Blacksmith and knife maker Tor Aune in Central Norway makes traditional knives for hunting, fishing and work. (Photo: ThorNews)
The Danish archaeologist Henriette Lyngstrøm has examined about forty knives found in Danish Viking child graves dated to the period from 800 to 1050 AD. It turns out they were big and razor sharp, and did not stand out from knives that belonged to adult Vikings.
The knife blades examined were found in Viking child graves containing four to six year old children at Langeland and Lejre in Denmark. When the blades were cut up and placed under the microscope, it was determined that they were made of steel and iron and had been really sharp.
Lyngstrøm, who is Associate Professor of Archeology at the University of Copenhagen, thinks the discovery is a big surprise.
– I thought it was quite remarkable that the knives were so big and sharp. They were by no means toys, she told the Danish research portal videnskap.dk.
Lack of knowledge
The researchers admit that the archaeological knowledge of Viking children is limited because relatively few child graves are found. In addition, there are few references in the sagas mentioning children in common families.
Copy of knife found in a Viking child grave. The handle is difficult to reconstruct because only the blade is preserved. (Photo: Michael Nielsen / Videnskap.dk)
According to the Danish archaeologists, the discovery supports the theory that childhood in the Viking Age has not been perceived as separated from adulthood.
The researchers believe that because the children’s knives do not differ from other knives, this indicates that Viking children had to participate in the work on the farm or out in the field in the same way as adults.
However, the explanation could be totally different.
In the Viking Age the knife was an indispensable tool, and a quality knife with a blade forged by a skilled blacksmith could last for the whole life. It was used for a variety of tasks like hunting, fishing, cooking, defending against predators, and for working on the farm.
The knife that always was attached to the leather belt became a natural part of life, and the adults gradually transferred knowledge about the use to their children.
What if Viking children already as newborns got a beautifully made knife from their families – a tool that would follow them from childhood, through their adult life and all the way to Valhalla?
What if they brought with them their dearest and most useful object in their travel to Afterlife?
- See also: Viking Children Learned the Art of War
Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews