical Viking citizen bathed at least once a week. This was more than other Europeans during that time. They also enjoyed dipping in natural hot springs.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

 

Viking Society Had Three Social Classes

Vikings were also divided into three social classes: jarls, karls, and thralls. Jarls consisted of wealthy landowners and merchants. They were considered the upper class back then with connections to the king. They also had a large workforce under their control. Karls had the largest population of the three classes, consisting of free farmers and builders who could own land and build property. Lastly, the slaves belonged to thralls. They were usually captured in raids or bought in slave markets in the Middle East or Europe. Although they were treated well, they had no rights. 

 

Photo Credit: Ranker

 

Bleached Blonde Hair Was Their Beauty Standard

Vikings would use a strong soap with a high lye content to bleach their hair. They do this to satisfy their culture’s beauty ideals. Historians believe that aside from fitting in with the crowd, the bleached hair would also help keep lice away.

 

Photo Credit: History

 

Women Had Extensive Rights in Viking Culture

Nordic societies were male-dominated. However, women also enjoyed relative freedom. They could inherit property and manage the land they inherited, go on exploratory journeys with men, manage family finances, and even request divorces. According to Ranker, an online site that features polls on entertainment, brands, sports, and culture, violence against women was strictly forbidden during the Viking Age. However, women weren’t allowed to fight or carry weapons. 

 

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