Here’s Everything You Didn’t Know, But Should Know, About The Ancient Vikings

Did you know…? The Vikings traveled to America at least 500 years before Cristopher Columbus.

The vast majority of Vikings known to history originated in modern-day countries such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and to a lesser extent Iceland and Finland.

The great difference between them and the European peoples against whom they fought, is that the Vikings were not Christians and, therefore, were considered foreigners and not civilized.

Due to their warrior spirit, they were even considered as demons by many ancient people from Europe.

This has made the ancient Vikings undoubtedly the most striking warriors of all.

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In spite of terrorizing the seas and kidnapping people across Europe, they captivate the imagination of a large number of people. However, they are also the most mysterious, and for this reason, we travel back in time to unravel the mysteries about the ancient Viking people.

And although they went down in history as a people of vandalism, not many people know that the Vikings were an extremely orderly and egalitarian society, with solid foundations of law and justice.

They were organized in classes, with kings and warriors leading the social pyramid.

The women were heads of families and were in charge of farms and plantations, especially when their partners were fighting in foreign lands.

The Historic Viking Period

History sets the starting point of the Viking surge in 793, when the monastery of Lindisfarne, in the northeast of England, was attacked by a mysterious people.

Until then, the monasteries were buildings with little protection, precisely because the enemies of the time respected the religious institutions, something that the Vikings did not do.

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In the year 799, the first recorded Viking raid took place in continental Europe, when the island monastery of St. Philibert was attacked in Noirmoutier.

After expanding especially in France and England, at the end of the ninth century, the Vikings began to be defeated and were rejected.

The last Viking king was defeated in 1066, by William, Duke of Normandy.

The Vikings traveled to America at least 500 years before Cristopher Columbus

The ancient Vikings were among the best seafaring cultures to ever live on Earth.

They were able to forge an admirable naval industry, standing out for the boats called dragons, prepared to embark up to 100 men and move both by river and by sea.

Their boats were not the easiest to handle, because of their size and weight, and yet they managed to cross the Atlantic Ocean numerous times.

With their skills of orientation and knowledge of their surroundings, they were able to take their massive vessels to their desired destinations. This allowed them to travel to Greenland and Iceland and allowed them to set foot on the American Continent 500 years before Christopher Columbus arrived in America.

They possessed advanced technologies

In addition to having extremely advanced ships, the ancient Vikings, unlike other navigators at the time, traveled in the open sea and not near the coast.

Even when they had to go into the Arctic Circle, they used sundials to orient themselves, because in the summer the sun never hides. The stars could not be of help, and in this way, the sailors could know where they were located. When the day was cloudy, they used “Magic Crystals,” rocks that polarize sunlight allowing them to orient themselves.

Danish archaeologist Thorkild Ramskou posited that the sunstone could have been one of the minerals (cordierite or Iceland spar) that polarize light and by which the azimuth of the sun can be determined in a partly overcast sky or when the sun is just below the horizon.

Successful traders and craftsmen

Despite the fact that the Vikings are probably most known for their navigation skills and warlike nature, one of their main activities was commerce.

Initially, they distributed walrus ivory and polar bear skin from Greenland, silks, and spices from Constantinople. When the population grew too much, they had to go out to look for slaves and spoils of war in other lands, extending their reputation.

Despite the Fact that the Vikings were Pagans, history changed them

At first, all Vikings were pagans and believed in several gods, including Odin, Thor, and Freya.

These divinities lived in Asgard, a place that was connected to the Earth.

In addition, they considered that the end of the world would occur through a battle called Ragnarok.

Between the 8th and 11th centuries, the Vikings attacked several churches and Christian monasteries on the European coast, but by the 12th century, most had been converted to Christianity.

Weapons and shields were simple

Among the Viking weapons, perhaps the best known is the ax, easy to manufacture and efficient both in the battlefield and at work.

They also used the bow and arrow, also with a double function: hunting and fighting.

They were protected with generally round shields, made with wood and hardened leather, and iron helmets.

They wanted to keep things as functional as possible while maintaining simplicity.

One of their most famous kings…

Was no other than Ragnar Lodbrok or Lothbrok. Sounds familiar? Ragnar Lodbrok was the character played by Travis Fimmel in the series Vikings.

Excerpt from folio 39r of Harley MS 2278. The scene depicts Lothbrok, king of Danes, and his sons, Hinguar and Hubba, worshiping idols. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Lothbroke was a legendary Danish and Swedish Viking hero and ruler, known from Viking Age Old Norse poetry and sagas.

According to that traditional literature, Ragnar distinguished himself by many raids against Francia and Anglo-Saxon England during the 9th century.

However, as noted by historians, there is no reliable evidence, that he existed under this name and the mythological aspects attributed to it.

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