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SAINT OLAF

Archaeologists in Norway discover church and altar of Viking King Olav Haraldsson

ARCHAEOLOGISTS IN NORWAY CLAIM TO HAVE DISCOVERED A CHURCH WHERE THE VIKING KING, OLAF HARALDSSON WAS FIRST ENSHRINED AS A SAINT.

Archaeologists working on a site near Trondheim have unearthed the foundations of a wooden stave church and the alter where Olaf may have been enshrined immediately after being declared a saint. The discovery gives credibility to Norse saga accounts surrounding important events of that era.

Director of the project, Anna Petersén said “This is a unique site in Norwegian history in terms of religion, culture and politics. Much of the Norwegian national identity has been established on the cult of sainthood surrounding St. Olaf, and it was here it all began!”

Olaf II Haraldsson, later known as St. Olaf, was King of Norway from 1015 to 1028 till his death in the Battle of Stiklestad. His younger half-brother, Harald Hardrada, was also present at the battle who also became King of Norway in 1047, only to die in a failed invasion of England at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066.

In his Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, the medieval Icelandic historian Snorri stated that “following King Olaf Haraldsson’s martyrdom in 1030, his body was buried in Trondheim, or Nidaros” (as it was known) and that the local populus soon reported portents and miracles attributed to the martyred king. A year after his death, Olaf’s coffin was dug up and opened in the presence of the bishop, revealing his miraculously well-preserved body. He was immediately declared a saint by popular acclaim and his body was enshrined above the high altar in the royal church of St. Clement’s church before being moved to the Cathedral some years later.

St. Clement’s church discovered

Archaeologists working for the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) have recently uncovered the stone foundations for a wooden stave church which they believe is the actual ruin of St. Clement’s Church from the dating evidence. Dating evidence and a study of the ruins places its construction at the time Olaf ruled.

During its excavation, the archaeologists uncovered a small rectangular stone-built platform at the building’s east end which is probably the foundation for an altar – probably the very same altar on which St. Olaf’s coffin was placed in 1031. In addition, a small well was also discovered which may be a holy well connected with the saint.

Niku

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VIKING HOMES (ACTUALLY, DANISH HOMES)

What colour did the Vikings paint their houses?

October 16, 2016 – 06:25

Archaeologists in Denmark are busy building one of the largest experimental archaeology reconstruction projects. But what colours would the Vikings have used?

How did the Vikings decorate their houses? Archaeologists from across Denmark have been trying to find out. (Photo: Sagnlandet Lejre)

Did Vikings paint their houses white or red? Which colours were popular, and when?

These questions were the focus of a furious debate among researchers during a seminar entitled “Colourful Vikings” hosted by the Centre for Historical-Archaelogical Research and Communication in Denmark (as also known as Sagnlandet Lejre).

Archaeologists at Sagnlandet Lejre are currently reconstructing a full sized royal Viking hall.

When finished, it will measure 60 metres long, be slightly oval shaped, and built from planks of oak. But exactly what colours the original hall was painted with, remains a mystery.

Eighteenth century preservationist repainted Viking objects

Archaeologists have found a range of wooden Viking objects that have retained some colour, and preserve some evidence of the fashions of the day. But even so, we cannot be completely sure about the exact colours used, says Mads Christensen, a chemist from the National Museum of Denmark.

He refers to objects found in the tomb of Gorm the Old, one of Denmark’s earliest kings, in west Denmark.

“Various wooden objects found in Gorm the Old’s tomb in Jelling were probably painted with white, red, green, black, and yellow. They’re dated to around 960 CE,” says Christensen.

The colours of these 1,000-year-old pieces of timber are no longer visible, but Christensen was able to chemically extract traces of pigment from the wood. But he still cannot tell how intense the original colours might have been.

“We can determine that the colours were there, but we can’t tell how intense they were,” he says.

On top of this, the objects were likely repainted with a protective layer by a well-meaning conservationist in the eighteenth century, which somewhat muddles the results.

Read More: Fashionable Vikings loved colours, fur, and silk

Quicklime was probably a popular choice

Other archaeologists take another view: that Viking houses, or at least royal halls, were painted entirely white.

Should the Viking hall interior be painted white to meet Viking standards? (Photo: Sagnlandet Lejre)

“We found traces of clay with white chalk at the excavations of the Viking halls in Tissø and Lejre. So we think that the houses were covered with quicklime,” says Josefine Franck Bican, a research assistant at the National Museum of Denmark.

This would make a lot of sense, she says.

A white house would be visible from far away, making it a suitable status symbol and landmark. Using quicklime both in and outside the house would have provided effective insulation and a good indoor climate on top of providing light during the dark winter months.

During the Viking colour seminar, Bican ignited another lively discussion when she suggested that the royal hall most likely had windows.

Read More: New Viking graves discovered in Denmark

Glass beads suggest a change in fashion

In any event, it is likely that something exciting happened with colours during the Viking period, says Henriette Lyngstrøm, a Ph.D. student at the Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

A comparison of coloured glass beads from before the Viking age, indicate that a shift in colour fashion took place, she says.

“When we compare glass beads dated to 600 and 700 CE, there is a clear difference in colour and pattern. Beads dated to 600 CE are predominantly red-brown and have a single colour, whereas beads from 700 CE are variegated with strong colours,” says Lyngstrøm.

The beads cannot tell us anything specific about the Viking period, which was between 800 and 1050 CE. But Lyngstrøm thinks that the early shift in colours might have influenced the Vikings later on.

Read More: Unique jewellery from the British Isles found in Danish Viking grave

“Did they perceive colours as we do?”

Many of the researchers questioned the whole premise of reconstructing colours in the Viking hall. How can we ever know whether we agree with the Vikings about what a colour is?

“There are, for example, many historical sources that suggest the Romans perceived colours differently than we do today,” says Amalie Skovmøller, a Ph.D. student at the Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

Facts

In 2009, archaeologists excavated the royal hall at Sagnlandet Lejre, near Copenhagen, Denmark.

It is one of the biggest buildings from the Viking period.

The Centre for Historical-Archaelogical Research and Communication (Sagnlandet Lejre) has begun a full size reconstruction of the hall.

Archaeologists are now discussing what colours best represent the original Viking hall.

Source: sagnlandet.dk (in Danish only)

Romans may have perceived colour more as an expression of different hues and nuances, than as an actual perception of red, yellow, or green.

“For example, the concept of purple is used in historical texts to both describe the surface of the sea and a glow in a woman’s eyes and not just the colour that we associate purple with today,” says Skovmøller.

The same could apply to the Vikings, she says.

Read More: Photo gallery: The six styles of Viking art

Can we ever create a truly authentic reconstruction?

But should the archaeologists really be so concerned with figuring out how such a hall may or may not have been painted? During the seminar, discussions often touched on the underlying premise of such an archaeological reconstruction.

“What does ‘authentic’ mean anyway?” says Tobias Jespersen from the Saxo Institute, referring to the ongoing discussion among archaeologists as to whether any reconstruction project can be considered truly authentic.

Jespersen has just written his master’s thesis on the subject.

“Regardless of which colour we choose, the reconstruction will always be inauthentic. Our task as academics is to give the best estimate of a previously impossible task–to recreate the past,” he says.

One suggestion would be to paint the hall in different colours to reflect different time periods.

Archaeologists behind the reconstruction will continue to investigate.

HIGH CRAFT – LOST LIBRARY

HIGH CRAFT

This article on Viking clothing reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to discuss for some time now. In my games and in my writings, Craft (and by that I mean High Craft), often plays a large and beneficial role in both individual matters and even in larger events.

Using boots and shoes as an example characters have both found and had created for them (by master craftsmen) footwear that is not magical but rather so well crafted that it provides real benefits, such as resistance to extreme temperatures, resistance to wear and replacement, comfort befitting improved endurance or resistance to things like trench foot or blistering, and when they concentrate upon certain tasks (such as running, hiking, climbing, jumping, or stealth) they give definite though temporary advantages.(The characters must concentrate upon the task, for instance, and declare or show evidence that they are trying hard to sneak, or paying attention to their climb – but then such boots give temporary but definite advantages).Such boots or other items and gear (weapons, clothing, tools, etc.) are not magical at all but rather of such high quality and clever construction that they give measurable advantages over other items not constructed by master craftsmen.

(Though really well constructed items of High Craft might very easily be discovered far more susceptible to being enchanted at a later date than more mundane items. That is to say items of High Craft can be far more easily enchanted or ensorceled and such magics will far more easily affix and permanently secure themselves to objects of High Craft than to less well made implements.)

 

The same could be said to apply in a larger sense to whole groups of people. Nations with master craftsmen or smiths or even entire shops, foundries, and industrial operations devoted to High Craft (and invention and innovation) can produce gear and weapons and armor and equipment that gives a particular army a real and measurable advantage over another less well equipped force. Maybe even, en masse, a very large advantage. Again, not a magical advantage but a qualitative advantage of High Craftsmanship.

Though in a Tolkienesque sense it could easily be argued that High Craft is a form of “magic.” That High Craft is precisely what much magic really is.

With me however, at least in games, I usually use Magic as something “added to” or above and beyond even the Highest of Crafts. Though in my writings and novels High Craft and Magic are sometime synonymous and interchangeable or fungible, depending upon the particular circumstances of precisely what is being discussed.

I know that some use craft as a part of their game(s) and writings and some do not, but if you do, then what are some of the ways you use High Craft as an advantage on any level?

How do you use and employ High Craft in your own creations?

 

The Vikings Used Comfortable Shoes

Osberg Ship Viking Shoe One of the original boots found in the Oseberg Burial Mound dating back to 834 AD. (Photo:skinnblogg.blogspot.no)A number of complete Viking Age shoes found in Scandinavia and England have the same characteristics. They are flexible, soft and mostly made of cattle hide, but also other kinds of leather was used.There are complete shoes found in the Oseberg ship burial mound in Norway, Hedeby trading center in Denmark, and Coppergate (York, Viking Age Jorvik, Editor’s note) in England.

All three of these discoveries show a similar construction and form typical for the Middle Ages.

The shoes found in the Oseberg ship consists of two main parts, soles and uppers, and are so-called “turn shoes”.

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Reconstructed Oseberg Viking Shoes

Reconstructed boots found in the Oseberg burial mound, by Bjørn Henrik Johansen. (Photo: Bjørn Henrik Johansen/ skinnblogg.blogspot.no) 

The shoemaker stitched the shoe together inside out, and then turned right side out when finished. This hides the main seam, prolongs the life and prevents moisture from leaking in.

Viking Age shoes (793 – 1066AD) were well suited for use in wintertime by using thick, felted wool socks and fur inside.

Materials and Tools

Studies of the leather shows that mainly cattle hide was used from the 9th to mid-11th century and was typically 1 – 3 millimeter thick.

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Coppergate Viking Shoe York

Anglo-Scandinavian Shoe found in Coppergate, York, England. (Photo: definedlearning.com via Pinterest)

A bristle or metal needle was used stitching flax, hemp, or a combination of the two. Shears or blades were used to cut the leather, and a simple awl to punch the holes.

At Coppergate twelve examples of iron shears were found.

Tanning and Color

Vegetable tan was the primary method for tanning, but also alum tans and oil tans were used in luxury leathers.

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Reconstructed Coppergate York Viking Shoe

Reconstructed Anglo-Scandinavian Shoe found in Coppergate, York, England by Bjørn Henrik Johansen.  (Photo: by Bjørn Henrik Johansen/ skinnblogg.blogspot.no)

Modern vegetable tans are much stiffer due to industrialization and shortening of the process and are unsuited for turn shoes.

Like today, elaborately made clothing and shoes were visible proves of high social status.

Scientists have concluded that the better-quality shoes and boots had much more color than can be seen from archaeological discoveries.

NORSE NICKNAMES – ALL-THING

Artist’s depiction of a Viking King

From Olafir Thick-Legged to Ragnar Fur-Pants, Viking nicknames were colorful, descriptive and fascinating

An American scholar did both his master’s thesis and his doctoral dissertation on old Norse nicknames as recorded in medieval literature to reveal a world of people with monikers like Wise of Dreams, Harm-Fart, Autumn Darkness, Toil-Skull, Grimacer and The Ridiculer. A nickname in Scandinavia during Viking times could be insulting or laudatory, derived from body parts or mythology, from places or accomplishments or from a number of other inspirations.

Aside from boxing’s Ray Boom Boom Mancini, Carl The Truth Williams, and Smokin Joe Frazier, modern nicknames such as Al or Annie seem prosaic compared to some of the monikers Vikings came up with to describe their contemporaries.

While modern people may use nicknames out of affection, in the Middle Ages in Scandinavia that wasn’t always the case. Take Eysteinn Harm-Fart, Hergils Button Ass Thrándarson, or Authun Coward, for example. One might wonder if Mr. Eysteinn, a settler in Iceland, was given to drinking copious amounts of beer.

A woodcut of Erik the Red from a 1688 book

A woodcut of Erik the Red from a 1688 book (Wikimedia Commons)

“Nicknames are universal, every human society has had or has them,” Paul Peterson, an expert on Scandinavia, wrote to Ancient Origins in e-mail. “Most other medieval societies had, or recorded, fewer nicknames, even though the practice of adopting family names or surnames is a bit late in the game (late medieval continental practice),” Dr. Peterson wrote. “Nicknames must have been everywhere, but only a tiny sample of them survives in writing.”

A table of Norse nickname sources from Dr. Peterson’s doctoral dissertation

A table of Norse nickname sources from Dr. Peterson’s doctoral dissertation

Though some nicknames were insulting, there are many examples of poetic or laudatory nicknames in old Norse literature. There are The Fair or The Handsome, Snowdrift, The Wise of Dreams or Dream Interpreter, Little Bear, The Learned and Autumn Darkness. Other poetic nicknames include Widow of the Heath, Traveler to Limerick, Sun of the Islands, The Quiet, The Amorous.

While world monarchs often had an informal appellation applied to them, such as “the Good,” “the Great,” “the Terrible” or “the Short,” some of the most expressive Norse nicknames were reserved for non-royalty.

Dr. Peterson did his master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation, which is available to read in its entirety here, specifically on old Norse nicknames. He received his doctorate in Medieval Germanic Studies from the University of Minnesota and is now a teaching fellow in Scandinavian and German at Augustana College in Illinois. He is a member of the International Council of Onomastic Sciences. Onomastics is the study of names.

In the 11th century, King Olaf II of Norway was known as The Holy; this image is from Trondheim Cathedral.

In the 11th century, King Olaf II of Norway was known as The Holy; this image is from Trondheim Cathedral. (Wikimedia Commons)

Dr. Peterson wrote in his thesis:

Nicknames, which occur in all cultures and across all time periods, play a vital role in understanding and highlighting identity. They also provide a unique window into slang and popular culture less accessible through personal names alone. Their study encompasses wide-ranging interdisciplinary scholarship, including onomastics (name studies), historical linguistics, anthropology, history, and narratology. Old Norse nicknames themselves represent diverse forms of cultural expression from the lower levels of discourse, history, religion, and popular entertainment. They have left remnants across Northern Europe in place names, runic inscriptions, and the names of individuals in the saga corpus.

One of the best sources for Icelandic settlers’ nicknames is the 12th century Landnámabók (The Book of Settlements). Many of the nicknames listed in this article (but not all) are from this source.

Ivan the Terrible, an 1897 painting by Viktor Vasnetsov; other cultures had nicknames, but American scholar Paul Peterson says they are not as well-recorded as old Norse nicknames.

Ivan the Terrible, an 1897 painting by Viktor Vasnetsov; other cultures had nicknames, but American scholar Paul Peterson says they are not as well-recorded as old Norse nicknames. (Wikimedia Commons)

Nicknames that Dr. Peterson recorded in his master’s thesis and his doctoral dissertation include King Eirkr Blood-Ax, Olafir Thick-Legged, Ragnar Fur-Pants or Hairy Breeches and Bjorn the Wealthy. Still others include Thorbjorn Sour-Drink and Ketill the Silent or Ketill Creaking Noise.

Those nicknames were not necessarily insulting, but many old Norse nicknames were scathing.

“Negative nicknames are rather common, ranging from sexually-charged insults to unflattering physical characteristics, and several nicknames referring to private parts, perhaps the most sensitive areas in terms of insults and otherwise, are found in the corpus. Finnur Jónsson provides a list of these in the second section of his nickname list under the categories ‘penis, cunnus”’ and ‘anus,”’ Dr. Peterson wrote in this thesis. These nicknames include:

  • Arni Harm-Penis
  • Kolbeinn Butter-Penis
  • Herjolfr Shriveled-Testicle
  • Sperm Bjalfi
  • Butt-[Copulate] Bjarni
  • Helgi Seal’s Testicle
  • Ivarr Procreation Member
  • Jon Silky [Vulva]
  • Asni Ship Chest
  • Ass Bersi
  • Herjolfr Squatted Ass

Other nicknames that Dr. Peterson identified in his thesis that weren’t necessarily sexual but some of which were still insulting included:

  • Prince Fortress
  • Little Wolf
  • Little Blackbird
  • Halfdan Sigurdsonn Hook Nose
  • King Magnus Barefoot
  • Sigurd “Sow”
  • King Haraldr Sigurrdson Hard Rule
  • King Ólafr Tryggvason Thin-Legged (krakabein)

“The nickname krakabein, most famously held by King Ólafr Tryggvason, appears to have had some currency among earlier Scandinavians who raided and settled the British Isles where it is found in Old English as Cracabam, and it also appears in a 15th century Irish source called The Annals of Ulster as Graggabai. It is unlikely that the nickname refers to Óláfr Tryggvason,” Dr. Peterson wrote. Others include Iron-Knee, Wild Dog and Black Head.

“The use of the nicknames in the literature and how it shaped narratives or demonstrated medieval customs or values is also something that I am fascinated by,” Dr Peterson told Ancient Origins. “Quite a large number of the linguistic forms are rare and ‘frozen’ from older forms of the language, and that is interesting in and of itself, but the meaning of the words also gives modern people a window into the mindset of a medieval Scandinavian. Nicknames are often formed in a familiar context, that is, a small community of people who know each other well, so the references of nicknames are mostly local and personal. A huge number of them must go back to an inside joke or reference to an event lost to us, and because we cannot always know the origin of a nickname, it gives a modern reader room to speculate or guess the real origin.”

(These should be excellent for World-Building.)

GONE A’VIKING

The Viking women who disappeared

By Cathinka Dahl Hambro

Women played an important part in Viking Age society, and their role far exceeded that of mother and the “housewife”. Why, then, are they barely mentioned in the history books?

Ingeborg - Norse mythology - painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1831-1892)

“The standard specialist literature within the field is pervaded with Viking expeditions, kings, weapons, and battles,” says Viking researcher Nanna Løkka.

“If women are mentioned at all they are placed within an everyday context, with children, handicraft and domestic life. Thus, when the characteristics of the Viking Age are described, women are either left out completely, or they are given their own little paragraph, as they appear neither very exciting nor spectacular.”

In the recently published anthology Kvinner i vikingtid (“Viking Age Women”), sixteen women and one man challenge this standard saga inspired account of the early Norwegian Middle Ages, which is characterized by raiding kings and chieftains. Løkka has edited the book in collaboration with Nancy Coleman.

Kvinner i vikingtid examines the various roles of women in a society where not only men possessed political power and influence. The book shows that the role of women was not always a domestic one. On the contrary, they actively participated within various aspects of public life such as trade, textile production, medicine, and religious practice.

Kvinner i vikingtidNone mentioned, all forgotten

Both the sagas and the schoolbooks tell us show many benches the master builder Torberg Skavhogg built for the rowers when he equipped the hull of King Olav Tryggvasson’s legendary longship Ormen Lange (“The Long Serpent”). The women who were responsible for weaving the sail, however, are not mentioned by name.

“The Vikings wouldn’t have reached England unless someone had equipped the ships with sails. It is a well-known fact that the Vikings were far ahead of their European neighbours in terms of maritime techniques. In an episode of the TV series Vikings, they make a big fuss about the ship’s anchor, but the sail is not mentioned with a single word,” says Løkka.

The textile production was probably organised hierarchically, where women supervised other women in extensive collaborative work. Løkka adds, “The larger Viking ships used 100 square meter sized sails. In order to produce that, the women needed 200 kilos of wool from approximately 2000 sheep, and it required hundreds of working hours. We are talking about more than just a small-scale family business.”

High school textbooks are the worst

According to the researcher, the models applied to understand the Viking Age ignore the women’s impact and contribution. This is particularly visible in the high school history books. Løkka found that only one among the six most popular history books from the 1990s and 2000s provides its own paragraph on women.

“If women appear at all in the general literature on the field, they are usually depicted as the stereotypical “housewife” who is tied to the farm and the home, not as someone who participates in important social processes,” says Løkka.

In the standard accounts of the Viking Age, the farm is regarded as the smallest, yet most significant unit. Other important institutions in the Viking society are the family, the chiefdom, and the Thing.

The woman is usually associated with the farm and the private sphere, whereas the man is connected to public life. Hence, the gender roles are often described in terms of “inside” and “outside” in order to distinguish between men and women’s responsibilities.

“I’m not saying that the stereotypical representation isn’t feasible at all, but it contributes to a description of the Viking Age based solely on male activities. Most probably the Viking society consisted of other dividing lines and hierarchies where women to a larger degree ranked on top,” Løkka adds.

Nanna Løkka - photo courtesy University of Oslo

The “housewife” as business manager

For example, recent research shows that being a “housewife” might involve major responsibility and hard work, particularly if the farm was of some considerable size. The chieftain’s home at Borg in Lofoten, which is the largest known chieftain’s farm, was more than eighty metres long. That is only twenty metres shorter than the Nidaros Cathedral. A typical chieftain’s farm may have had a longhouse of approximately fifty metres. A banquet on such a large farm could easily involve 150 people, all of them expecting to be served food and drinks.

“Running a farm like that is like managing a medium size business. Thus, these women should rather be regarded as business managers than mere housewives,” says Løkka.

With this in mind, one may therefore ask whether this type of feast actually belonged to the so-called private sphere. At these banquets, contracts and deals were made, politics was developed, and alliances were formed.

If the food or drink was unsatisfactory it could cause diplomatic crisis or disgrace. Therefore, the women who cooked and served the meals held an important public function. According to Løkka, categories like inside/outside and private/public have probably become antiquated due to recent research.

Malevolent Viking women

It doesn’t make things better that the women who did position themselves at the top of the male warrior hierarchy were often severely condemned by the later saga writers. This was the case with Queen Gunnhild, who according to tradition received training from Sami magicians. Allegedly, she took over the leadership of her sons’ army when her husband Eirik Blodøks (Eric Bloodaxe) was driven into exile and subsequently killed.

Alfiva, the de facto Norwegian ruler in the beginning of the eleventh century, received an equally bad reputation, becoming highly unpopular after introducing new legislation and a new tax system.

Viking reverie as nation building

Nanna Løkka emphasizes that in many ways the term Viking Age is a nineteenth century construction, which was formed along the lines of the era’s prevailing national romantic ideals.

For instance, historian Jørgen Haavardsholm has noted that the term Viking Age can be connected to a political process in which the goal was to create a nation with a proud and common past where the Vikings served as masculine and unyielding heroes and adventurers.

“An entire period and society has been connected to the Viking raids. In reality, however, only a small number of the men actually went on Viking raids. It has nevertheless added masculine value to the era, and consequently the female half of the population has been neglected,” says Løkka.

Farewell to the Viking Age?

The national romantic heritage is one of the reasons why a new generation of historians preferred to use the more neutral and European term Early Middle Ages in the four-volume history work Norvegr from 2011. Archaeologists, on the other hand, have mainly preferred the term Late Iron Age.

Lokka explains, “I ended up using the term Viking Age primarily because I want people to understand what I am working with. Moreover, the Viking Age sells and attracts attention. But there is definitely an ambivalence there.”

See also: Viking Women: Not as Different as You Might Think

‘WARE THE SKOT AND THE SKOTLANDS

Vikings ‘were warned to avoid Scotland’

Scotland is full of dangerous natives who speak an incomprehensible language and the is weather awful. That was the verdict of a series of 13th century Viking travel guides that warned voyagers to visit at their peril.

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Vikings on street: Vikings 'were warned to avoid Scotland'

Revellers at the Up Helly Aa Fire Festival in Shetland Photo: GETTY

The medieval chronicles, set down on yellowed calf vellum eight centuries ago, describe Scotland – or Skotland, as it was known – as an unwelcome and inhospitable country offering rewards only to the bold.

“Icelanders who want to practise robbery are advised to go there,” says one saga. “But it may cost them their life.”

Another saga tells the story of Icelandic merchants who sailed into a west coast sea loch where they met 13 ships bristling with what they called “Vikings” – more an occupation than a nationality – but were actually natives.

A Scot identified in the saga as Grjotgard, a kinsman of Melkolf, king of Scotland (Malcolm II), told them: “You have two choices. You can go ashore and we will take all your property, or we’ll attack you and kill every man we lay our hands on.” The merchants were terrified, the saga says, but presumably lived to tell their tale.

The chronicles have been interpreted by Gisli Sigurdsson, a historian at Reykjavik University, who believes the sagas – part fiction, part fact – reveal how the ancient Norse were far from the fearless pirates of legend.

As the Norsemen became as keen on trade as marauding, they were particularly nervous about sailing up the west coast sea lochs they referred to as the “Scottish fjords”. “The only places the Norse could have expected a safe reception was Orkney and Shetland, where the people were basically the same as them and where they would be greeted as kin,” Mr Sigurdsson said.

The Norse Viking age peaked between the 9th and 12th centuries, when Scandinavian seafarers conquered new lands, settling Orkney, Shetland, Iceland and Greenland, and establishing colonies in Scotland, England, Ireland, France, North America and Russia.

The Icelandic sagas, written in the 13th century but based on earlier oral stories, were often used as route guides for raiders, traders, crusaders and explorers, effectively a road map of medieval Europe and the Middle East. They have proved remarkably accurate, even helping archaeologists to pinpoint the remains of a Norse village in Newfoundland.

Orkney is described as a handy base camp for pillaging Scotland. But the Norse had other bases too, some of which would feature high up in a modern guide for tourists. If you are planning to raid Scotland, one saga reads, you could do worse than base yourself in Fort Skardaborg. That’s today’s Scarborough.

Mr Sigurdsson believes the Norse Vikings were particularly nervous about the Gaels of Ireland and west Scotland.

Orkney historian Tom Muir said: “They picked weak targets, like monasteries. Some of the monasteries were basically unguarded banks of cash with a sign above them saying ‘free money’. The truth is that there were raids both ways and that the Norse had every reason to fear their Celtic neighbours. There are well-documented accounts of Gaelic-speaking Lewismen raiding Orkney.”

The Norse eventually lost their hold in Scotland. But Celts and the Vikings must ultimately have started to get along. DNA evidence suggests many Scots and Icelanders interbred and settled in both countries.

CALLING ALL CAPTAINS, CALLING ALL CAPTAINS…

If I were young and single I’d do this… if you ask me they also needs guides and explorers and traders and fishermen and Skalds/Scops if they don’t already have em.

Unique Opportunity: Summer Job as Viking Ship Høvedsmann/ Captain

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Viking ship “Lofotr” needs a new captain the coming summer. (Photo: Lofotr Viking Museum)

Have you ever dreamed of being Høvedsmann (Captain) on a Viking ship? This summer, you have the opportunity to apply for the position at the Lofotr Viking Museum in the Lofoten archipelago, Northern Norway – if you have the right qualifications.

There are two Viking ships at the museum. “Lofotr” is a full-scale reconstruction of the Gokstad ship dating back to the 800s. Like the original, “Lofotr” is an excellent seagoing ship which has won several regattas.

The Viking museum which is located on the beautiful Vestvågøy island is searching for two captains the coming summer.

(Article continues)

Lofotr Viking Museum Longhouse Norway

The reconstructed Viking longhouse at the Lofotr Viking Museum is the largest ever found. (Photo: Lofotr Viking Museum)

Here you will find the job ad translated into English. Notice that there is no requirement to speak Norwegian, but you have to speak two languages – including English or Norwegian.

 

Høvedsmann Viking Ship

Apply for an exciting and challenging summer job as Høvedsmann in the main season 15 June – 15 August 2015. The Høvedsmann is responsible for preparing and carrying out daily rowing trips with a Viking ship for our guests. It is an advantage if you have experience using a square sail or a boating license. You should master at least two languages. Specify in the application which periods you can work. Minimum application period is two months. You must master Norwegian or English. Only relevant applicants will be contacted.

Workplace: Vestvågøy, Lofoten

Type of employment: Vacation work, Shift work, Part time, Full time

Number of positions: 2

Application deadline: February 16, 2015

Vacancies from: June 15, 2015

Vacancies to: August 15, 2015

Application postal address: Prestegårdsveien 59, 8360 Bøstad, Norway

Mark the envelope “Season 2015”

Contact person: Ole-Martin Hammer, tel. +47 90 11 87 08

 

You will find the complete job ad here (in Norwegian).

 

WHEN A HELM IS A CROWN

Absolutely beautiful!

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