About one millennium ago, the Vikings lived in their glory. Like many ancient empires, they formed, flourished, and died. For their great achievements both onshore and offshore, the Viking Age is worth studying. But the modern work seems to over-exaggerate or depict the Viking Age to the will of the authors. Continuing the previous part, here is the list of five more things about Viking Age that you should know.
The Vikings were both excellent shipbuilders and fortbuilders
Without the aesthetic ships, the Viking Age would not have been so remarkable. We often view the Viking journey as a group of men travelling planks of wood and a piece of fabric. But the story stretched beyond what we think. How to maintain the ship on the sea, how to cross the Atlantic when your technology was couple of ravens and a stone as a compass, how to know where the crew was when surrounding was just sea, etc. To build a ship required a great deal of effort and skills. To voyage required even more.
Archaeological evidence also suggests that the Vikings were the great fort-builders. By far, we have found out 7 Viking forts. The archaeologists agree that the Viking trelleborg or the Viking ring fort was not invented by the Vikings. Rather, they learnt it from local people living on their plundering sites. But the archaeologists failed to find out any similar fort that was as perfect and geometrically precise as those of the Vikings.
Many of Viking forts were erected during the reign of Danish King Harald Bluetooth Gormsson. The historians believed that the Danes lost Danevirke and southern part of Jutland to the hand of Saxons. Accordingly, King Harald ordered to build this complex of forts.
The Vikings, after all, were much greater than just savage men with axe and killings.
The Viking husband could kill his wife’s fella if he found out their adultery
Viking tale had it that the Viking husband could kill the fella of his wife on the bed without paying anything for the victim’s family.
Things about Viking Age that you might miss out can be the Viking Althing where people would gather to solve dispute. One interesting case was about the adultery. If the Viking husband happened to find out his wife sleeping with the other man, he could kill the fella on the spot.
After the killing, if he could bring the bloody bed sheets to Althing, he could get rid of his murderous deed. For this, many people think that the man paid a price: his wife. So he lost his wife to the hand of another man and he killed that man and could prove their adultery with the bloody sheet. But in case he failed to bring the bloody bed sheets with him, he had to pay the victim’s family a sum of money. The dispute between him and his wife remained their own business if they did not want to bring it to Althing.
Viking burial ritual in ship and they sometimes burnt their longhouse
The Vikings lived with their ship and wanted to die in their ship. Indeed, they must have been so grateful for the powerful ships that the ship burial became their tradition. The Vikings often buried the dead inside the ship. They used the ships and now they towed them onshore and dedicated them to the deceased. But not all Vikings could afford a ship burial for themselves. Most of them got the cremation and were buried in a ship-shaped grave. Only the wealthy and noble could afford themselves a ship burial. Some interesting Viking ship burials that archaeologists have excavated are: Oseberg ship, Gokstad ship, BJ581 in Birka, etc.
One more interesting ritual was their cremation of longhouse. The Vikings believed that the longhouse was similar to the human’s life. They were born (constructed), grew up, and they had to die. So the archaeologists sometimes found out that a Viking grave in the site of the longhouse cremation.
Some Vikings deliberately converted themselves into Christians
Some view the time of Christianization during the Viking Age as the Ragnarok in reality. For the pagans lost their dominance to the hand of a new power. But this is among the things about Viking Age that you are yet to know: some Vikings intentionally converted themselves into Christians whether temporary or permanently.
Quickly the Vikings realized they could make more fortune through trade than through raid. They did many things to facilitate their business including becoming a temporary Christians. Because during this time, the Christians only did business with their Christian fellow. Christianity was monotheism so their religious tolerance was none. The Christians did not want to trade with pagans. Accordingly, the Vikings who were pagans had to disguising themselves as the follower of God. For the Viking religion was polytheism where they worshipped many gods, temporarily Christianizing themselves to make some money was not a big deal.
The Vikings also converted themselves into Christians to avoid wars. The Christians did not fight one another. Learning this, some Viking kings decided to get the baptism ritual, abandoning their pagan belief and Norse pantheon, to protect the kingdom.
The Vikings were the first to discover North America
About half a millennium before the famous Columbus discovery, the Vikings settled down in North America.
According to the Viking Vinland Saga, Leif Eriksson was the first Viking to set foot on North America. Some source said that he heard about this new land from one of his friend. Leif’s friend spotted North America from a far but he did not sail his ship toward the land. When the news reached Leif, he formed his crew and travelled there. Another source told that on his voyage back to Greenland, the ship of Leif Eriksson was blown off course only to land in North America. Because of this, people call him Leif the Lucky.
He called this newly discovered land Vinland. Because he saw many grapes growing up on this region. So grapes could produce wine which the Vikings very loved. And then they had the “Wineland” and later “Vinland”.
Leif Eriksson was the son of Erik the Red who was the discoverer of Greenland. Erik who had been living in Iceland sailed his ship to a mysterious land. He became the first Norseman to land on this land which he quickly realized. Erik turned back to Iceland and called for people to travel there with him. He called this new land “Greenland” to impress people with its fertility. Many agreed to travel with him but only few made it to the end. Because this newly-discovered land turned out to be full of snow and ice. “Greenland” was just a trick by Erik the Red.