Accounts of Anglo-Saxons describing the Vikings who attacked and ultimately settled in England suggest the Vikings might be considered to be 'clean-freaks', because they would bathe once a week. This was at a time when an Anglo-Saxon might only bath once or twice a year.
Advertisement. The Viking reputation for being well-groomed comes from Christian accounts condemning such behavior as vain posturing. Vikings were Scandinavians (though not all Scandinavians were Vikings), and their emphasis on being well-groomed and dressed reflected the value of the larger culture.
They took cattle, money and food. It's likely they carried off women, too, he says. "They'd burn down settlements and leave a trail of destruction." It was unprovoked aggression. And unlike most armies, they came by sea, their narrow-bottomed longships allowing them to travel up rivers and take settlements by surprise.
The purpose of the Vikings' violence was to acquire wealth, which fed into the political economy of northern Europe, notably in the form of gift-giving. Viking warriors were motivated by a warrior ideology of violence that praised bravery, toughness, and loyalty.
The Vikings loved their children, and when they weren't exploring, travelling, farming, raiding or invading faraway shores, they dedicated much of their lives to raising strong children who would do them proud.
The Viking reputation as bloodthirsty conquerors has endured for more than a millennium but new research shows that some Norsemen approached the British islands with more than a little trepidation.
Archaeological findings show that the Vikings had everything required of a terrible foe. Their axes, swords, spears, bows and arrows, shields, and armour were equal to the weapons and armours of continental Europe and Britain – and often of the highest quality available at the time.
As this chart shows, 50% of adult men died between 21 and 30 years of age and this may be because of warfare and the generally turbulent times. For women, the risks were in pregnancy and childbirth and 35% of them did not survive beyond 30 years.
Slaves were seen as “cattle”, or as advanced domestic animals, who typically lived in the darkest end of the longhouse with the other domestic animals. If slaves did not behave properly then they were beaten. An owner could punish his slaves as much as he wanted.
Vikings were extremely clean and regularly bathed and groomed themselves. They were known to bathe weekly, which was more frequently than most people, particularly Europeans, at the time. Their grooming tools were often made of animal bones and included items such as combs, razors, and ear cleaners.
The research showed that caries was almost non-existent, but the subjects had lost about ten percent of their teeth before death. The remaining teeth showed signs of extreme wear from the mostly unprocessed and coarse diet.
The bras were often made of metal and until now scientists had thought they were used as collar-bone protection. But it is now clear these pads were worn much further down by female Vikings, according to the work in Birka, Sweden's oldest Viking centre.
Vikings were known for their excellent hygiene.
Vikings also bathed at least once a week—much more frequently than other Europeans of their day—and enjoyed dips in natural hot springs.
Many Vikings used picks to clean the gaps between their teeth, and some historian believes they may have also used fibrous hazel twigs and similar tools as a kind of brush. The Viking skeletons discovered over the decades have usually had relatively strong teeth too.
“From picture sources we know that the Vikings had well-groomed beards and hair. The men had long fringes and short hair on the back of the head," she says, adding that the beard could be short or long, but it was always well-groomed. Further down on the neck, the skin was shaved.
A damaged skull believed to be that of a Viking indicates the ancient Nordic seafarers and plunderers carried the sexually transmitted disease syphilis as they raped and pillaged Europe, authorities say.
Viking women married young—as early as 12 years old. By the age of 20, virtually all men and women were married.
In the Viking Age children's lives were not differentiated from those of adults like they are today. Children were also put to work from a young age. They were part of the family and had to help with the daily tasks. Children helped their parents with indoor tasks, such as looking after the fireplace or making food.
"The examination of skeletons from different localities in Scandinavia reveals that the average height of the Vikings was a little less than that of today: men were about 5 ft 7-3/4 in. tall and women 5 ft 2-1/2 in.
Vikings had a varied and rich diet of wild and domestic meats, fruits, crops, poultry, fish, and other food they could grow, harvest, or hunt. Therefore, it is not surprising that their diet was much better and more varied than in other parts of medieval Europe.
Skeletons show that arthritis of the back, hands and knees plagued ordinary Viking farmers. Many Vikings also suffered from tooth problems. More than a quarter of the population had holes in their teeth. Finds of crania show that most Vikings had several teeth missing.
Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, an Arab lawyer and diplomat from Baghdad who encountered the men of Scandinavia in his travels, wrote that Vikings treated their female chattel as sex slaves. If a slave died, he added, “they leave him there as food for the dogs and the birds.”
The legendary Viking warriors known as berserkers were renowned for their ferocity in battle, purportedly fighting in a trancelike state of blind rage (berserkergang), howling like wild animals, biting their shields, and often unable to distinguish between friend and foe in the heat of battle.