History with Phil: the Vikings weren’t the ones who thought they were | Local news
The Vikings have been described as warmongers with long, bearded hair, suggesting they were dirty, smelly, and careless people. In fact, the Vikings cared a lot about their personal hygiene. Artifacts, such as combs and razors, have been unearthed in many former Viking settlements.
The Vikings had a unique method of lighting fires. They collected the wood touch fungus from the bark of the trees and boiled it for several days in human urine. They then hammered the bark soaked in a felt-like substance that could easily be carried.
The Vikings had discovered that sodium nitrate in urine allows material to smolder, not just to burn. This allowed them to cover great distances and easily be able to light new fires when needed.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Vikings is that they wore horned helmets in battle. No artifacts have ever been discovered to suggest their helmets had horns. The myth of horned helmets originated in the Victorian era in order to make the Vikings look as savage as possible.
Did you know that some of our days of the week come from the Norse gods? For example, the god Odin, also known as Woden, is now Wednesday, which literally means “day of Woden”. Tuesday and Friday are named after Tire and Frigg, the god and goddess of war and marriage. Thursday’s name comes from Thor, the god of lightning and thunder.
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Even though the Vikings are known to be fierce warriors and ruthless raiders, they actually spent much more time cultivating and tending to settlements than raiding distressing victims.
The Vikings had a legal system to resolve disputes or crimes, known as “Althing”, translated as “The Thing”. When The Thing took place, a speaker overheard arguments from people. An attempt was then made to settle these disputes by peaceful means, often with the help of an objective third party (much like our legal system today). If a peaceful decision was not possible, then justice was delivered in a violent manner.
The Vikings have been described as giant, muscular men capable of killing enemies with a single blow of an ax. But that was not the case. The men were generally 5 feet 7 inches tall and were thinner than they were beefy.
Since the Vikings were seafarers, it is no surprise that prominent figures were buried in small ships so that they could cross to reach Valhalla. The ships also contained provisions necessary for the afterlife. Sometimes slaves were sacrificed and put on the boat to serve their master in the afterlife.
During the heyday of the Vikings, Norway, Denmark and Sweden formed a large region with tribes ruled by chieftains who frequently waged war against each other. These disparate tribes rarely raided together as they weren’t very fond of sharing loot with each other.
Long before Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, the Vikings were the first Europeans to set foot in North America. Lief Eriksson established the first European colony in Greenland. In addition, artefacts unearthed in Newfoundland prove that the Vikings made it to Canada.
The Vikings had their own version of Heaven and Hell. Valhalla was reserved for warriors who fought and died bravely in battle. Helgafjell was a place for people who lived admirable lives. Hellheim was the destination of dishonorable people who would not die well (this even included death of old age).