Vikings In The East, The Normans

Discussion in 'History & Past Politicians' started by Margot, Sep 15, 2011.

  1. Margot

    Margot Account closed, not banned

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    http://www.nordicway.com/search/Vikings in the East.htm

    A bit of history for those who are interested......

    VIKINGS IN THE EAST_Remarkable Eyewitness Accounts

    More than a millennium ago, as fleets of Viking raiders were striking fear into the hearts of coast and river-dwellers throughout western Europe, other Norsemen of more mercantile inclination were making their way east. With no less boldness and stamina, bearing luxurious furs and enticing nodules of amber, they penetrated the vast steppes of what is today Ukraine, Belarus and Russia and entered Central Asia. There they met Muslim traders who paid for Norse wares with silver coins, which the Viking themselves did not mint, and which they coveted.

    Their routes were various, and by the ninth and 10th centuries, a regular trade network had grown up. Some Norsemen traveled overland and by river, while others sailed over both the Black and Caspian Seas, joined caravans and rode camelback as far as Baghdad, which was then under Abbasid rule and populated by nearly a million souls. There, the Scandinavian traders found an emporium beyond their wildest dreams, for their fjord-rimmed homelands had only recently seen the emergence of a few rudimentary towns.

    To the Arabs of Baghdad, the presence of the Norsemen probably didn't come as much of a surprise, for the Arabs were long accustomed to meeting people from different cultures and civilizations. They were also keen and literate observers. Abbasid historians and caliphal envoys put to paper eyewitness accounts of the roving Scandinavians, leaving a historical legacy that is shedding new light both on Viking history and on a little-known chapter of early Islamic history.
    From the time of the first Viking attacks on England in the late eighth century, the 300 year epoch known as the Viking Age found the Scandinavians venturing farther afield than any other Europeans. They colonized nearly the entire North Atlantic, even establishing a shortlived settlement in North America about the turn of the millennium. It was largely Vikings Øm Norway and Denmark who made these western voyages, but waves of "Eastern Vikings," predominantly Swedes, headed southeast to establish trading centers in Kiev and Novgorod, where the elite among them became princes and rulers. It was in these lands that they were observed by several Muslim historians.

    The Arab writers did call the tall, blond traders "Vikings," but by the ethnonym Rus (pronounced "Roos'). The origin of this term is obscure, and though some claim it stems from the West Finnic name for Sweden, Ruotsi, there is. little agreement. Yet consistently, Byzantine and Arab writers referred to the Swedish traders and settlers, as well as the local population among whom they settled and intermarried, as Rus, and this is the source of the modern name of Russia.

    The name was applied only in the East. In France and Sicily, the Vikings were known as Normans. An elite guard of the Byzantine emperors, composed of eastern Scandinavians, was known as Varangians, but that term never came into widespread use outside the region. In al-Andalus, or Islamic Spain, they were known as al-majus, or "fire-worshippers," a pejorative reference to their paganism.

    Besides the Scandinavians themselves, only the British called the marauders "Vikings," and this word may come from vik; or bay, and Viken, as the Oslo Fjord was called, from which the earliest Viking ships emerged. Other authorities maintain that the name 'came from the Old Norse term i viking, which is the equivalent of "a-raiding," as in "they went a-raiding down the Atlantic coast." But "Viking" was never a blanket term for the whole people of the region until it became a popular, modem misuse. "We can refer to Viking Age society, but not all Scandinavians were Vikings," says Jesse Byock, who is professor of Old Norse literature at the University of California at Los Angeles. "They themselves used the term to refer to raiders from the region, but it certainly didn't describe the local farmers who were back on the land."

    In western Europe, journal entries about Viking raids were often penned by monks and priests whose interests lay in painting them in the darkest, most savage colors. But in the East, the story was different. There the Rus were primarily explorers, colonizers and tradesmen, and although they were well-armed, Muslim accounts describe them as merchant-warriors whose primary business was trade. The Rus were after the Abbasid-issued dirhams flooding the region, and although at times, in the more remote regions, they procured these by exacting tribute, they largely traded with Muslims who had themselves ventured north and west to find opportunities for commerce.

    We would in fact know little about these Rus, these Norsemen in the East, were it not for Muslim chroniclers. Ibn Fadman, whose 10th-century Risala (Letter) is the richest account of all, kept a journal that details his encounters with the Rus along the Volga, as well as with many other peoples. A few decades later, al-Tartushi, a merchant from Cordoba, described a Danish market town, passing down to us a rare glimpse of the Norsemen in their domestic setting. Other accounts, such as al Mas'udi's Meadows of Gold, written in 943, and al Mukaddasi's The Best Organization of Knowledge of the Regions, composed after 985, were briefer in their mentions of the Rus, but collectively they were all trailblazers in what was then the flourishing field of Islamic geography, a response to the thirst for knowledge about the vast Islamic Empire and the regions beyond it.

    Unlike Europeans, Arab chroniclers bore no grudge against the Rus, and thus the Arab reports are more detached and, in the eyes of many scholars today, more credible. Most experts acknowledge that the Vikings were, in general, victims of a medieval "bad press," for the military excursions of Charlemagne and other Europeans of the times were no less ruthless than theirs. Yet the Norsemen had only a runic alphabet, suited for no more than inscribing grave-stones and place-markers, and were hardly in a position to set the record straight themselves. Their oral sagas of heroes and gods would not be written down until the 12th century.

    Many of the Muslim accounts have been translated into European languages over the past two centuries, and they are proving valuable in interpreting archeological evidence that continues to emerge. Hundreds of Viking Age graves and buried hoards, it turns out, contain caches of still-gleaming Arab dirhams, "the coin that helped fuel the Viking Age," according to Thomas S. Noonan of the University of Minnesota. Noonan is one of the world's leading experts on medieval Scandinavian ties with the Muslim world, and a specialist in Viking numismatic history.

    It was largely the dirham that had lured the Scandinavians eastward in the first place, says Noonan. Silver had become their favored medium of exchange, but, with no indigenous sources of the precious metal in the northern forests, they went in pursuit of it far and wide. Arab merchants had started circulating silver coins in the Volga region in the late eighth century, and Scandinavian traders, intent on finding the source of the lucre, set a course across the Baltic in their shallow-draft longboats.

    In Russia, they braved the uncharted river systems, portaging of one tributary to another, shooting rapids and fending off hostile nomads until they reached the first eastern trade centers, those of the Turkic Khazars. The Khazars had become the dominant power in the Caucasian steppe by the middle of the seventh century, and they played a major role in trade between the region and the Islamic world for the next 300 years. Here, in the network of trading stations along the mighty rivers, the Swedes would have carried on active commerce with Arabs, Persians and Greeks.

    continued.
     
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  2. Margot

    Margot Account closed, not banned

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    From there, some of the Scandinavians sailed down to the Black Sea, toward the regions they called "Sarkland," a name which may refer either to the lands of the Saracens (today Azerbaijan and northem Iran); to the Khazar fortress of Sarkel, at the mouth of the Don on the Black Sea coast; or to serk, the Norse word for silk, which was widely traded in the region at the time.

    The earliest reference by Muslim writers to the roving Norsemen was made at the beginning of the ninth century by Ibn Khurradadhbih, a Khurasani bon-vivant who headed Caliph al-Mu'tamid's postal and intelligence gathering service. In 844 he wrote about the travels of the sagalibaha -- term generally used for fair-haired, ruddy-complexioned Europeans. They came in their boats, he wrote, "bringing beaver skins, and skins of black foxes, and swords, from the furthest part of the Slav lands down to the Black Sea." Rus traders, he wrote, transported their wares by camel from Jurjan, a town at the southeastern end of the Caspian Sea, to Baghdad, where sagalibah servants, who had learned Arabic, acted as interpreters.

    Baghdad, then a circular city about 19 kilometers (12 mi) in diameter, was lavishly embellished with parks, marble palaces, gardens, promenades and finely built mosques. The Arabian Gulf trader, geographer and encyclopedist Yakut al-Rumi describes how both sides of the river were fronted by the palaces, kiosks, gardens and parks of the nobles, with marble steps leading down to the water's edge, where thousands of gondolas festooned with little flags sailed by.

    This was a far cry from the rudimentary settlements occupied by the Rus. Astronomer and geographer Ibn Rustah, writing between 903 and 913, noted that "they have no villages, no cultivated fields." Ibn Rustah described the Rus as sporting excellent swords, and wearing baggy trousers that were tight below the knee -- a style which reflected the Eastern influence in their wardrobes. They were, in his estimation, heroic men who displayed great loyalty to each other. But their primary interest in the region was acquisitive. 'I'heir only occupation is trading in sable and squirrel and other kinds of skins, which they sell to those who will buy from them," he observed. "In payment, they take coins which they keep in their belts."

    The Vikings paid little attention to the face value of the coins; rather, they used an Arab system of weights to measure the silver on portable balance scales. When it suited them, the coins were hewn into smaller pieces, melted down into ingots or fashioned into arm-rings for subsequent "hacksilver" transactions. The amount of Islamic silver reaching the region increased dramatically in the 10th century, when vast silver deposits were discovered in the Hindu Kush. This enabled the Khurasanbased Samanid dynasty to mint large numbers of coins and to become, numismatic evidence shows, the main supplier of dirhams.

    The Arabs, for their part, were eager to have caps and coats made of black fox, the most valued of all the furs, according to alMas'udi. And al-Mukaddasi noted that from the Rus one could obtain furs of sable, Siberian squirrel, ermine, marten, weasel, mink, fox and colored hare.

    Other wares traded by the Rus, as inventoried by several Muslim observers, included wax and birch bark, fish teeth, honey, goat skins and horse hides, falcons, acorns, hazelnuts, cattle, swords and armor.

    Amber, the reddish gold fossilized tree resin found along the Baltic shoreline, was highly prized in the East and became a mainstay of Scandinavian trade.

    Also valued in the East were the slaves that the Rus captured from among the Eastern European peoples - Slavs, from which English has derived the word slave. According to the itinerant geographer Ibn Hawkal, writing in 977, the Rus ran a slave trade that flourished "from Spain to Egypt."

    But the most important eyewitness account of the Rus is that of Ahmed ibn Fadlan, a writer about whom little is known, but whose Risala has been translated into several languages.

    \CONTINUED http://www.nordicway.com/search/Vikings in the East.htm
     
  3. Woogs

    Woogs Well-Known Member

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    Interesting read. Thanks for posting. And the popular history is that these were nothing more than barbarians.

    Since your post mentioned an American settlement, I thought I would add on a couple of things. First is of an American 'Stonehenge'. Pottery fragments date back to 1000 BC and charcoal dates back 4000 years. No one is certain who built it.

    http://www.unmuseum.org/mysthill.htm

    There have also been ancient Caucasians skeletons found in America.

    http://www.utexas.edu/courses/stross/ant322m_files/1stpersons.htm

    http://www.science-frontiers.com/sf109/sf109p02.htm

    ...and also in China.

    "What has stirred up the most excitement in academic circles, both in the East and the West, is the fact that the ancient corpses of 'white (Caucasoid/Europid) people' have been excavated," Jin wrote.

    http://www.rense.com/general64/chui.htm
     
  4. Margot

    Margot Account closed, not banned

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    Oh wow and look at the timing...

    Mystery Hill: America's Stonehenge?
    About 40 miles north of the city of Boston, and about 25 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, is what appears to be the greatest, and perhaps oldest, megalithic enigma of North America. Mystery Hill, also known as "America's Stonehenge", is a site that has puzzled archaeologists for almost a century.

    Running across the 30 acres of hillside are a series of low walls, cave-like primitive buildings, and tunnels that are spread about with, according to one archaeologist, "gigantic confusion and childish disorder, deep cunning and rude naively."

    While the hill is compared to the English Stonehenge circle, it is, at first glance, physically quite different. Stonehenge is located on a plain, not a hill, and is arranged neatly as a series of concentric circles, horseshoes and squares. Mystery Hill seems a jumble in comparison. The stones involved in Stonehenge are larger, up to 45 tons. The stones at Mystery Hill are smaller (the largest is about 11 tons) and the construction less intricate.

    Both sites do have some common points, though. Firstly, they served as observatories. Each has been found to have astronomical alignments including summer solstice. Secondly, we know almost nothing about the builders of either location.

    continued........
     
  5. Albert Di Salvo

    Albert Di Salvo New Member

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    The Rus gave their name to a country...Russia.
     
  6. Margot

    Margot Account closed, not banned

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    Yes, of course.. and the American stonehenge could be from the Phoenicians,
     
  7. Margot

    Margot Account closed, not banned

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    If not for the Arabs we may not have any record of these people..

    We would in fact know little about these Rus, these Norsemen in the East, were it not for Muslim chroniclers. Ibn Fadman, whose 10th-century Risala (Letter) is the richest account of all, kept a journal that details his encounters with the Rus along the Volga, as well as with many other peoples.

    A few decades later, al-Tartushi, a merchant from Cordoba, described a Danish market town, passing down to us a rare glimpse of the Norsemen in their domestic setting. Other accounts, such as al Mas'udi's Meadows of Gold, written in 943, and al Mukaddasi's The Best Organization of Knowledge of the Regions, composed after 985, were briefer in their mentions of the Rus, but collectively they were all trailblazers in what was then the flourishing field of Islamic geography, a response to the thirst for knowledge about the vast Islamic Empire and the regions beyond it.

    Unlike Europeans, Arab chroniclers bore no grudge against the Rus, and thus the Arab reports are more detached and, in the eyes of many scholars today, more credible.

    Most experts acknowledge that the Vikings were, in general, victims of a medieval "bad press," for the military excursions of Charlemagne and other Europeans of the times were no less ruthless than theirs.

    Yet the Norsemen had only a runic alphabet, suited for no more than inscribing grave-stones and place-markers, and were hardly in a position to set the record straight themselves. Their oral sagas of heroes and gods would not be written down until the 12th century.

    Many of the Muslim accounts have been translated into European languages over the past two centuries, and they are proving valuable in interpreting archeological evidence that continues to emerge.

    Hundreds of Viking Age graves and buried hoards, it turns out, contain caches of still-gleaming Arab dirhams, "the coin that helped fuel the Viking Age," according to Thomas S. Noonan of the University of Minnesota. Noonan is one of the world's leading experts on medieval Scandinavian ties with the Muslim world, and a specialist in Viking numismatic history
     
  8. waltky

    waltky Well-Known Member

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    Granny found one o' dem Viking hats at a playhouse auction...

    ... the kind with the horns on each side...

    ... possum likes to wear it, an' pretend he's a Viking...

    ... when Uncle Ferd ain't wearin' it.
    :fart:
     
  9. Margot

    Margot Account closed, not banned

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    LOLOL.. cute.
     
  10. lizarddust

    lizarddust Well-Known Member

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    Actually,, the Vikings didn't wear horned helmets, the Saxons did.
     
  11. Margot

    Margot Account closed, not banned

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    Thanks.. I didn't know that.............
     
  12. Iolo

    Iolo Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    I don't think there is any evidence for that either. Illustrators just like something interesting to draw, like the purely imaginary sword-blades on Boudicca's chariot wheels.
     
  13. lizarddust

    lizarddust Well-Known Member

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    If anyone would have had blades on chariot whels, it would have been the Celts.
     
  14. wyly

    wyly Well-Known Member

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    or they're the more obvious choice...native americans....
     
  15. Iolo

    Iolo Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Boudicca wasn't a Celt - she was British, though she spoke a Celtic language, same way the Jamaicans speak a Germanic one without being Germans.
     
  16. lizarddust

    lizarddust Well-Known Member

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    Not from what I understand. Wasn't Boudica an Iceni?
     
  17. Iolo

    Iolo Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Yes - British. I'm a Silure - the country was divided into 'tribes' back then. We all spoke British and all descended - like the majority of the British everywhere still - from the Basques (to give the modern description of the people who live where we came from).
     
  18. Frogger

    Frogger New Member Past Donor

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    No self-respecting Viking warrior ever wore a horned helmet in battle--they weren't that dumb. As anyone who has done any slaughtering can tell you, horns provide nothing more than a good handhold to steady your work while you're slitting someone's throat. Nor did Viking warriors wear wings on their helmets, as they were commonly depicted doing before the horned image took over. Popular belief to the contrary isn't entirely baseless, though. Historical and archaeological evidence indicates that priests among the Norse and earlier Germanic peoples did wear headgear with horns (but not wings) in religious ceremonies. Furthermore, the ancient Celts wore helmets with wings (or other weird stuff), also for ceremonial purposes. The use of horned headdress in religious ceremonies wasn't limited to Germans and Celts--there are dozens of examples from around the world dating back to the earliest civilizations.

    Who started the idea that Vikings wore a pair of horns on their helmets in battle? Ancient Greek and Roman writers got the ball rolling. They described the inhabitants of northern Europe wearing all manner of outlandish things on their heads. For example, Plutarch described the Cimbri, the likely ancestors of at least some of the Vikings, wearing "helmets, made to resemble the heads of wild beasts," horns included. Diodorus Siculus had earlier described a similar habit of the Gauls, who were a Celtic rather than Germanic people. The Gauls, he writes, wore winged helmets or helmets with horns or antlers or whole animals attached. (The tradition continues apace; I've met Celts with all kinds of crazy stuff coming out of their heads, mostly but not entirely limited to the one day each year when green beer miraculously flows like water.)

    Archaeological finds, all but one of which date from the ninth century B.C. to about the seventh century C.E., back them up on the horn thing, but only to a degree. The ancients implied that such helmets were used in battle, but a ceremonial use is more likely. The finds consist mostly of images from rock carvings, horn carvings, coins, engraved metal objects, etc. A few actual horned helmets have been found; most are Germanic helmets from Denmark, but one is a Celtic model dredged from the Thames. None of these ceremonial horned helmets match the stereotypical image of a metal helmet with ox horns attached. For example, two Bronze Age horned helmets unearthed at Viksø, Denmark sport long twisting horns made of metal. The Thames helmet to my mind suggests an ancient priest who got drunk enough to think it was a good idea to wear Madonna's cone bra on his head.

    Even the latest of these archaological finds, with one exception, are a century or two shy of the Viking Age proper, which is somewhat arbitrarily reckoned to have started in A.D. 793, the year of the Viking raid on Lindisfarne. The exception is the horn-wearing man depicted on the ninth-century Oseberg tapestry discovered in Norway a hundred years ago. It may represent a continuation of the pre-Viking ceremonial use of horned headdress by the Norse. That wouldn't be too surprising; Norse culture didn't radically change in 793. On the other hand, it could be a new custom imported from the east. Herodotus reported that the Thracians, the prototypical steppe barbarians to the ancient Greeks of his day, wore horned helmets. It's possible the Vikings encountered something of the same sort in their travels through Russia or elsewhere in the east.

    The first image of horned helmets to be found was an engraved horn from Gallehus, Denmark, discovered in 1734. However, European artists had begun portraying ancient (pre-Viking) Germans wearing horned helmets as early as 1616, on the authority of the ancient writers. Since the ancients weren't clear on the ceremonial purpose of the helmets, they were often used in battle scenes. The use of horned helmets in German heraldry during the Middle Ages can probably be attributed to the same authors.

    How did the priests' headdress get transferred to intrepid Viking warriors? Blame artists, not archaeologists or historians. The Viking got his horned and winged helmets during the Romantic period (late 1700s to mid-1800s). Romantic artists rejected the constraints of Classicism and started to explore, among other themes, ancient Germanic and Celtic history and mythology. These artists weren't always careful about the details and sometimes depicted a hodgepodge of Germanic, Celtic, and classical motifs. (Would you believe a Viking driving a chariot?) Romantic artists gave Vikings Celtic-style winged helmets before they got horned ones.

    In the 1820s the Swedish artist Gustav Malmström was the first to give horns to Vikings, as opposed to pre-Viking Germans like the Cimbri. He did so in illustrations for an edition of Frithiof's Saga (1820-25). This Swedish poem by Esaias Tegnér was based on a poor excuse for an Old Icelandic prose saga written at a time when the once great saga tradition was beginning its long sad descent into what E. V. Gordon called the "turgid monotony of the fourteenth-century tales of kings, queens, and knights in fantastic adventure." Tegnér's sappy reworking was unaccountably popular and influential around the world. The various English translations were largely responsible for popularizing the word Viking in English.

    Where did Malmström get the idea for a horned helmet? By the time the poem came out, plenty of archaeological evidence indicated that horned headgear was used in ancient times, although it still wasn't clear that such helmets were purely ceremonial and may have disappeared before the Viking era. At any rate, Malmström's idea didn't catch on right away. While the illustrations for some English translations of the poem also featured horned helmets, the winged variety remained the norm for several more decades.

    Horned helmets were given a boost by amateur archaeologist Axel Holmberg, who in the 1840s and '50s assigned to the Viking Age a rock carving that depicted men wearing what he claimed were iron helmets with attached ox horns. In fact the carving dated to the Bronze Age (no later than 500 BC), and only Holmberg could discern what material the horns were made of. His ideas didn't do much to popularize the idea among artists or the public, but quite a few archaeologists and historians were hornswoggled for a while. The professionals eventually came to their senses, but by then horned helmets had become common on Viking heads in art.

    Richard Wagner is often credited with popularizing the idea of horned helmets, although he never wrote an opera about Vikings. His operatic cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, the four parts of which were first produced between 1869 and 1876, depicted Germanic gods and heroes in the mythical past, not during the historical Viking era. Most opera fans neither knew nor cared that the Viking Age didn't start until A.D. 793, though, and some apparently assumed all barbarian warriors in northern Europe wore pointy headgear. Wagner had also used a horned helmet in the original production of Tristan und Isolde in 1865. This is even further from Vikings, because the story is a Celtic, not a Germanic, legend.

    In Wagner's operas, horned helmets are now most closely associated with the Valkyries, but as originally staged the Valkyries wore helmets with wings. (The Valkyries didn't get horny until Wagner died.) The only major figure in the whole cycle who wore a horned helmet in the early productions was Hunding. Those who have somehow managed to stay awake through the entire four-hour production of Die Walküre may remember Hunding as the boor who objected to his wife sleeping with her brother. Wagner and his costume and set designer Carl Emil Doepler probably borrowed the idea not from the few scattered images of Vikings wearing horned helmets, but from the costumes in stage plays about ancient pre-Viking Germans.

    The horned helmet didn't immediately replace the winged helmet. The trend grew slowly until the early 1890s, when the one started horning in on the other's territory, especially in German and English illustrated children's books about Vikings. After that it was bully for horns while wings just fluttered. Winged helmets finally crashed about the time of the First World War and weren't seen much thereafter until reincarnated for Thor and Asterix, a comic rebirth if I ever saw one.

    If Viking warriors didn't wear winged or horned helmets in battle, what did they wear? Many probably didn't wear helmets at all. Writing about seven centuries before the Viking era, the Roman historian Tacitus says most Germans didn't. But we needn't take his word for it. Contemporary Viking era artwork shows roughly half of Vikings in battle bareheaded, while the rest wear unremarkable dome-shaped or conical helmets. Few helmets have survived from the Viking Age, probably because the rank-and-file wore leather helmets that didn't last. The few metal ones that have been discovered presumably belonged to the richest Vikings. Some are iron "spectacle" helmets, so called because they have bronze eye-and-nose guards that look a bit like a pair of glasses except that there's nothing at all nerdy about them. I'm willing to bet that anybody who called their wearers "four-eyes" was soon made to see the light--or stars.

    Further reading

    "The Invention of the Viking Horned Helmet" by Roberta Frank in International Scandinavian and Medieval Studies in Memory of Gerd Wolfgang Weber (2000), edited by Michael Dallapiazza et al.

    "The Origin of the Imaginary Viking" by Johnni Langer in Viking Heritage Magazine, December 2002
    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2189/did-vikings-really-wear-horns-on-their-helmets
     
  19. Iolo

    Iolo Well-Known Member Past Donor

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    Thanks Frogger - interesting stuff!
     
  20. waltky

    waltky Well-Known Member

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    possum got his lil' two-horned Viking hat on fer Halloween...
    :fart:
    Viking Buried With Axe, Sword and Spear Found With Fully Intact Viking Boat Burial in UK
    ScienceDaily (Oct. 23, 2011) — The UK mainland's first fully intact Viking boat burial site has been discovered by archaeologists working in the Scottish Highlands. The 5m-long grave contained the remains of a high status Viking, who was buried with an axe, a sword with a beautifully decorated hilt, a spear, shield boss and bronze ring-pin.
     

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