Ship construction, living conditions, and winding down of the Viking Age

Reproduction of drakkar. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

A few short tidbits from the two previous books discussed in this series.


Anders Winroth, writing in The Age of the Vikings provides a number of fun details about ships.

Author says oak was the best wood for building ships. In the north where there were no oaks, pine was the best choice.

Load capacities are impressive for the times. The Skuldelev 1 ship is estimated to carry a 24 ton load. It was built sometime around 1030.

Constructing a full size model of the Skuldelev 2 ship took 27,000 man-hours.

That time estimate is for the woodworking only. An additional amount of time would be needed to cut down the trees and gather them at the construction site.

Continue reading “Ship construction, living conditions, and winding down of the Viking Age”

Weaponry and armament of a Roman Legionnaire

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

In case you are browsing through posts here instead of landing by internet search, here’s a recap of the posts on this page describing the weaponry and armament of a Roman Legionnaire.

You will find this fits well with the description of the armor of God as described by the Apostle Paul in the sixth chapter of his epistle to the Ephesians.

Posts on Legionnaire equipment and weaponry:

Upcoming posts:

  • Pilum – javelin
  • Cloak

What was learned by studying Vorbasse Village?

An abandoned vikings village. Sod rooftops, turf rooftops. Village located at the bottom of a high mountain. Around the farm a wooden fence. Dry grass all around. Traditional Scandinavian architecture

Extensive digging has been done at a small village of Vorbasse in central Jutland in Denmark. Else Roesdahl describes what was learned in The Vikings.

The village had 7 separate farms, one of which was much larger than the others.

The 6 smaller houses were large enough that they had stalls for between 20 and 30 animals. The houses were about 90 feet long.

The largest house had stall space for around 100 animals. Obviously that Dane was wealthy.

Continue reading “What was learned by studying Vorbasse Village?”

Galea – helmet worn by Roman Legionnaires.

Roman Legionnaire re-enactor wearing lorica hamata (chain mail), with gladius (sword) and pugio (daggar) on his balteus (belt), carrying a pilum (spear) and holding a scutum (shield). Also wearing what appears to be Imperial Gallic galea (helmet) with large plume on top of helmet. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

With a shield held in front of you, the most valuable and most exposed area to be protected is your head. Helmets were in used during the entire Roman Era, as well as routinely used by their predecessors and opponents.

Researchers have identified five major types of helmets, with large number of subtypes for each.

Common thread of all the helmets is the basic design was obtained from some other people group, adopted, then refined. That fits with a broader pattern I have observed that the Romans were aggressive in adopting good ideas used by enemies which they found helpful.


Galea – plural galeae

Wikipedia provides an introductory overview of galea.

Roman Soldier Operations Manual: Daily Life * Fighting Tactics * Weapons * Equipment * Kit by Simon Forty provides more detail, but alas, is not linkable and all the images are copyrighted.

The Complete Roman Army by Adrian Goldsworthy has several pages providing great discussion of helmets.

As is typical for the book, Legionary: The Roman Soldier’s (Unofficial) Manual by Philip Matyszak provides great ’advice’ to a Legionnaire shopping for a helmet.


Montefortino helmet

A Roman Montefortino helmet by Matthias Kabel  is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 . Notice the short and narrow neck guard and place to add cheek guard, which would probably have been made of leather.

Used from 4th century BC through 1st century AD

Earliest helmets were simple, with a round shape and small neck guard. These would have been easy to produce and cheaper than the later designs. They were made out of bronze.

The basic design was developed from Celtic helmets.

They apparently had cheek guards as well, since they typically have holes in the sides of the helmet. Reportedly, most of the Montefortino helmets discovered do not have a cheek guard, leading to speculation the cheek guards were made of leather instead of metal.


Coolus helmet

Continue reading “Galea – helmet worn by Roman Legionnaires.”

Economic and political development in the Viking Era

Swedish stamps, circa 1990. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

In The Vikings, Else Roesdahl provides a great description of how economic growth took place during the Viking era and how political development was both possible as a result and was simultaneously required for the growth to continue.

Early on men in an area would gather in “things”, local assemblies to resolve conflicts. Local yarls (rulers or strongmen, vaguely similar to a small city mayor) struggled, schemed, and fought to gain influence over larger areas.

Without a modest level of security and property rights, one dare not risk scarce capital in building a foundry or gather lots of goods for trading.

As regional yarls, or petty kings, gain influence, more stability developed.

Continue reading “Economic and political development in the Viking Era”

Researchers don’t really know much about the Viking Era but have increased knowledge with new techniques.

Viking ships on the water under the sunlight and dark storm. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The opening comments in all the books I read on the Viking Age explore the limits on our knowledge of the Viking era.  Seems to me most of the reliable information has been developed in the last century or so.

Like my discussion of other books on the Vikings and Romans, this series of posts will describe some things I find particularly interesting. My hope is this will be interesting to others as well.

With the series on this book I will start bringing in other things I have learned from previous reading.

Researchers don’t really know that much of the Viking Era

Like other authors, in The Vikings Else Roesdahl points out most of what we know of the Vikings is from contemporary victims of the Vikings or from reports written long after the Viking era ended.

As a result, as the author says, it is difficult, if not impossible

“to distinguish pure fiction from an embellished version of an event…”

and to separate

“improvements and additions to make the story more coherent, from what was once objective reality.”

Continue reading “Researchers don’t really know much about the Viking Era but have increased knowledge with new techniques.”

More ideas on how to interpret those horrible, brutal, vicious Vikings who were worse than those other horrible, brutal, and vicious people.

Illustration courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth provides lots of enjoyable information on the Viking Age.

The author suggests that much of what we think we know about the Vikings is “skewed, exaggerated, or simply misunderstood. “ He wants to challenge some of the over-the-top stories we hear.

One factor he suggests we keep in mind is the Medieval ages were incredibly violent. He suggests the Vikings were no more violent than other leaders of the time, specifically Charlemagne.

The reports of their raids, normally written by the victims, suggest they were unusually ruthless, unusually successful, unusually destructive.

In contrast to common lore, the author suggests they were just as destructive and just as brutal as all the other people groups of the time.

Continue reading “More ideas on how to interpret those horrible, brutal, vicious Vikings who were worse than those other horrible, brutal, and vicious people.”

Attrition rate in Roman Legions.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

No, I’m not talking about losses in battle. Disease all the time, famine in bad times, and not quite enough food in normal times were deadly in the ancient world. Not even until the American Civil War was germ theory of disease transmission a known thing. (Update: slight wording changes not identified as such.)

The death rate in ancient times was terrible.

In The Roman Army – The Greatest War Machine in the Ancient World, Chris McNab provides some estimates of the rate of losses in a Roman Legion (page 152).

Continue reading “Attrition rate in Roman Legions.”

Life in Europe before the Industrial Revolution was dirty and disease-ridden.

Back in the 1820s, the upper class in San Diego had nice furniture but still used chamber pots which had to be dumped in the morning, Photo by James Ulvog.

There is a myth that rural life in the medieval ages before the industrial revolution was, if not good, then at least okay. In fact life then was a battle for survival.

(Cross-post from Freedom is Moral. Posted here as in illustration of the progress made by the rising wealth generated by the Industrial Revolution.)

The romantic idea of a plentiful past is pure fantasy – Marian Tupy at CapX – 2/13/19

This series of posts by Marian Tupy was kicked off as a response to one writer who disagreed with the assertion that the portion of people living in abject poverty has declined radically starting about 200 years ago. That particular author gives away his worldview by using Marxist terms. Thus we know why he refuses to acknowledge the existence and cause of rapid increases in wealth over the last 200 years. What, oh what, could have possibly caused that change?

I won’t dive in the to the responses. I will however provide a few tidbits from this article for insight of the severity of poverty in the past.

Prior to the 19th century, most people wore clothes made of wool, which not only itched but was also hard to clean, which increased disease transmission.

Keep in mind that concept of germs did not exist and most people lived under the same roof with their livestock, both to prevent theft and for mutual warmth. The animal droppings were used for fertilizer. All of that shot mortality rates skyhigh.

Continue reading “Life in Europe before the Industrial Revolution was dirty and disease-ridden.”

Picture of life on a South Dakota farm based on what can be seen in a probate document

Daniel Ulvog with horses. Date unknown but before 1945. Photo courtesy of Sonia Pooch.

In 1945 my paternal grandfather departed this vail of tears. The probate document filed for his estate the next year provides a financial glimpse of life on a South Dakota farm in the mid-1940s.

This was a time of low productivity with all the members of a large family working all day every day to keep the farm running.

Farmers were starting to transition from horse power to tractor power.

It was also a time of self-sufficiency: Raising the oats and hay to feed the horses to work the fields to raise the corn and hay to feed the pigs and cows to sell for money to pay for the farm.

I will use my accountant eyes to see what can be learned from just a probate filing.

Discussion in this series:

Continue reading “Picture of life on a South Dakota farm based on what can be seen in a probate document”