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The Truth Behind Vikings Ships


The Legacy Ship sits before U.S. Bank Stadium greeting all those who come to visit.  Likewise, another ship rests at the team's Winter Park facility in Eden Prairie and yet another is used to bring the team onto the field prior to home games. It is the iconic Viking ship that has become an enduring image of the Minnesota Vikings franchise. It was a part of the inaugural team branding in 1961 and here in 2016 a Viking ship was part of the inspiration in the architectural design of U.S. Bank Stadium. Today we explore the history of these vessels that have become a part of our team and learn the truth behind Viking ships.

Longships were a major invention in the Viking Age. For three hundred years these vessels allowed Scandinavians to raid and trade in Europe and beyond. The secret of Viking ships is their shallow draft (only a yard) and light weight, combined with outstanding sailing ability. They could land on any beach, permitting lightning-quick embarking and attacks. Great loads could be carried, including horses and livestock.

Some ships were small enough to travel on rivers far into the East. Other were so large they could cross the Atlantic Ocean. Cargo ships were broad, warships narrow and with a dragon's head on the prow. Ships could be 150 feet long and carry hundreds of men. Some had a battering ram on the prow and many had names, often inspired by animals: Ormrinn langi (The Long Snake), for example.

Through their journeys, Vikings learned much from the peoples they met. There was exchange of ideas and intermarriage. Scandinavian society was multi-cultural.  On their great ships, Vikings first raided and then settled in Russia, Britain, Ireland, and even briefly on the North American coast. Scandinavians could expand and explore at will. A relentless spirit of discovery is their most enduring legacy. Perhaps this is what makes them the most interesting today.

Henrik Williams is the renowned authority of Old Norse languages, returning to the American Swedish Institute as an in-demand speaker on topics encompassing the Vikings, runes, Old Swedish and Old Icelandic. Awarded a 2015 Rudbeck medal for groundbreaking research, Williams is a scholar and Professor of Scandinavian Languages at Sweden's Uppsala University. As a philologist, he studies languages in written historical sources, essentially combining literary criticism, history, and linguistics.  A 40-year Minnesota Vikings football fan since his years as an exchange student, Williams is currently debunking Nordic myths and advising the team on the authenticity and meaning of its symbols.

These programs are made possible through the collaborative efforts of the American Swedish Institute, Uppsala University, American Friends of Uppsala University, Uppsala University Alumni Association – Minnesota Chapter, American Association for Runic Studies and The Minnesota Vikings.  To learn more or reserve a spot please visit the link below.

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