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oxford big ideas geography | history 8:
australian curriculum
 Viking skills and achievements
Source 6.30
 A Norwegian shipbuilder carving a stern post (back)using the same methods his Viking ancestors did more than athousand years ago
Source 6.31
 A dragon head on the prow (front)of a replica Viking longship in Norway
The Vikings were highly skilled craftspeople. They builtseagoing ships and made their own weapons and armour.These skills increased their success in trade and, later, inthe search for and conquest of new lands.
The Vikings were expert shipbuilders with easy accessto the timber of Scandinavia’s forests. They built tradeships, ferries, rowing boats,
shing vessels and ceremoniallongships such as the
(see Source
6.14).By the end of the 8th century, Vikings had beensailing as merchants for some time. They were skilled atnavigating, using the sun and stars, weather patterns,bird-
ight trails and coastal features as guides. Inother words, they were well placed to be either seatraders or sea pirates. Their strong navigational andshipbuilding skills gave them all the expertise theyneeded to make and sail ef 
cient warships. Theseincluded the
they used for lightning raids.The Vikings called them
– meaning ‘dragon’.
Longships were up to twice as long as trade ships (upto about 37
metres in length). With a thinner, lighterhull, they could carry 100
warriors (68 of whom wereoarsmen; 34 on each side). Being so light, the longshipswere easily able to be carried overland when necessary.
  U  N C O  R  R  E C  T  E  D   P A G  E   P  R O O  F S
chapter 6
the vikings
The longships were wide and shallow, helping them to stay upright in rough seas andto be taken into shallow water. Because longships could be sailed very close to shore,Viking raiders were able to wade in very quickly for a surprise attack.The huge square sails (made from pieces of woollen or linen fabric, stitched together)were commonly dyed blood red and coated in animal fat to make them more waterresistant. In strong winds, the sail provided for a fast sea or ocean crossing. Thelongships were also equipped with oars. If there was no wind then the sail could belowered and the men could row the longship instead. Rowing was also necessary tonavigate rivers.The blood red sail together with the dragon heads at the prow (front) and stern (back)helped to heighten the terror for raid victims. Vikings also believed that these dragonheads would frighten away any evil spirits or monsters during sea crossings.
Source 6.32
 An artist’s impression of Vikingshipbuilders constructing a longshipPosts at the prow (front) and stern (back)were decorated with dragon heads tostrike fear into the hearts of their enemies. The hull (made from oak/ash planks)was trimmed with an axe and thenwaterproofed with horse hair or woolsoaked in boiled tree sap.Ships had a steering oar at thestern (back) to help guide them.Ribs and crossbeamsstrengthened the hull and weretied in place with
brous roots. A central spine was carvedfrom a single tree trunk.Crossbeams were coveredwith a deck and benchesmade of pine to sit on.
  U  N C O  R  R  E C  T  E  D   P A G  E   P  R O O  F S
oxford big ideas geography | history 8:
australian curriculum
Weapons and armour
Weapons were very important to the Vikings. For astart, they were essential for hunting animals for food.They were also traditional symbols of a man’s wealthand power. For example, the swords of rich men oftenfeatured hilts (handles) decorated with silver, copperor bronze (see Source
6.34). Swords were the mostvalued weapons. The Viking sagas tell of some weapons(particularly swords) being so highly valued by theirowners that they were given ‘pet’ names (see Source6.33). A
man’s sword was usually buried with him whenhe died.By the start of the Viking Age, the Vikings were highlyskilled metalworkers. As a result, Viking warriors wereheavily armed. As time passed and raids became more apart of Viking culture and tradition, weapon makers werekept busy forging arrows, spears and axe heads from iron.They also became skilled at sharpening the steel edges of swords until they were razor sharp.Wealthy Vikings could afford metal armour, includinghelmets with nose bridges and
chain mail
(see Source6.35). By the time William the Conqueror (whoseancestors were Vikings) fought in the Battle of Hastingsin 1066, chain mail was worn by most soldiers.Most other Vikings fought with a shield and eithera spear or an axe. Spears were up to a few metres longand made from wood with an iron spearhead at the end.Axes had a thick, rounded blade, were light to use andextremely effective. These blades were strong enough tocut through armour. The shields were generally made of wood and reinforced with either leather or iron. Theywere the main form of defence for the Viking warriors.
Source 6.33
 A selection of ‘pet’ names used to describe weaponsrecorded in Viking sagas
Weapon Petname Translation
Foot biterSword
Leg biterSword
Peace breaker Axe
Heaven scraper Axe
Battle hagCoat of chain mail
Old faithful
Source 6.35
Reproductions of authentic Viking armour, including helmets,on show at a battle re-enactment in Iceland
Source 6.34
 Two Viking swordsand a spearhead
  U  N C O  R  R  E C  T  E  D   P A G  E   P  R O O  F S

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