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Vikings--793 -1066

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Who was the most famous Viking?

Ivar the Boneless – a famous warrior and one of the leaders of the ‘Great Heathen Army’ that landed in East Anglia in 865, and that went on to conquer the kingdoms of Northumbria and East Anglia – was remembered as the founding father of the royal dynasty of the Viking kingdom of Dublin.

It is not known how Ivar came by the nickname ‘the Boneless’, although some have suggested it could have been due to an unnatural flexibility during combat or because he suffered from a degenerative muscular disorder, eventually resulting in him having to be carried everywhere. Unless his body is ever recovered – which would be difficult if he really was ‘boneless’ – we will never know.

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Porridge and bread were by far the two most important elements in the Viking Age and medieval diet. The main ingredient was barley, and to some extent also rye, oats, and wheat. To make the grain digestible as food, however, required careful preparation; the grain had to be crushed or ground. When only the hull was crushed, the resulting grain was suitable for boiling. To bake bread, the grains had to be broken down more finely, which could be done by grinding in a quern or mill.

Vikings Daily Bread


Creating the daily bread of the Vikings in Southern Scandinavia Grain was normally kept un-ground on the farm. It was only ground when it was to be used, and then only as much as was needed for the moment, to bake bread or make porridge. This meant that grinding was a recurrent job in most households. The quern must have had to be rotated daily, or at least several times a week. It is reasonable to assume that the quern was one of the most central points in the household, fully comparable to the well and the hearth.


Bread was typically made from unleavened barley flour ground in stone querns . The handle of the quern was used to rotate the top stone over the bottom stone, grinding the grain between the stones. In Iceland, lava querns were used, which produced finer flour. Stone chips from querns have been found in recovered flour, so the bread must have made for a gritty repast.


Norse families ate two meals per day: dagverðr at mid-morning, and náttverðr in the evening. Most families had a table of some sort, and wealthy families used a linen tablecloth. Meats were served on wooden trenchers and eaten with one's personal knife. Stews, porridge, and similar items were served in wooden bowls and eaten with wooden or horn spoons (right). A reproduction of a wooden serving bowl is shown to the left. Shells were used for ladles and spatulas.

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Art & Culture in Viking Times


Art made by Scandinavians during the Viking Age (c. 790-1100 CE) mostly encompassed the decoration of functional objects made of wood, metal, stone, textile and other materials with relief carvings, engravings of animal shapes and abstract patterns. Several succeeding and sometimes overlapping styles have been identified within Viking Age decorative art, usually named after the finding place of a famous example of that style, such as:

  • The Borre Style (c. 850-late 10th century CE). Ribbon plait ('ring-chain', a symmetrical interlaced pattern); a single gripping-beast with triangular head and contorted body; most widespread of all the styles, found throughout Scandinavia and across the Viking colonies.

  •   The Jelling Style (just before 900-end of the 10th century CE). Beast with a ribbon-like body; head seen in profile; usually double-contoured body which is beaded; closely related to and overlapping with the Borre style.

  •   The Mammen Style (c. 950-1000 CE). Great, fighting beasts; spiral-shaped shoulders and hips; often asymmetrical; vigorous and dynamic; ribbon- and plant elements.

  •   The Ringerike Style (c. 990-1050 CE). Large animal in dynamic pose; movement; powerful and elegant; plant ornament; popular in England and especially Ireland.

  •   The Urnes Style (c. 1040-at least 1100 CE). Also named 'runestone style'; very elegant; asymmetrical; motif of the great beast; interweaving, looped snakes and tendrils; very popular in Ireland.


More Viking Good Stuff to Come

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