The Risala of Ahmad ibn Fadlan is a tenth century travel narrative of an emissary of the Caliph to the Iltäbär of the Volga Bulgars. He described his encounters with many peoples on his journey, but the Risala is most famous for his account of the Rus and their funeral rites, who probably were Norse people who had settled along the Volga. If these were indeed the Norse, ibn Fadlan gives one of the most detailed contemporary descriptions of the Norse before they started writing down their own stories some centuries later. He was not the only Muslim to have encounters with the Norse, as Judith Gabriel explains in Among the Norse Tribes. Another 10th Century description of the Norse was by the Jewish al-Tartushi from Al-Andalus. Michael Crichton used the Risala as the basis for his novel Eaters of the Dead, which later was made into the movie The 13th Warrior. Both book and film left something to be desired in terms of historical accuracy.
"An unusual article recently appeared in the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society and American Statistical Association. It featured web-like diagrams of lines connecting nodes, a hallmark of research that analyzes networks. But each node, rather than being a plain dot, was the head of a burly, red-bearded Viking sporting a horned hat, his tresses blowing in the wind." [more inside]
Fans of history, mythology, language, and music: allow Metsatöll's Lauri Õunapuu to present his arsenal of traditional Estonian instruments. Then continue below the fold for an introduction to the world of folk metal. [more inside]
Over the past three decades, a Canadian archaeologist found compelling evidence of a Norse settlement in the Canadian Arctic. Then she was fired. [more inside]
What tools did the Vikings use to construct their ships? During the early years of the Song dynasty, while Sridhar Acharya's concept of "zero" was making it's way westward and a pair of anonymous Anglo-Saxon poets was committing the tale of Beowulf to animal skin, a Viking craftsman lost his tool chest. It is speculated that the chest fell overboard off a ship or through the ice into what was then a swamp on the modern island of Gotland, Sweden. The chest was unearthed in 1936 when a chain attached to the chest got caught on a farmer's plow. In it were the tools a Viking blacksmith/ship builder would need to ply his trade. Named the Mästermyr chest its discovery was a boon to archaeologists, historians, re-enactors, woodworkers and blacksmiths. The original tools (catalogue of the items) were restored and put on display. Numerous copies and tributes of the chest or selected tools have been made over the years including a complete replica of both the chest and contents made using period techniques as a 'net project of a blacksmiths and woodworkers. [more inside]
The Gävle Goat is a house-sized Swedish Yule Goat made of straw erected at the start of Advent each year and sponsored by merchants from the southern half of Gävle. While the 2013 incarnation is currently unharmed, the goat is a magnet for vandalism and 22 of 37 goats since 1966 have been destroyed, usually by burning. Some burn just days after construction even with ice coats and fire-proofing. The event is frequent enough that there are bookmaking odds on whether this year's goat will survive. [more inside]
Kubb is a lawn game that was (maybe) invented by Vikings, and is often described as a combination of bowling, horseshoes, and chess. This adorably-accented video explains the rules, as does the helpful infographic here. It's easy to make your own kubb set- and once you have, you can ask all about the finer points at Planet Kubb, read Kubbnation Magazine, and sign up for the National Kubb Championship.
The Vikings, pillagers and plunderers that they were, were the possessors of quite a bit of metal that needed to be used in some way. So they made jewelry. By the 8th century they had created a technique that is called trichinopoly or more commonly "Viking knitting", although it is really a type of weaving. If the Viking style of adornment appeals to you, you can learn this technique and make your own Viking-style jewelry. It's less complicated than it looks, and you don't even have to know how to knit in order to learn. You can learn to make a necklace or bracelet like this with this tutorial, or by watching a YouTube video. Once you master the basic technique, you'll be able to start improvising by adding beads and findings and semi-precious stones. It's possible that such jewelry was used as currency on those occasions when the Vikings actually paid for their acquisitions, like some sort of wearable bank account. Ostentatious types, those Vikings, but I suppose when you're known for your ferocity and lawlessness, you don't have to fear being mugged or looking nouveau riche.
They were the finest European swords the day, superior to almost any other on the battlefields of the Viking Age. Made from steel no one in Europe would know how to make until the Industrial Revolution. Stronger, more flexible, almost magical in combat, engraved with the mysterious name "+ULFBERH+T" by unknown makers, these swords were the both fearsome weapons and incredibly expensive prestige possessions. Only 171 have every been identified. And no one had made one from start to finish, using only hand tools, for over 900 years. [more inside]
The Swedish Vallhund is an ancient dog, believed to have been brought to Sweden with the Vikings and used as an all-purpose farm dog, cattle herder, and pest controller. It was close to extinction by the mid-twentieth century, when a Swedish Count and a school teacher worked together to revive the breed from one male with only one testicle and three female dogs. [more inside]
The Battle Of Maldon is an Old English poem (here in the original Old English, here in a modern translation) retelling the events of a battle that took place in England in 991, in which a small army of Saxons attempted to halt an invading Viking force only to suffer a crushing defeat. This battle, and the disastrous rout suffered by the Saxons, led to the introduction of the Danegeld, the payment of silver in tribute to the Vikings to buy off their invading forces. [more inside]
Did the Scots visit Iceland? New research reveals island inhabited 70 years before Vikings thought to have arrived
Did the Scots visit Iceland? New research reveals island inhabited 70 years before Vikings thought to have arrived. This appears to be the first physical evidence that confirms the stories of celitc monks being on the island when the Norse arrived.
You may have heard that the weather in the midwest has been somewhat inclement. Hoping for a scoop, FoxNews left their cameras running in the snowed-under MetroDome last night. The result was somewhat dramatic.
Health, Grooming, and Medicine in the Viking Age. "John of Wallingford, the abbot of St. Albans Abbey wrote in his chronicles that the Norse invaders in England were far more attractive to Anglo-Saxon women since, unlike Anglo-Saxon men, they combed their hair daily, took baths weekly, and laundered their clothing regularly."
Beheaded Vikings found at Olympic site. Last year workmen for the 2012 Olympics sailing venue in southern England came upon a grisly discovery: fifty-one men had been severely injured, most of them beheaded, and tossed into a mass grave. [more inside]
Tattúínárdælasaga (The Saga of the People of the Tattooine River Valley) is the Icelandic saga Star Wars was based on. So far five chapters have been transcribed.
Viking love poems (not to be confused with Vogon poetry). 200 years before medieval troubadours "created" romantic poetry, skalds such as Gunnlaug Snaketongue, Hallfred the Troublesome Poet and Kormak Ogmundarson told of their hearts' ecstasies and despairs. [more inside]
Norman Centuries is a new podcast by Lars Brownworth, best known for his podcast series 12 Byzantine Rulers (previously). Norman Centuries, as the name suggests, recounts the history of the Normans, those literal vikings who gained Normandy and then England, Sicily, Malta, Antioch and, well, a whole heck of a lot of other places too. They were a conquering bunch. First two episodes are out with more to follow. [iTunes link]
After ending the 2007 season for Green Bay with pretty much every passing record in the NFL and a Super Bowl win under his belt, Brett Favre announced his retirement in a tearful press conference. He later rescinded his retirement to play for the Jets in 2008. Citing an aging body unable to stand up to the rigors of another season, he retired again after last season. Despite rumors of moving to the Minnesota, he was still officially retired as late as July. Well, not anymore. He’s back, and playing for the rival Vikings. Needless to say, the move has made him an arch- villain in the town that built him into a legend. [more inside]
Haven't you always secretly wondered what would happen if a ninja accidentally stumbled into, say, Bill and Ted's time traveling Phone Booth and ended up somewhere around 7th century BC, only to come face-to-face with a feisty Spartan? Have you not pondered what would happen if you locked up an Apache with a Gladiator inside some sort of 21st century battle dome? Are you frustrated because you feel like there's nobody doing proper scientific studies to see what would happen when you pit two historically violent warriors that could have never actually met in real life? Worry no more people - I present to you Spike TV's newest offering - Deadliest Warrior! [more inside]
Viking Defense. Another tower defense game, with a few interesting twists. And, of course, Vikings.
Belated Flash Friday | Funny Viking strategery game. It makes me so happy I finished the levels and go back to do better... [more inside]
What caused the Viking Age? It has long been a source of, er, conflict among Nordic scholars. A new study ($ub-only) suggests the Viking Age was triggered by a shortage of women (lack of).
Viking invasion ends as longship sails home. The Sea Stallion From Glendalough, a replica Viking longboat (previously), is returning to Denmark.
Hurstwic is a loosely affiliated group based in New England with an interest in the societies and peoples who lived in Northern Europe during the Viking age. While no longer formally organized, they still have events, frequently at the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester MA. [more inside]
People with a History is "an online guide to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans history." Ranging from the first stirrings of civilization to the modern day, People with a History gathers together original sources and academic articles dealing with queerness throughout history. To give you a feel for the wealth of material on the site, here are a few pages that caught my interest: The Vikings and Homosexuality, Coptic Spell: Spell for a Man to Obtain a Male Lover, an acount of a gay marriage ceremony described by Michel de Montaigne, But Among Our Own Selves (an 18th Century gay ballad), a chapter from The Life of St. Theodore of Sykeon, a 7th Century Byzantine monk and bishop, which mentions adelphopoiesis, or the rite of brothermaking, Wu Tsao, 19th Century Chinese lesbian poet, and finally Polari: The Lost Language of Gay Men.
Contrary to popular belief, Vikings did not wear horned helmets, if the Viking Answer Lady is to be believed. Apparently, the whole kerfuffle was instigated at least in part by these guys.
Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga is a Smithsonian webpage (with a pretty cool Flash intro) about the Norse in North America. Along with highlights of the exhibit, there's also an interactive map of the Viking voyages. (Although L'Anse aux Meadows, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the only confirmed Viking colony in N.A.). The Saga of Eric the Red contains the story of the voyages and discovery, but there are other primary sources as well. The Viking Ship Museum has information on the famous longboats that made the voyages, which were as much a matter of luck as navigation. To mark the millenium, some crazy Icelanders sailed a longboat back to Norway (NPR story).
War Photographer is an awesome, viking-filled flash animated music video directed by Joel Trussell for musician Jason Forrest. (quicktime) via
Vikings with ... issues. And for complete amusement, check the google ads on the right. Big swords, baby, big, really big.
"Viking's is an all inclusive erotic adult fantasy resort located in the Caribbean with a full staff of the world's most beautiful and exotic escorts."
Iceland moves to become the first country to replace fossil fuels with hydrogen for all its energy needs.
Iceland moves to become the first country to replace fossil fuels with hydrogen for all its energy needs. I find it fitting that a society descended from Vikings will become the world's first hydrogen society.
IF THE VIKINGS HAD FOUNDED New York (and they damn well nearly did), they probably would have called it New Jorvik after their own city of Jorvik (now called York) on the coast of Britain. Despite their reputation as marauders, Viking York was a densely populated and bustling port city which boasted a skyline of high rise buildings. It was the New York of it's day and here's a sense of what it was like.