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A photograph of a replica Viking boat in Norway

10 Surprising Facts About the Vikings

Image Credit: | Above: A photograph of a replica Viking boat in Norway

Think you know your Vikings? Get the lowdown with these ten historical facts:

1. The days of the week are named after Viking gods

Did you know that our days of the week are named after gods worshipped by Vikings? The great raven god Odin, otherwise known as Woden, gives us Wednesday (literally, Woden’s Day). Meanwhile, Tuesday and Friday are named after Tyr and Frigg, the god and goddess of war and marriage, respectively. Finally, and possibly most famously, the Norse god of thunder and strength Thor gives us our Thursday. Someone needs to ask Marvel why they’ve not been releasing the Thor films on his day…

2. No horned helmets

Despite popular belief, Vikings never wore horned helmets. Christians in contemporary Europe added the detail to make the Vikings look even more barbarian and pagan, with horns like Satan’s on their head.

3. They gave us popular words

Several popular words we use today have Viking origins. Snort, lump, scrawny and anger all have their roots in Old Norse language.

4. They were known for their good hygiene

Evidence suggests Vikings had good personal hygiene and were well-groomed. In fact, excavators have found that Viking era grooming tools were some of the most commonly used of all Viking tools.

5. They did not call themselves Vikings

While we do not know exactly what they referred to themselves as, the term Vikings is a 19th century phrase. At the time of the Vikings, other nations referred to them as Norse, Norsemen and Danes.

6. They were excellent boatmakers

Powerful ships have always been associated with Vikings, and this is because they did indeed know how to build excellent ships, which were a key component to their various military and invasion successes. Their most commonly used boats were "longboats" which were not only able to fit as many as 60 Vikings at a time but were also designed to be able to land on and depart from land easily.

7. They had unique funeral ceremonies

When a prominent Viking died, they were given a grand send off via a funeral service that involved laying the deceased on a boat with their clothes, animals and jewellery, setting it on fire and pushing it out to sea.

8. They abandoned​ sick children

Vikings were all about physical strength and were known to abandon sickly children. Abandonment methods included leaving them alone in the wildnerness and throwing them into the sea.

9. Viking women had some rights

While Viking men and women certainly weren't treated as equals, Viking women did have some basic rights. These included being able to inherit property and request a divorce.

10. They preferred blondes

Just as in today's society, being blonde was highly desired. So much so that brunette Viking men had tactics for lightening their manes. One method involved using a strong soap with a high lye content to bleach their hair.

For more articles about the history and culture of the Vikings, check out our Viking history hub