the dictionary of norse mythology


SHIPS AND SHIP BURIALS Ships were an important part of norse culture. The Norse depended on ships not only for fishing and trading but for expanding their empires. The viking seafarers roamed from their northern strongholds as far south as the Iberian Peninsula modern Spain and Portugal, Italy, and Sicily and as far east as Russia, Con-stantinople, and Baghdad. A Viking navigator, Leif Eriksson, sailed to North America in about the year1000, almost five centuries before Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas. The Vikings also colonized iceland and Greenland.Viking ships were longships, with graceful, upward-curving bows and sterns, often carved with elaborate designs. They were powered by oarsmen and sails.Ships were so venerated that when a distin-guished person died, he was put aboard his ship, which was then set afire and sent out to sea. In the myth of balder, the god was set aboard his ship, hringhorni, along with his dead wife, his horse, and some of his treasures. Hringhorni was then set afire and sent out to sea.In recent years archaeological digs have uncov-ered various burial ships in scandinavia and En-gland. Along with the bones of dead people andThis graceful vessel, found at the Gokstad, Norway, burial site, probably belonged to a ninth-century Viking chieftain. ©University Museum of Cultural Heritage—University of Oslo, Norway photographed by Mittet

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