What is the most common image that will pop up in your mind whenever you hear “Viking”? Wild men with beard howling and wielding their axe to behead the enemies? Giant men plundering, looting, raping, and leaving nothing but pain wherever they went? It’s the Vikings reconstructed by the media, in fact. The real and historical Vikings were not similar to what the media wants the audience to see. Below are 10 things about the Viking Age you should know.
The Vikings were extremely hygiene in their time
What an insult to depict the Vikings as the dirty men and women in ripped clothes. The truth was that the Vikings were not filthy for they always cared about their appearance. We have both archaeological and literal evidence attesting to this aspect.
In many Viking graves, what the archaeologists commonly found are combs and razors. The Vikings had a tradition of burying the personal daily items of the deceased with them. This suggested the Vikings had a habit of shaving and combing their hair. In some literal accounts by those who lived among the Vikings (these writers were the foreigners), they were astonished because the Vikings bathed too many times per week. In the past, bathing was not common a habit. During the time of Christianization, people did not bathe. Because they believed that bathing was a refusal to divinity. But the Vikings bathed many times a week. This tradition came to an end when the Vikings got Christianized.
The Vikings didn’t wear horned helmet in battle
Horned helmet is awesome. But it is not historical. According to the scholars, the image of Vikings with horned helmet was the result of the 19th artwork. The historical Vikings wore a very simple helmet. Theirs were just the bowl-shaped helmet, sometimes with nose guard.
It is true that horned helmet on the stage is an awesome idea. But a horned helmet in the real battle where life and death were one thread? It is not a good idea.
But whether the Viking horned helmet in their traditional ritual was historical or not remains to be seen. Because in the Oseberg tapestry, the archaeologists found out they were depicting a ritual with the leading man wearing a horned helmet.
Viking Age didn’t begin on 8th June 793
If you google “when did the Viking Age start”, you are likely to get the answer of 8th June 793. But it is just not true. Because the Viking Age started earlier prior to that famous date.
On 8th June 793, the Vikings carried out their famous, not to say notorious, raid on the monastery on Lindisfarne. This haboured into the Europeans the fear of Vikings. Some scholars believed that this raid was a counter-attack to the conspiracy to Christianize the Vikings by Charlemagne “Father of Europe”. It suggested that the Viking Age began prior to the attack on Lindisfarne. The attack was just the stepping stone of the Vikings to conquer parts of Europe.
The majority of the Vikings were farmers
Some people might find this disappointing. But most of the Vikings were the farmers who led a peaceful life of building home and rising barley. Indeed, some of them took up the life of raiding and plundering. But that did not cover a large part.
Women in Viking Age enjoyed basic rights
It was a common knowledge in the past that the women were the ribs of the men. But in the Viking community, women enjoyed some basic rights. For example, the Viking women could divorce if they were not happy with their marriage. But the practice of Viking divorce should be taken into careful consideration. Because it might affect both of the families in financial terms.
But the Viking women did enjoy more freedom compared with other women in their time. They could own property like land. They could also achieve a high social rank if they could prove themselves. The archaeologists found out a luxrious grave of the Viking women. When the excavation was over, the archaeologists agreed that they could not compare that burial with any Viking burial. Because none could rival its luxury.