Viking Longships: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Viking longships.

  • The Vikings were seafaring warriors from Scandinavia. They explored and settled in areas of Europe, North America and even Asia, by means of their longships.
  • The first longships (or longboats) were built as far back as the stone age, although most were built between the 9th and 13th centuries. The methods of construction are still used all over the world today.
  • There were several different types of Viking longship, based on their size and importance. They ranged from 23 to 30 metres long and could carry up to 80 people.
  • Although oak was commonly used to make longships, elm, pine, spruce and ash were also used. During construction, unfinished ships were buried in mud to stop the wood from drying out.

Viking longboat

  • The Vikings invented the ship’s keel, and the design of their ships meant they were sturdy, yet could be easily steered and turned. The ships could reach speeds of 15 knots.
  • Several different methods of navigation were used by the Vikings. They navigated by the stars, the sun and a primitive form of sundial, as well as using birds to indicate the location of the nearest land.
  • The prows of the ships often featured a carved dragon or other creature. Its purpose was to protect the sailors from sea monsters, and to frighten their enemies.
  • The longboat played an important role in Viking funerals. In some cases, dead person’s body was dressed in fine clothing, placed on the ship, and it was set on fire. Some times, Vikings were buried with their ships. (Click the link to learn more about Viking funerals.)
  • In 1997, archaeologists discovered a Viking longship buried in the mud near Copenhagen, Denmark. At 36 metres long, it is the longest one ever found.
  • Several working replicas of Viking longships have been made since the first ship was found. One of the most famous replica ships was made in 1893 in Norway and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.

What next? Discover more Viking facts by visiting our Viking resources page.

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