Viking Voyages

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Viking voyages – 700 – 1050 CE

Nordic Science:

“Viking Age people knew about sails, at least since the birth of Christ, because they had contact with the Romans who had sails on their ships. But it is not until around the seventh and eighth century that we see the sail introduced in Scandinavia,” says Dr Morten Ravn, an archaeologist and curator from the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark.

“We don’t know why they didn’t have sails earlier, perhaps they just chose not to use it” says Ravn, who believes that the Norsemen must have known about the use of sails in the seventh century.

With the sail began a historical period when the Norse reached all the way down to the Caspian Sea, Gibraltar, Iceland, Greenland, and America.


“We do not know what was happening in between the time of the Nydam society’s boats and ships of the third and fourth century AD which were exclusively propelled by oars, and the seventh century where we begin to find pictorial depictions of ships. We cannot rule out that at some point we will find a ship from the year AD 500, but right now it is one of archaeology’s great questions,” he says.

The Nydam boat is 23 meters long and 3.5 meters wide. It is clinker built, a technique where the edges of hull planks overlap and planks are joined end to end into a strake. This was developed in northern Europe and successfully used by the Norsemen, and it represents a step in evolution in shipbuilding between the sewn plank boats and the new Viking ships.

During the Viking Age, they developed different types of ships for different purposes — either for crew, food, or merchandise.

Some ships were built for navigating along coasts and rivers, whereas the ships that went to England, Iceland, Greenland, and America were likely to have been large oceangoing vessels that could carry up to 80 people or a large amount of cargo. ……

Written sources indicate that Vikings travelled, traded, and raided, throughout most of Europe.

The annals from the Franciscan monastery of St. Bertin in 841 AD describe how the Danish Vikings sailed down from the North Sea and entered the English Channel to attack Rouen, a town in Normandy, Northern France. The scribes tell how the Vikings raged and plundered, used swords and fire, destroyed the town, killed and enslaved monks and other townspeople, ravaged all monasteries and settlements along the Seine or left them terrified after taking their money as bribes.

The Icelandic sagas written in the Middle Ages are another example, and perhaps the most famous written accounts of the Viking travels. One tells the story of the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada and his travels to Miklagård (modern day Istanbul). He entered into service as the Emperor’s bodyguard and returned home to Norway a wealthy man.



One Response to “Viking Voyages”

  1. tfoz Says:

    They probably thought sails were for wimps, lol. Interesting, though!

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