The Vikings existed during an age that is now commonly known as ‘the Viking age.’ This was a period between roughly 790 AD until 1130 AD before most of Europe had entered the feudal system in which kings and noblemen ruled sectors of land enforced by regional laws. During one day particular day of archeological research, they came across something massive buried deep underground and the discovery sparked a debate as to what it could be. When researchers eventually did find out what the object was, they were quite surprised! Let’s find out what amazed them so much about this blurry black and white image.
An Unassuming Town
Vikings are known for being fierce fighters and early conquerors. But recent discoveries have shown that they’re not necessarily the bloodthirsty vagabonds history has depicted them as.
A recent discovery in Norway has changed the way archeologists understand their culture and their society. Earlier this year, in a small rural town in Norway called Viksletta, plows could be seen on a local farm, but they weren’t plowing the land – they were there for an entirely different reason…
Scanning In Progress
The small tractors had been fitted with state of the art radar scanning devices. While they look a lot like modern plowing devices, the truth was that they were, in fact, searching for ancient buried artifacts.
The devices had been set up by a group known as NIKU or the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research and were tasked with uncovering remnants of their ancestors. More specifically though, the archeology team was on the hunt for anything related to the Vikings.
A Viking Hotspot
The reason why the researchers had decided to start combing this rural area for lost ancient artifacts was simple. In the past, residents of the area and researchers alike had discovered a trove of ancient Viking artifacts in the area that pointed to an ancient settlement.
Having used traditional searching methods for a long time, the researchers believed that they had discovered everything they could in the area. However, residents and archeologists urged them to continue the search – but with radar scanning technology instead.
The Scan Sight
The scan sight, in particular, was situated just off Highway 118 in southwestern Norway. The land that they were searching on was private property, but the owner himself had expressed a desire to find out more about the history of the area as well.
With his allowance and the support of NIKU, the investigation team went to work every day continuing their search. After a while of combing the area, they realized that they truly had been in a hotspot for ancient discoveries.
A Hi-Tech Approach
In the past, researchers had relied mainly on traditional search methods to discover ancient artifacts. This meant combing the ground carefully to find any objects or clues that may have lined the surface of the ground.
However, they had realized that this was a limited approach. To increase their chances of making discoveries, they began using a hi-tech radar scanning system. This would send sound waves deep underground and could then be returned back to the device to help map out large objects buried deep underground.
A Mysterious Discovery
Soon after they had implemented the radar scanning technology in their search process, the researchers came across something eye-catching! Situated just off highway 118, the researchers noticed what seemed to be a large, oval-shaped object buried deep underground.
There were no signs or indications of the object on the surface of the ground, and without the radar technology, they never would have even known it was there! As they studied the sonar image, they slowly started to realize what it was…
Before we decipher what the discovery was, it helps to know a little more about the Vikings. The Vikings were an ancient group of people that inhabited most of Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden, and Norway) from around 790 AD until 1130 AD.
The Vikings were, in essence, a mix of rural tribes that banded together to form a loosely woven society which later developed into something much more. The term ‘Viking’ was actually used as a verb to describe the act of raiding/pillaging – something the Vikings were known for.
When we think of the Vikings, we conjure up images of dirty barbarians who did nothing but pillage and plunder everyone and everything in their path.
And while this may be true to some extent, the fact is that the more discoveries we make in recent times, the more we realize about how their society actually was. The Vikings were indeed fierce warriors, but they didn’t rely purely on pillaging and ‘Viking’ to survive – they were quite a dynamic people in actuality.
The Quiet Life
Contrary to popular belief or extended mythology, the Vikings were actually a rural society through and through. They often set up fixed villages and did not live in mobile camps permanently – this was only during periods of conquest or during battle.
As an early agricultural society, they had fixed beliefs, rules, and principles that guided their decisions as a people and helped to govern their society. They set up farms, built homes, and even had town halls!
That being said, when the Vikings did go to war or on a raid, they opened their ranks to nearly everyone in the village. So long as you were able and well, you could join in the glorious battle and claim your own stake of land, riches or rewards.
The Vikings were also open to the idea of having women fight among their ranks and would frequently allow female soldiers into their raiding parties. While most preferred to stay home, those who dared were welcome!
When the Vikings stepped onto the battlefield, they always knew how to organize their ranks and ensure that everyone knew the role that they would play in the ensuing conflict.
They would specially reserve rows in the front of their vanguards for larger, more experienced fighters called ‘beserkers’. These fighters would often get into a trance-like state through the use of alcohol or drugs and then violently charge ahead of the main assault. They were feared for being ruthless and brutal.
A Structured Society
The image of the Vikings as a group of bloodthirsty barbarians is ultimately a romanticized notion of them. They did indeed do some pretty barbaric things, but it’s important to remember that these were violent and primitive times – every culture was guilty of committing some pretty ugly atrocities.
But Vikings are also known to have had an ordered society, with three classes. Thralls were slaves, Karls were farmers, Jarls were chieftains, and they even had Kings and Queens – quite civilized indeed!
As most of know, the world can still be quite unfair to women. So we can only imagine how bad life must been for them in the ancient days, right? Well, that’s not entirely true for the Vikings.
While they might have been barbarians in many regards, they were quite progressive as a society when it came to the rights of women. Women were allowed to own land and could become the head of a household without shame or scorn. They led largely free lives.
While the most commonly accepted theory about America’s Discovery is that Christopher Columbus was the first European settler to find the continent. However, looking further back into history, we’ll see that it was not actually Columbus who technically got there first, but the Vikings!
Technically speaking, a Viking explorer named Leif Ericsson originally landed on Canadian shores roughly 500 years before Columbus did – making the Vikings the first from Europe to really discover the continent. They named it Vinland upon their arrival.
The Vikings were a race known for their impressive metalwork and skilled craftsmanship. They had refined their knowledge of metalwork and the use of precious metals over many years and had gained insights and experience from many of the towns, villages, or cultures that they plundered over the way.
Discoveries of ancient tools like hammers, axes, and even pliers prove that the Vikings knew how to craft strong, practical, and effective tools with metalwork so good that it would last until hundreds of years later.
Most of us think of Vikings, and indeed most ancient people, as being filthy. This may well have been true for a majority of lower class citizens in other cultures, but not for the Vikings.
The Vikings were very meticulous about their hygiene and the rules applied to every class. What we now refer to as ‘Saturday’ used to be called Laugardagur which literally meant ‘bath day.’ Everyone was required to bathe and evidence of tools like combs, razors, and brushes indicates that they even groomed themselves.
While many depictions of the early Vikings show them as being blonde in idealized representations, the truth is that the Vikings were not naturally blonde.
In most cases, they would have light brown or darker brown hair and would regularly bleach or dye their hair in order to establish their unique sense of identity. This became a common practice in their culture and was soon noted as one of the features that people would often remember most about them.
The Creative Edge
When we think of classical art, we think of Rome, Greece, and France as being the homes of all major artworks of the era. However, a little-known fact about the Vikings is that they were also highly skilled artists and creatives.
While much of their paintings or ancient illustrations are not the first thing that come to mind when considering pre-renaissance art, many of their works have been maintained over history and are in fact, quite beautiful.
Surprisingly enough, the Vikings also had really great taste in fashion! When we think of ‘the barbarian hordes,’ we imagine them being covered in mud, dressed in nothing but old cloth and animal furs, and wearing old, dirty leather boots.
In more recent times archeologists have discovered artifacts like delicately carved and designed gold belt buckles, ornamental necklaces, jewelry, and headgear, which proves that the Vikings put a lot of time and effort into designing their own wardrobes.
The Sacking of Paris
By the 800s, the Vikings had already become a strong and fearful foe. Word of their pillages had spread through most of Europe and most people lived in fear of the day that they would encounter a mob of angry Vikings.
But the Vikings had also become a lot more daring with the confidence they had gained from previous raids and in 84, they managed to sack Paris. The Vikings eventually only left the city once they were paid 5,670 pounds of gold – a huge amount at the time.
Soft As Kittens
Despite the gruesome and fearful image that comes to mind when we think about the Vikings, they were, in fact, a much more sensible people than many of us tend to realize.
When the Vikings weren’t out hunting for food, capturing neighboring cities or sailing the stormy oceans, they could usually be found at home enjoying time with their families and friends. Recent evidence also suggests that Vikings had a penchant for kittens and they were the preferred domestic animal at the time.
A Healthy Diet
Despite popular beliefs of Vikings eating little more than meat, the truth is that they had a very balanced diet. Most Viking meals were comprised of things like eggs, grains, nuts, berries, honey, fruits, meats, and even cheeses or other dairy products.
It’s interesting to see how much of the ancient Scandinavian diet has become popular again in recent years and those who are allergic to gluten or want to bulk up would be well off following an ancient Viking diet.
Because of the fact that the Vikings were often at war or on raids, they had to rely on early forms of medicine to help treat wounded fighters.
Because modern medicine didn’t exist at that point, the Vikings had a strange combination of ritualistic and herbal remedies to help the wounded. An important part of this process was the serving of onion soup for the wounded. The idea was that if they could smell the soup after the fighter had been wounded, they would know the severity of the wound.
Big Game Hunters
Viking ships were known for being fast and ferocious in battle or even simply when traveling. However, that’s not the only thing that Vikings were known to use their ships for.
It turns out that they were also incredibly skilled fishermen and hunters and would frequently set sail in order to catch some seriously big fish! The Vikings were known for hunting things like whales and walruses regularly and catching even a single one would often mean a village could have enough food and oil for a while.
Party Like It’s 799
Besides pillaging and conquest, the Vikings were also known to celebrate regularly.
Most towns or villages would have a central hall that was used to conduct meetings of the elders for deciding important matters, but was also turned into a huge dance hall for special events and ceremonies. Whether it was a wedding, a spiritual feast, or a day of commemoration, the Vikings were known to get drunk on beer or mead, prepare huge meals, and dance until the early morning hours!
Traders and Entrepreneurs
While the majority of us tend to view the Vikings as being only a bloodthirsty band of pirates hellbent concurring everything around them or pillaging whatever was left, they were quite different in reality.
It appears that the raids were an important part of their culture, but were not the only thing they used to do. In times of peace, the Vikings were known to be settlers, traders and even entrepreneurial towards other settlements or villages along the way.
The Slave Trade
During the Viking’s raids, it wasn’t uncommon for the victorious Vikings to take survivors of the battle back to their encampment as slaves.
In fact, their society was designed in such a way that slaves had their own tier and would often, depending on the circumstances, be able to lead a peaceful life among the Vikings. The Vikings would also regularly partake in the trading of slaves for goods or money and this became a good source of income for them in time.
One true image that comes to mind when we think of the ancient Vikings was that they were an advanced sea-faring society. Rather than being restricted to land only, the Vikings were known to construct highly efficient and often deadly boats.
These were not only strong and secure but could move at blisteringly high speeds when the wind was in their favor. The longboats were also fitted with oar stations for added speed and had metallic naval rams to sink other boats.
All Of Europe
The Vikings were originally thought to have only invaded or attacked the Northern parts of Europe. They were known for frequently raiding the camps or settlements of German, Slavic and Anglo-Saxon tribes which they would then loot for slaves and valuables.
However, recent research indicates that they had also invaded much of Southern Europe with countries such as Spain, Italy and even certain countries along the North African coastline. Before their collapse, the Vikings had most of Europe in their hands.
The Vikings were not just a rag-tag bunch of pillaging pirates though. As an early society, they had some pretty advanced aspects to their society.
A good example of this can be seen in the fairness of their society but was also a military powerhouse that had some pretty innovative military strategies. The ‘Boar Formation’ was a spear-like formation that the Vikings used in battle. Because no one had ever seen an attack like this before, they were almost always surprised, leading to a victory for the Vikings.
Catch The Winds
The Vikings were so good at sailing that they had mapped out many routes long before more popular sailing societies like Portugal, Spain, or Britain did.
They not only traveled around most of Europe in their longboats but often found themselves in places that were incredibly far for such an ancient society. Recent discoveries reveal that the Vikings often went as far as modern-day Canada, North Africa, and even found themselves in Asia regularly. They were indeed fearless pioneers!
A Ship To The Other Side
Boats had become a core feature of Viking society. They were generally feared for their impressive tactics on the water. Using boats was essential to their thriving as an ancient European society.
But boats were not merely used as a mode of transport – they were also seen as spiritual devices that could transport the dead across the waters to ‘Valhalla’ – the resting place of the dead. The dead were buried in boats marked by stones, guiding their passage to Valhalla.
An Ancient Burial
The Vikings believed that after death, a warrior’s soul would be carried over the ocean to the land of Valhalla. Valhalla was thought to be the place where the Gods resided and where the dead would eventually come to rest.
It was paradise, and after death, they would all be reunited there. Because of this, ceremonial burials were a big part of Viking culture. When a King or nobleman died, his servants would be sacrificed with him and riches would be buried as well. Knowing this information helped archaeologists realize exactly what they had stumbled across…
Viking Burial Ship
It turns out that the discovery they had made was an ancient Viking burial ship that was used to bury what we now believe to be either a king or a nobleman. Researchers managed to deduce this based on the size and location of the ancient vessel.
Men from lower classes were usually buried in smaller boats, but when a nobleman or King died, they were generally buried in their own longboat, complete with riches and servants for the afterlife!
A Massive Discovery
What had started off as a simple experiment had turned into one of the largest finds in recent history!
The researchers though, realized that the discovery was still laden with issues, as actually extracting the deeply buried boat would prove to be a difficult challenge and has yet to be conducted. But the discovery proves that the Vikings also set up large villages much further inland than was previously understood about them. A discovery of this size is truly a notable moment in history!
Reunited With Thor
The discovery of the ancient burial ship has been cited as one of the most impressive finds for NIKU in recent years. Many had believed that all of these burial ships had all already been discovered or that most were lost to the ages.
However, the discovery has encouraged researchers to widen their search and increase the process, with the hopes of making more amazing discoveries. At least now we know that this ancient king or nobleman was reunited with Thor in Valhalla!