10 of the lesser known facts about the Vikings


Viking-Warrior (1)

There are a lot of stereotypes circulating about the Vikings and their habits and traits. A lot of the things said about them are wrong and in many cases overexaggerated or missinterpreted. Here are 10 interesting facts about the Vikings that you probably didn’t know.

1. Vikings didn’t use horned helmets during battle.

The typical Viking warrior costume in every Viking depiction implements a horned helmet. This is actually not true. Viking definitely used to wear helmets, although not horned ones. Depictions that come from their time don’t  show any helmets like this. Also, the only authentic Viking helmet that was found was without any horns. The idea of them wearing helmets like this was probably born among painters in the 19-th century, who were inspired by the descriptions of ancient Greek and Roman chroniclers. The only truth is that long before the Vikings appeared, Norse and Germanic priests used to wear horned helmets but only for certain rituals.

2. Vikings used to take great care for their body hygiene.

Yes, in the movies you always see them greasy, dirty, and messy, with blood stains all over them, but again, this is not exactly true. When Vikings weren’t working, sailing or fighting, they used to devote their time on personal hygiene and making themselves look good.  Archeological digs on Viking settlement locations have showed up a lot of tweezers, razors, combs and ear cleaners made from animal bones and antlers. Archeologists are certain that they bathed at least once a week (more than some other Europeans from that time) and also enjoyed the natural hot springs very often.

3. Vikings were capable of sustaining and carrying fire.

The used to collect decayed wood (touchwood) and boil it for several days in urine. After the boiling process was over, the pounded this material into something similar to felt. The Vikings realized that urine – the sodium nitrate found in urine, causes the tinder to smolder and not to burn. This way they could carry fire with them for later usage, even on their boats.

4. Vikings buried their dead in boats.

Boats were a major part of the Viking culture. Boats  were an integral part of their lives and defined them as people. They were even laid for their final rest on their boats. It was considered a great honor to be buried on your ship and be taken in the afterlife on it. The vessel that served the warrior well during his life will serve him one more time for one last journey. Vikings were sent on their journey to the afterlife surrounded by their weapons, valuable goods, and sometimes even with sacrificed slaves.

5. The Vikings were slave traders.

Many Vikings earned their status and profit by getting involved in human trafficking. During their raids, they used to capture and enslave young men and women. Most of the people that they enslaved were taken from  Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, and Slavic settlements. The slaves, or “thralls”, as they used to call them, were sold on the slave markets in Europe and on the Middle East as well.