Ship construction, living conditions, and winding down of the Viking Age

Reproduction of drakkar. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

A few short tidbits from the two previous books discussed in this series.


Anders Winroth, writing in The Age of the Vikings provides a number of fun details about ships.

Author says oak was the best wood for building ships. In the north where there were no oaks, pine was the best choice.

Load capacities are impressive for the times. The Skuldelev 1 ship is estimated to carry a 24 ton load. It was built sometime around 1030.

Constructing a full size model of the Skuldelev 2 ship took 27,000 man-hours.

That time estimate is for the woodworking only. An additional amount of time would be needed to cut down the trees and gather them at the construction site.

Estimate is it would take 7 months to construct the ship for a master builder working with 10 shipbuilders.

Author says there would be another 13,000 hours to manufacturer the nails and other iron things needed along with the ropes and the sail. Total estimate is it would take about 40,000 hours.

How much oak was used for a reconstruction of Skuldelev 2? 150 cubic meters.

Living conditions were bad for your health

Else Roesdahl explains in The Vikings that life was tough.

Author explains people did not use chimneys in the Viking era. She points out there would have been smoke in the house which would have likely caused mild carbon dioxide poisoning.

The constant enclosure, more severe in winter, would have also caused plenty of respiratory problems. I am guessing that would be the case for much of the medieval period.

I personally observed a community with that struggle.

Many years ago I had opportunity to perform a field audit for a mission client with operations in Indonesia. I was doubly blessed to visit one of their remote locations.

The people there lived in mud huts, without chimneys or doors. The weather was temperate so they didn’t need much in the way of clothing.  As we walked around the village, I could hear many people had hacking coughs.

The lack of stoves, chimneys, and good ventilation would create a host of health problems The people living in that village I visited and all Scandinavians during the Viking Age had that struggle.

As mentioned in previous post in this series, seems to be that people built their homes large enough that their animals were stabled in the house. Imagine the waste, smell, and flies that generated. Imagine, if you care to do so, the health risks.

Winding down of Viking Age

The Vikings explains the Viking raiders didn’t just immediately stop after that very bad day on the Stanford bridge back in 1066. The raids did start to wind down though.

More Danish fleets arrived in 1069, 1070, and 1075. Author describes their size as “large.” Those fleets had little success.

King Cnut gathered another large fleet in 1085, but the fleet never sailed.

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