It is possible to say that houses are like an extension of one’s culture. They are external representations of how a particular society lives. The type of house is not just influenced by the climate of the area, but also the available resources and a bit of the cultural beliefs as to what a home should be.
Ever since their induction into pop culture, there has been more interest to know about the Vikings. People ask about their culture and how they lived, including where they lived. Not much is written about them from the past. The knowledge that does exist is bits and pieces from the bits and pieces of findings gotten up to date. In this article, we will specifically look into and exhaust all information there is to know about Viking houses and what they were like back then.
Fun Facts About Viking Houses
The following are several fun facts you should be aware of when it comes to Viking houses:
- A Viking house was called a longhouse and measured about 75m in length, 3m wide, and is primarily made of wood and clay.
- The longhouses were segmented into several rooms with a fire at the center of them. That’s because different families lived in the same house with the most important family sleeping closer to the fire.
- The fire was at the center of the longhouse and served as a source of warmth and for cooking as well as lighting, although stone lamps with fish oil.
- Most Viking homes were believed to have a loom where women would weave wool to help prepare the loom for clothes and textile.
- The Vikings also kept their livestock and many other goods and belongings with them in the same longhouse.
- A wealthy Viking house had rooms that were separate for the servant, there were ornate carvings on the wall and wool tapestries.
- In colder areas, Vikings would use stones and tuff, some would even stuff wool, moss, and straw between two walls for insulation.
- A Viking house had little furniture which included benches with pillows and cushions, surrounding the fire.
What Is A Viking House Called?
Viking houses were known as longhouses. They were about 75m in length although this would vary based on how rich the Viking was. The width was however a standard of 5-6m. The houses were made up of wooden frames and planks that were filled in with clay. In colder regions, wool and straw are in between the walls for insulation. The type of materials also varied depending on the region and they are available there. In Iceland for example, because the wood was scarce, the houses were made of stone. The roofs of the houses made of turf, wood, and straws, were also high because of the bone fireplace that was placed at the center of the house.
The house was segmented into multiple rooms used for different functions. The Vikings had a habit of putting all their belongings under one roof, including their livestock. It made it easier for them to watch over them as well as helped with generating heat in the house. The central part of the house was for the inhabitants. Benches pillows and cushions were placed close to the fire, to provide sitting areas by day and sleeping areas by night.
Details Of Viking House: Viking House Style
Viking longhouses had a long straight and rectangular shape to them. They were tall one-story homes that could have a height of over 3m if you included their high-pitched roofs. The pitched roof made it easier for the rain to wash over the house. The style may have however varied based on the location. This was due to factors like the climate and available resources in that region.
While most longhouses were made primarily of wood, in regions like Iceland where wood was scarce, stones were used instead. In such areas, the house would be dug deeper into the ground to reduce the amount of material needed for the walls. Some Viking houses had walls entirely made of wood, but in other settlements mud or peat was added for extra protection against the elements. Also, while most roofs were thatched roofs, others used wooden shingles.
The Viking Household Exterior
As we’ve mentioned earlier, the Viking longhouses were long and had a rectangular shape to them. The walls and most of the house was made of wood, but they would sometimes be lined up with clay or turf. This was to keep the wood from rotting that is why Vikings had to repair the walls regularly especially during the damp climate period. Of course, where wood was scarce, the stone was the alternative material used. On such buildings, it was common to find wild grass and moss covering the entire wall up to the roof. This helped with the insulation of the home.
The house had no chimney or windows. They simply had a high roof with a hole at the center, but, likely, this wasn’t enough ventilation for the house. The interior must have therefore been smokey. The roof was commonly thatched with turf and straws, but you could also find those that used wooden singlets. There were also posts on the outside and inside placed there to support the roof.
Inside The Viking House
The interior of the longhouse was simple and basic. It had posts running along its length to provide support for the roof. The posts were also used to segment the house, which was typically one room, into separate spaces. One end of the house was used for keeping animals, crops, tools and other belongings the Vikings may have had. The other half was for human inhabitants and in some cases slaves. The wealthier homes managed to have more than one room and more privacy.
Some benches surrounded the fire at the center of the house. They had cushions and pillows and were where Vikings could sit and sleep. Because there were barely any windows in the house, the fire was not only the heat source but also the light source, so it was lit all through the day. Considering the poor ventilation, one can imagine how foggy the house was on the inside due to the constant smoke.
The Materials Of Viking House
In a place like Scandinavia, there were a lot of natural resources with wood being at the top of the list. That is why it was the primary building material for the house. Other materials that were used as we’ve already mentioned include stones, in areas where wood was scarce, turf whose alternatives were clay, mud, or peat. Wool and moss were also used for insulating the walls. Wood shingles were alternatives for those who did not want thatched roofs, but both worked well to protect the house from the elements.
Inside the house, there were also various household items aside from the fire pit. Some lamps are used to fish or seal oil to provide extra lighting in the house. There were benches as we mentioned that were lined with straws and animal hide. The pillows and cushions were also available. In wealthier homes, you would have probably found decorative artifacts like wall hangings, paintings, and carvings that may have livened up and filled their spaces.
The Construction Of Viking House
As we’ve mentioned countless times throughout this article, wood was the primary material used. The house was made up of wooden beams fixed below ground level to provide a strong foundation and the A-shaped wooden frame of the house to support the roof. The level of pitch used was determined by the type of roof. Wooden shingles could be pitched at any level but the thatch roof needed the pitch to be steep enough for the rain to wash over correctly.
The walls that used clay or peat first started with wooden wattle, which involved sticks woven together as the base. A layer of clay, peat, or mud would then be added to it to reinforce it. Those walls that were made entirely out of wood boards, however, required master craftsmanship. They needed to be tightly packed to ensure that they could protect the inhabitants from the elements. Some walls were even curved to make the house seem like an inverted ship.
As for the flooring, some Viking longhouses had no flooring but the earth. Others had wooden flooring. For such, there was a foundation of stones, upon which the layer of wood was placed. This was to prevent the wood from coming into contact with the moist soil and rotting.
The Vikings were indeed skilled craftsmen and this is clear from the homes they built for themselves back then. The fact that most of these homes have survived for such a long time is only proof of that. Some of these homes still survive and people can visit them in places like Norway or Denmark, in the Viking farms. Their fascinating longhouses are a far cry from the modern homes we have today, but their architecture could still offer some inspiration for those looking for one.