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5 Viking myths and misconceptions debunked

There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the Vikings

When we think about the Vikings, we might have the mental image of blond fierce, bloodthirsty warriors, wearing metal armor and helmets with horns. But is that view correct? Let’s see how realistic this image we have about the Vikings is. Here are five widespread myths about the Vikings debunked!

The Vikings wore helmets with horns

This is one of the most widespread myths about the Vikings. Invariably, when we think about a Viking, in our mental representation, more likely than not, he is wearing a helmet with horns. Well, contrary to popular beliefs, the Vikings did not really wear this type of helmets.

From an archaeological point of view, there is only one such helmet has survived and has been discovered, but it is seen as a piece of armor with an embellishment, rather than a statement horns helmet. A more realistic version of what the Vikings wore on their heads is represented by leather or iron head coverings. The source of myth goes back to 1840s when Carl Doepler created the outfits for the “Der Ring des Nibelungen” (Wagner, 1848) and he used for the first time, in this representation, helmets with horns, and a new stereotype had been created.

The Vikings only had light hair colors

Most of the times, the Vikings are depicted as blond or fair-haired people. The truth is that even if many Vikings that lived in Sweden were blond, there also existed red-haired Vikings (in Denmark, for example) or dark-haired too. They married people from other cultures, brought slaves from other countries, and this is a proof that they had not been only fair-haired people.

All Vikings were warriors, and wore metal armor and swords

It is true that the Vikings were a very brave culture, but this warrior-like depiction is not 100% accurate. Of course that they had a group of warriors that were the ones fighting to conquer new territories or to defend theirs, but they also had “civil” people in their tribes. And of course, that in war times and on the battlefield, they wore the metal armor and the sword, but they had no reason to wear them when not fighting.

Historians who have studied the Viking culture discovered that only those among the wealthiest Vikings owned and (proudly) wore swords. For an accurate image about the Vikings, we should mention that they also fought with bows and arrows, axes and knives (both short and long) and they protected themselves with leather and wooden shields and coverings.

The vikings were unhygienic drunks

Although the Vikings had rough lifestyles, they did not allow these living conditions to affect their hygiene and looks. There have been discovered numerous self-care and hygiene artifacts like combs, toothpicks, ear and nail cleaners and even tweezers. There are proofs that men wore eyeliner and groomed and style their hair.

Vikings relied solely on runes as their writing method

Depending on what, why and when they were writing, the vikings used Latin, Icelandic, and of course, runes. Runic inscriptions were mostly made on the dead commemorating rune stones and engraved on smaller objects (personal belongings, stones, wooden pieces). The majority of the manuscripts that have been preserved until the present day can be read in old Icelandic language and those written in later times, in Latin.

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