I went Wednesday morning to a meeting of an expat group called People Who Connect. We met at the local Archaeological museum. David and I visited it on the weekend, and read all the signs in English, and learned a lot about the history of the area, but today, I learned even more. Still using my iPhone as my main camera, so please forgive the fuzzy photos.
The dawn of the Viking period as we know it was 793 – the year they raided the monastery of Lindisfarne in North-eastern Scotland. They slaughtered most of the inhabitants, but the few that got away wrote about the incident.
The Vikings did NOT have horns on their war helmets – that was a vicious rumour spread to emphasize how vicious and war-like they were. They probably had horns or wings on ceremonial headgear, but horns on a battle helmet would just give the enemy something to hold on to while he slit your throat. The Viking helmet was of metal, or more often leather, and conical in shape……like having a bullet on your head – with a piece coming down over the nose. Men going to battle also wore chain mail to protect them.
It was interesting to learn of the importance women had in the society. The Chieftain’s wife ruled while he was off plundering or fighting, and if she was unhappy with how he was treating her, she could humiliate him by serving someone else first when he returned. she wore a key to signify her importance – even the Chieftain couldn’t use the key without her permission of her would have to pay a hefty fine.
Women used a drop spindle to spin wool into thread so fine they could weave 40 threads per inch. They used cochineal (an insect imported from warmer lands) to make red dye – a process that is still used today. They also used urine and woad leaves to make blue dye – both colours were used only by the leaders.
People were buried with the tools of their trade so they could work in the afterlife. Men hoped to go to Valhalla, where they would fight every day, and drink and eat all night until the end of time (sounds pretty boring if you ask me).
We moved on to see a rune stone. Runes were the Viking’s way of writing – it was done phonetically, so it is difficult to read. This one was written by a man who had become a Christian. He built a bridge as a good deed to help his Mother pass quickly through purgatory It was made about 1000 AD – at the end of the Viking era.
Runes have been found with such simple messages as “Time to come home” or “Kiss me” on them, illustrating that they were common.
The Norse ships were very wide and flat-bottomed, which enabled them to sail both on oceans or shallow rivers. They were powered with oars until sails were invented. A boat such as this would be a war ship, as there are shields all along the sides. If it was a trading vessel, there would be no shields.
There were many other interesting artifacts in the museum – I need to read more and then go and see it again.