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Ancient Vikings: 12 Facts

What do you get when you indulge in the nasty practice of female infanticide? Well, in the coming years , the men of an ancient culture do not have any women to choose from when they are in need of a bride. A study revealed in September of 2008 shows that Viking warriors had to increase their fortunes so that they could increase their chances of finding a wife. However, blame the Viking Age, as the shortage of Scandinavian women occurred due to the number of female infanticides taking place at the time.

1) The Role of a Woman

The deputy director of Cambridge University’s McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research stated that the Vikings selectively killed newborn females, which later caused a shortage in Scandinavian women. As a result, fierce competition arose when it came to who would have their choice of an eligible woman. We have already known of female infanticide by reading medieval sources, such as the Icelandic sagas, which recorded the practice as part of pagan Scandinavian rituals.

Women played an important role in the world of a Viking. Warriors who proved their worth within a military brotherhood were rewarded with marriage and the ability to start their own household. At this point, they had truly attained a level of power and honor.

In an attempt to woo a special lady, it is apparent that the wealth that Vikings plundered ended up with the women, as graves of Viking wives reveal many items (like precious metals, fine cloth, and jewelry) that have been taken as bounty from conquered regions like Britain. All in all, women were highly valued in Viking society despite the infanticide that took place. Not only did brides-to-be receive great trinkets and plundered goods, but they also received elaborate burials at sea.

2) The Importance of Birds

When it came time to navigate choppy waters, ancient Vikings relied on the instincts of birds to guide their way. During travel, they brought a handful of ravens aboard. As they sailed westward, they would release the ravens one at a time. If a raven flew back along the course from which it had come, the Viking ships would continue on due west. However, if a raven flew a different way, the ships would change course, as they looked upon the flight path of the raven as a beacon to uncover new lands.

3) Poetry Honor

In 991, the Battle of Maldon broke out between Viking raiders and the inhabitants of a town called Maldon, which was located in Essex, England. As a result, the battle was honored with a poem of the same name as the confrontation. The Anglo-Saxons were led into battle by Byrhnoth (a 60-year-old soldier that reportedly stood more than six feet tall). During the Viking invasion, he was defeated. It is documented that it took at least three men to take down the old soldier. The Battle of Maldon is believed to have consisted of 200 Anglo-Saxons to the 2,000 to 4,000 Vikings that trounced Maldon.