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10 Surprising Facts About the Vikings

Think you know your Vikings? Get the lowdown with these ten historical facts: 

1. No horned helmets

Vikings-Helmut-Horns

Despite popular belief, Vikings never wore horned helmuts. Christians in contemporary Europe added the detail to make the Vikings look even more barbarian and pagan, with horns like Satan’s on their head.

 

2. They had many Gods

vikings-gods

Vikings worshipped various gods. These included Thor - God of Thunder (which the day Thursday is named after), and Odin who is able to see into the future after sacrificing his eye. 

 

3. They gave us popular words

vikings-words

Several popular words we use today have Viking origins. Snort, lump, scrawny and anger all have their roots in Old Norse language. 

 

4. They were known for their good hygiene

  viking-bathing

Evidence suggests Vikings had good personal hygiene and were well-groomed. In fact, excavators have found that Viking era grooming tools were some of the most commonly used of all Viking tools. 

 

5. They did not call themselves Vikings

Vikings-characters

While we do not know exactly what they referred to themselves as, the term Vikings is a 19th century phrase. At the time of the Vikings, other nations referred to them as Norse, Norsemen and Danes.

 

6. They were excellent boatmakers

Vikings-boat

Powerful ships have always been associated with Vikings, and this is because they did indeed know how to build excellent ships, which were a key component to their various military and invasion successes. Their most commonly used boats were "longboats" which were not only able to fit as many as 60 Vikings at a time but were also designed to be able to land on and depart from land easily. 

 

7. They had unique funeral ceremonies

vikings-funeral

When a prominent Viking died, they were given a grand send off via a funeral service that involved laying the deceased on a boat with their clothes, animals and jewellery, setting it on fire and pushing it out to sea. 

 

8. They abandoned​ sick children

vikings-child

Vikings were all about physical strength and were known to abandon sickly children. Abandonment methods included leaving them alone in the wildnerness and throwing them into the sea. 

 

9. Viking women had some rights

lagertha-vikings

While Viking men and women certainly weren't treated as equals, Viking women did have some basic rights. These included being able to inherit property and request a divorce. 

 

10. They preferred blondes

blonde-vikings

Just as in today's society, being blonde was highly desired. So much so that brunette Viking men had tactics for lightening their manes. One method involved using a strong soap with a high lye content to bleach their hair.