The secret of Viking success? A good coat of tar…

Industrial pits led to waterproofed ships for epic pillaging raids

Vikings conquered Europe thanks to an unexpected technological innovation. They learned how to make tar on an industrial scale and used it to waterproof their longships so that they could undertake large-scale, lengthy pillaging trips around Europe – and across the Atlantic, say archaeologists. Norse raiders were the original Boys from the Blackstuff, it transpires.

The discovery is the work of Andreas Hennius, of Uppsala University. In Antiquity, he reports finding critical evidence that shows output from tar pits in Scandinavia increased dramatically just as Vikings began raiding other parts of Europe. These pits could have made up to 300 litres in a single production cycle, enough to waterproof large numbers of ships. “Tar production … developed from a small-scale activity … into large-scale production that relocated to forested outlands during the Viking period,” says Hennius. “This change … resulted from the increasing demand for tar driven by an evolving maritime culture.”

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Source : The secret of Viking success? A good coat of tar…