Yesterday marked the start of this year’s mighty Jorvic Viking Festival – the largest of its kind in Europe.
So, to get into the Viking spirit, here are 10 things you may not already know about these hirsute seafaring Scandinavians…
1. Contrary to popular belief, the Vikings weren’t a smelly bunch. In fact, between rowing boats and decapitating their enemies, these warriors bathed once a week (a lot more than other Europeans of the time) and recent excavations of Viking sites have uncovered tweezers, razors, combs and ear cleaners made from animal bones and antlers.
2. One of the Vikings’ most beloved pastimes was skiing. 6,000 years ago, they developed their very own versions of skis and not only did they use them for transportation, they also whizzed around on them for fun. They even worshipped a god of skiing, named Ullr.
3. The nursery rhyme London Bridge is falling down could very well be linked to a Viking by the name of Olaf the Stout, who fixed cables from long ships to the bridge and pulled them into the Thames.
4. Viking men were quite beauty conscious and preferred to be blonde. To achieve this, brunette men would use a strong soap which contained a lye content to bleach their hair – and beards!
5. Not all Vikings were part of a unified group and one tribe of Vikings wouldn’t necessarily recognise or acknowledge another – in fact, they probably didn’t even call themselves Vikings at all. The term was coined to refer to all Scandinavians who took part in overseas expeditions at the time.
6. Viking women often perished earlier than men due to the dangers of childbirth, usually by the age of 35.
7. Female Vikings had more freedom than other women of their era. As long as they weren’t slaves, women could inherit property, request a divorce and reclaim assets if their marriages ended.
8. A brutal bunch, blood sports were popular amongst the Vikings and included bear baiting, horse fighting and for the poorer folk, cock fighting.
9. In order to make their legendary fires, the Vikings would collect a fungus called touchwood from tree bark and boil it for several days in their own urine before pounding it into something similar to felt. Apparently, this was great for igniting roaring fires while on the road.
10. Finally, you may not already know about this guy…
We hope these facts have served to entertain and if you would like to visit the Viking city of York, why not enjoy a relaxing short break?
Images: Hans Splinter,Elizabeth Oliver, Anirudh Koul and Philip Bond via Flickr