Who were the Vikings?

Vikings is the modern-day name given to seafaring Norse pirates. They came from southern Scandinavia which is present-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden combined. They were active from the 8th century to the 11th century.


What exactly did Vikings do?

  • From the 8 century to the 11 century, Vikings raided, pirated, traded and settled throughout various parts of Europe.
  • Vikings were adept seafarers and used to travel the entire world in their signature longships.
  • During their travels, they went as far as North America, the Middle East, North Africa as well as the Mediterranean. They often settled down in these places and established their culture in these areas. Hence, this period is also famously known as the Viking Age.
  • The Vikings were the first Europeans to venture as far as North America and they even settled temporarily in Newfoundland.
  • As they travelled far and wide, they propagated the Norse culture and simultaneously took home slaves, concubines and foreign influences to Scandinavia which boosted the cultural and genetic development of the Vikings.
  • The Vikings mainly spoke Old Norse and followed the Old Norse religion before they eventually switched to the Christian faith.
  • Today, Vikings and Viking culture are looked upon as that of lawless heathens who wreaked havoc wherever they went, but this is actually the result of years of appropriation and completely untrue. The Viking people largely comprised craftsmen, fishermen, farmers and traders.

Ships of Vikings:

  • The multitude of fjords in Scandinavia proved to be more easily navigable than the land and that is travelling through water and ships are such a culturally significant part of Norse history.
  • Vikings had several types of boats which can be categorized according to their functions – small fishing boats and ferries as well as wide, sturdy boats for hauling cargo.
  • The ships most commonly used by Vikings were longships that served as vehicles of war and exploration.  In fact, the success of the Vikings as raiders and traders can be largely attributed to these remarkable boats which had become the most sophisticated boats during the medieval period.
  • A Viking longship was typically 20 to 30 metres long and was clinker-built. This refers to the fact that the hull was made up of overlapping planks of wood and the spaces between the planks were filled with tar or tallow often mixed with animal hair, wool or moss. This made the ships unique and extremely sturdy.
  • Vikings used the sun, the position of stars as well as the direction of the wind and water waves to determine the direction or to navigate the boat towards land.
  • These ships had shallow draught allow them to get much farther into the shore/land and quickly deliver a reading party or troops, causing maximal devastation.
  • One of the most well-known and famous features of Viking longships are the intricately decorated bows. The bow of the ship was often mounted with a carving of a monstrous and intimidating animal such as serpents or even the fictional dragons. The Vikings used these mountings to ward off any evil or peril that may befall them at sea.

Fun Facts:

  1. Vikings were known for their impeccable hygiene.
  2. Vikings buried their dead in the boats.
  3. Vikings did not actually wear horned helmets.

Additional Questions:

  1. What is a Viking longship?
  2. Describe Viking culture.
  3. What was the purpose of longships?

True or False:

  1. Vikings were famous for flying planes.
  2. Vikings originated in America.
  3. Vikings didn’t know how to build a ship.
  4. Vikings were known for their trading and sailing.
  5. Viking had a terrible sense of hygiene.

Objective Quiz:

  1. Vikings were the people who used to _______.
    1. Sail a boat.
    2. Drive a car.
    3. Fly a plane.
    4. Guide a train.
  2. Vikings were active from __________.
    1. 8th century to the 11th
    2. 7th century to the 110th
    3. Both 1) and 2).
    4. None of the above.
  3. Vikings belong to ___________.
    1. Southern Scandinavia.
    2. North Scandinavia.
    3. East Scandinavia.
    4. West Scandinavia.
  4. Vikings were famous for _______.
    1. Trading.
    2. Pirating.
    3. Raiding.
    4. All of the above.
  5. Vikings used to have _________ faces mounted on the bow of their ships..
    1. Dragon.
    2. Snake.
    3. Both 1) and 2).
    4. None of the above.

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