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Viking Skis - Sledges - Skates - Horses - Land Travel

It is well known that Vikings were extensive travellers who made great use of the natural waterways. Vikings were masters at using the rivers, lakes and oceans to keep in contact or to trade with communities over vast distances in the known world.

What is not as well known is that Vikings would also travel by land when necessary. It appears as though Vikings preferred to travel by land in the winter, especially in the northern areas where the wet and marshy grounds would be frozen. There have been many sledges, skis and skates found from the Vikings Age.

Viking Sledges
Several different types of sledges are known. The simplest and lightest was a ski-sledge which was quite simply a light body mounted on skis. The ski-sledge would be pulled by hand, and was likely used to transport furs from animals caught in the Northern regions of Finland, Sweden and Norway. A known heavy type of sledge would have been pulled by horse or oxen. The horse or oxen’s hooves would have been fit with crampons for better grip on the slippery surfaces. This heavy Viking sledge would have been used to transport much heavier items. An example of these sturdy sledges has been found in graves from the Gokstad ship.

Viking Skis
As early as the Bronze Age, skis were in use in northern Scandinavia. At least 100 copies of all the prehistoric periods are known from Finland alone. 30 of these are from the Viking Age. They are generally made of pine and seem to be up to 2 meters long. Pine was chosen because natural tree resin lubricates the underside of the skis allowing them to slide more easily on snow.

Viking Skates
The majority of Viking skates were made of the foot bones of horses, cows or elk. However, a pair of copper bladed skates dating from the year 200AD has been found in Finland. Skates were flat on each side and tied to foot. The user wouldn’t be skating as we know it today; instead they would be used as very short skis. The skater got momentum by pushing themselves over the ice with one or two iron tipped sticks.

At other times of the year, most people traveled on foot or on horseback. Travel by horseback was generally something which was reserved for the wealthy during the Viking Age. Viking roads were built primarily for military purposes.

LastUpdate: 2015-04-22 09:55:58