‘Escapades in Bizarrchaeology: The Journal of Captain Max Virtus’ by Adrian Burrows was published by Williams & Whiting on the 1st December 2016. I have an extract for all of you to read, but first here’s what the book is about.
The History Book For People Who Don’t Like History – Yet! Captain Max Virtus has spent his life Excavating the Extraordinary and Unearthing the Unusual. Gathering the history of the Bizarre to exhibit in his Warehouse of Bizzarchaeology. Now you have the opportunity to take a guided tour of his life’s work, in this, his personal journal. Discover why bats were used as bombs, how an emu can defeat a tank, the reason why guns were installed in cemetries … and how you can get shot with an arrow … and survive. All this … and then things get really weird! Take History To The Max
Those Weird Vikings
Vikings. Brilliant weren’t they?
Stinky, blood thirsty, horned helmet wearing barbarians.
Only that sentence is depressingly untrue.
Firstly, Vikings were not stinky, in fact they were considered a fragrant bouquet of delight compared to their Saxon neighbours. Vikings bathed once a week and fashioned beauty products out of small animal bones, tweezers to pluck out unwanted hair and ear spoons to scoop out gunk from the lug holes of even the most fearsome warrior.
Secondly, Vikings weren’t all that blood thirsty. In fact, their raiding hobby fast moved on to rather more boring interests, such as trading, settling and exploring (YAWN!).
Thirdly, there’s no evidence to suggest that Vikings wore horns on their helmets. After all, why would anyone think it would be a good idea to stick two big easy to grab horns on the side of their head? It would allow a quick thinking opponent to either yank your head in position for a welltimed slash of a broadsword or simply pull your helmet over your eyes and provide chortlesome fun for all their friends as you stumble, blindly around the battlefield. In fact, there’s very little evidence to suggest that Vikings wore helmets AT ALL. Illustrations from the period show them wearing lousy leather caps or boringly bare headed.
So if Vikings aren’t stinky, blood thirsty, horned helmet wearing barbarians then doesn’t that make them rather boring? Oh no no dear reader, Vikings did plenty of bizarrely brilliant things.
Vikings loved Skiing
Who doesn’t love Skiing? The answer is not Vikings. They loved it. Their skis were about 2 metres long and made of pine wood. However, Vikings didn’t just ski, they also went ice skating. The skates were made from the foot bones of horses, cows or elks and were strapped to the feet of the Viking as they propelled themselves over the ice with two short sticks.
Are you thinking about a giant bearded Viking warrior involved in a pretty spectacular and surprisingly flexible ice skate dance routine whilst clad in horribly florescent and skin tight lycra? If not, you are now.
Vikings considered the ideal hair colour to be blonde. They could also suffer from horrible infestations of lice and nits in their finely combed (yes, they had combs too) hair.
So what better solution than dunking your head in a month old bucket of wee?
Not only would it eliminate any rogue lice it would also lighten the colour of your hair.
However, having to keep month old buckets of wee could clutter up even the longest longhouse. So Lye Soap was developed instead. The key toxic ingredient of yee olde Lye Soap? Wee.
Vikings had a Weird Sense of Humour
Vikings took their reputations very seriously indeed. An insulted Viking would often respond to the verbal bashing by challenging the bully to a physical bashing instead. Duels would be held (not always resulting in death, sometimes the warrior who managed to disarm the other or draw first blood would be the victor) but what happened to the person who lost? Well, they were given a rather odd challenge. A wild cow would be brought into the hall where the duel had taken place. The cow’s tail would then be shaved and coated in grease. Then the Viking who had lost the duel would have their feet covered in grease too. Then the cow would be made angry (calling it names or poking it in the eye with a stick should do the trick). Then the loser would have to grip the cow’s tail (can you tell where this is going yet?).
On a given command the Viking would then have to pull the cow’s tail. Which would make the cow go WILD! Bucking and stomping, kicking out with its hooves like a cowy whirlwind of death. The poor Viking would simply have to keep hold of its tail until it calmed down. If he succeeded, then not only could he keep his life he could also keep the cow as well! Bonus!
Secret Bonus Fact: Viking warriors wore eyeliner! It was called kohl and it was a dark coloured powder that kept the harsh light of the sun from damaging sensitive eyeballs.
About Adrian Burrows
(b.1981) works as an actor, Workshop Practitioner and Author in Lancaster. He is passionate about ensuring that history remains relevant to people of all ages and so spends the vast majority of his time dressed as a Viking, Roman Gladiator and/or a Pirate at primary schools across England.
His combination of broad shoulders and tiny waist means he has often been described as a triangle and he has a deep hatred of grammar and spelling – apologies in advance to his editor…
‘Escapades in Bizarrchaeology: The Journal of Captain Max Virtus’ is available to buy from:-
Adrian Burrow’s Twitter handle – @Adeauthor