Vikings are an awesome bunch from the aeons of history and there is plenty to be learnt about them and from them. Here are five interesting pieces of information about the Norsemen.
If you play role playing games the skill of berserker will be known well to you, if not maybe less so. But as I’m sure you’ve guessed the term is Viking in origin.
It is actually taken from a Viking tribe named ‘Berserkers’, who were famed for their frantic and irrepressible fighting style. These guys were crazy and would fight without armour. Historical accounts refer to them as being like mad-dogs and wolves in a scrap.
2. Fire Starter
When it came to starting fires the Vikings were somewhat avant-garde in their lighting methods. They used urine.
It sounds crazy but it was actually very sensible. They would boil a fungus from the bark of oak and beech trees in their urine for days. The result was a fungus that would smoulder rather than burn due to the sodium nitrite it had absorbed from the urine. This meant fire could be transported easily and safely.
3. Carbon Swords
Being kick-ass warriors the Vikings had particularly effective swords or ‘sverds’. They were a potent mixture of iron, steel and, yup you guessed it, carbon. It is speculated that they were the first to use carbon in the sword creating process.
But how? Well remarkably the process involved duck poop. They would feed their web-footed friends iron fillings and collect them as they exited the other end. In the digestive process the iron would become laced with carbon. These would then be mixed into the sword make up. The result super strong, super reliable, super sverds!
4. Clean Living
When excavating Viking settlements the most common artefacts that are recovered are for personal grooming. These include tweezers, combs and razors all delicately made from bones and creature antlers.
They also used soap and dyed their locks to get that blonde look. And contrary to the native Anglo-Saxons they would bathe at least once a week!
Regarding the image of the Vikings there are two popular misconceptions. One regards their drinkware, the other their headwear.
Vikings are often depicted drinking from human skulls. This isn’t the case. They tended to drink out of hollow curved horns. There may also have been confusion between the word ‘skal’ which is norse for drinking cup and the word ‘skull’.
The second error surrounds their horned helms. If they had horned helms at all which is debatable they would have been ceremonious. In battle they wore conical helms, not a horned helmet in sight.
Want to learn even more about vikings? Check out The Vikings: Revised Edition from Amazon. “This encyclopedic study brings together wide-ranging research on Viking art, burial customs, class divisions, jewelry, kingship, poetry, and family life.”
Thomas Jane, when not pretending to be a Viking with his battle re-enactment group researches the very best novelty products for the online gift company Find Me A Gift.