Leaving home
Room 5
Glass Smoother

Glass Smoother
and Whalebone
Ironing Board
University of
Bergen Museum
B1612, B272
Photo:
Peter Harholdt

Whalebone Ironing Board

During the prosperous, and slightly warmer, Viking Age, the rich resources of the North Atlantic (stretching from coastal Norway to the shores of eastern Canada) encouraged many to seek opportunities abroad, including the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland Islands. Here the goal was not raiding or even trading, but rather permanent settlement.

Farmers first and foremost, Vikings in the North Atlantic islands recreated the daily life of their homelands. They kept pigs and tended sheep, cattle, and goats for needed wool, leather, meat, and milk. Climate permitting, Norse grew crops such as peas and cabbage, but primarily harvested grains for producing bread and beer. Wild animals, especially sea mammals, supplemented their diet and provided skins, ivory, and oil - important trade commodities back home.

Glass Smoother and Whalebone Ironing Board
Whale meat, blubber, and bones were rare and valuable North Atlantic resources. The refined lady of the house who owned this item would have used it, along with the weight made of imported glass, to smooth her linen. Far from being the unkempt barbarians of popular imagination, Vikings were extremely fastidious for their time.

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Lofoten Islands, Norway
Lofoten Islands, Norway
Photo: Sisse Brimberg
Courtesy National Geographic Society


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