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Article - 'Viking Society 2' by Angroth

An item about Miscellanious posted on Apr 14, 2004

Blurb

The concluding article to the Viking society.

Body

General Health
Just how did the Vikings keep clean?

The Stream Baths – There would be bath houses, a building with stone floor. This building had a drain and would have a fire in the middle of the room. The fire would heat the stones and before long water would be thrown upon them (when they are red hot). This would cause hot steam to rise that would make you sweat. The Vikings would sit down and absorb the heat, this would open their pores, basically cleaning them.

Washing – For a quick wash Vikings would have a bowl of water, the first man would rinse his hair, beard and face. The man would then blow his nose, cleaning out anything inside it into the bowl. After this, it would be passed to the next man who would then too, wash his face and blow his nose. The same bowl would go around the whole room to however many men there were.

Illness – Vikings who became ill were taken away and put in a small tent with water and bread. They would be ignored by everyone else, this was to stop infection. When the ill person regained their health they would come back and rejoin, if they died they would be burned in the tent. Slaves were not considered worth burning, if they died they would be left there for wild creatures and vultures to eat them.

Food
Fishing and hunting were not merely sports for the Vikings as this was how they had to get their food. A Vikings diet would comprise of all kinds of meat and fish not to mention fruits and berries. Examples of there diet are show below:
Meat: cows, pigs, goats and sheep.
Fish: salmon, seal and whales.
Fruits & Berries: apples, strawberries, nuts and blackberries.
Hopefully you get a picture of the reasonably varied diet of the Vikings.

Families had to keep their own animals and kill them when they were going to eat them (you couldn’t get attached to your animals). They also had to grow their own food, and pick wild foods from nearby areas, such as forests.

The women were expected to prepare the food. They would have to learn from a very early age skills from gutting fish to making bread. Vikings had knives to cut their food but would usually eat with their bare hands (although they had spoons for certain kinds of food).

Clothing
The Vikings had to endure tough weather, townsfolk, farmers and merchants alike all had to have warm clothing to battle this. The clothes would be made of wool from the sheep. There was higher quality imported wool available but it was often expensive and not everyone could afford it. Women would be the ones making the clothing and sometimes making clothes from the wool could take a very long time too.
For clothes that kept the Vikings really warm, they would often use animal furs. Also, they had waterproof clothing, which could be made from animal skins.

Women would wear a long linen robe (down to their feet) with short, wide sleeves. On top of that she would wear an apron that can be fastened by straps with large oval shaped brooches. Finally, over that she would wear a woollen shawl (cloak) that would be pinned by another brooch at the base of her neck.

The men wore long leggings which were sometimes banded near the shins to keep it tight and not obstruct them. They would also wear tunics (shirts without buttons) and it would be warn under their belt. In winter, both men and women wore fur cloaks but it always had to be pinned so that your sword arm was uncovered and you were ready for battle at anytime.

Washing clothing was quite different for the Vikings. They had no source of soap so they had to wash their clothing in something else… They had to use cow’s urine because it contained ammonia, which was a good cleaning agent. However sometimes they might just wash their clothes in a nearby river.

Crafts
Everything the Vikings used were homemade. They had to know how to use their hands to craft all of these tools and objects. The men would know how to chop trees, cut it up and make gates, fences, furniture, tools and carts. If you were isolated you had to know these skills to survive but if you lived close to other smiths or crafters it would be possible to get them to help you out. Some men would simply choose the life as a craftsman, making and selling weapons and tools rather than living a more risky life like most other Vikings.

Blacksmiths would make weaponry from iron (Viking’s metal resource), they had to heat it to immense temperatures and hammer it. Only skilled blacksmiths could make weapons that would not bend, he would heat iron rods until their surface turned to steel and then twist the rods together to interlink the steel and iron together. Well crafted blades would be well decorated at the hilt and possibly contain carved patterns.

Crafters would also use bone. They could carve the bone to a comb (for their hair) or to ornaments or decorative pieces for armour and weapons.

Ship Building
Sailing was part of the daily life of a Viking, and all Vikings longed to have a good boat. They are known to have strong, fast boats that can withstand powerful crashing waves and shallow enough to carry them down inland rivers.

To get a good boat Vikings had to seek professional shipbuilders. They would likely build a ship made of pine or birch wood. Nonetheless the keel of the boat was always to be made of oak, which gave it the great strength they had.

Travelling
Vikings sometimes had to make long journeys. This meant they all had to be able to handle a boat, cart and sledge. The men would often leave home for long journeys and if they were lucky they would come back with goods, sometimes bought but sometimes stolen. It was a possibility that they would have to leave their homeland, if a man’s father died and he owned a farm, it would be passed down to the eldest son. This meant that the other sons would have to leave and search for new farmland. Fortunately if they had quite a bit of money, they could buy a farm nearby.

Vikings sailed from Norway to Iceland, from there more Vikings went to Greenland. After this they went to Vinland. Vikings sailed west sometimes looking for a better life. If they sailed west, they would have to take all of their tools, clothes, animals and hopefully some slaves with them. If they left by horse, they would need a cart to take their goods. They were many roads, bridges and fords to cross. They would often have standing stones (a few stones erected into the ground) to mark the crossing point of fords.