Vikings! The word conjures up image of wild, barbaric, sea faring men, intent on setting their mark on their less warlike neighbours with fire and sword. From the land of ice and giants, they swept across Europe like a forest fire raping, pillaging and destroying all in their path.The Vikings weren't only a bloodthirsty people.Let's look at some achievements of the Viking age.
The Vikings were nomadic people from an area with few areas of open water and certainly with no seaboard.Yet, within a few generations, they seem to have invented more or less from scratch a design of hull that became common throughout Europe for several centuries.Long,lean and above all flexible, the hulls were usually of oak planks that had been split from felled trunks. With axe and adze, the planks were trimmed to sharp then riveted together with iron nails.
It was soon found that this type of hull was very seaworthy and this aspect of the design was exaggerated to create the soaring curve that became such a characteristic of the shape of Northern vessels. With their sails and single mast, they could largely only sail down wind, but there is good evidence from ship replicas that they could sail across the wind at some extent. Oars were mostly used for times when the wind did not suit the purposes of the ship master and maneuvering in port. However, it was quite possible with a big crew to maintain a steady pace and to cross the North Sea under oars alone was particularly unusual for raiding ships. What is important to understand is that there were many types of ships; small rowing boats, trading vessels, great Drakkars (hundred feet long warship) and Karvs (a multi purpose ship), just to mention a few.
The mobility of the Vikings shallow draft vessels allowed the Vikings to travel far up the rivers which flow into the seas surrounding the European continent, with each specializing on their area.Below is a map of Viking travels:
The Vikingships were clinch-built. The ships used for travelling to distant shores were a result of a thousand years of experience in the Nordic area. Shipbuilders constructed lightweight and flexible vessels, pliant to the forces of sea and wind -- working with the element instead of against them. The basics in the Viking ships is to build it on a solid keel, which the Vikings did, and gained success with. The shell is also equally important. These are some of the most important "ingredients" in a ship which is supposed to cope with all kinds of weather. As the years have gone by, and the Viking period progressed , there were developed a great deal of ships, all suited for different tasks.
Ships were made for battle, for the sake of speed, for greater crew, commercial trading and cargo space. As the Vikingraids became fewer and the Vikings became Christians, the urge to plunder disappeared, around the year 1000.Both the Oseberg and the Gokstad graves were plundered by grave-robbers, so the jewelry and luxurious weapons were not excavated. Articles of wood, leather, and textiles have survived.
Eating and drinkingThe Vikings ate a wide range of foodstuffs. Beef, mutton pork and venison were common meats to the Vikings. A heavy bread made from barley flour was common, but there is evidence that at least some people had wheat bread available to them.
HousingTheir houses were constructed of wood/or stone. The roofs were thatched, turfed or covered in slates or shingles, depending on available local resources.
The Vikings were a proud, honourable, law-abiding people who valued warfare and personal reputation (they called it "word fame" ) above almost anything else. In the latter years of the Viking Age, they became involved in their own myth, starting such organisations as the Jhomsvikings.
At seaThey brought the seafaring ship to Europe and, by their constant depredations, spread its use far and wide. In only 250 years, they set their mark on the law and language of many countries and made many European communities see themselves in the light of a nation state for the first time.In terms of human history, if you blinked, you would have missed them! But the image the Vikings as the brave, hardy individualist, unafraid of the world in all its forms, remains with us all an example of how a man should conduct himself in adversity.