what is a Viking drinking horn in history

The Viking Age has generated significant interest in the public sphere, primarily based on their depiction in the media. After the myth that Vikings wore horned helmets got debunked, many were left wondering what else what real and what wasn’t. There are plenty of other Viking misrepresentations, but Vikings using horns for drinking a beverage from was no one of them.

Thankfully, there are plenty of archeological records show that, during the early years, Vikings used horns as they were, or fashioned cups made from them. The horns found in the Viking age were drinking utensils. Here, we’re going explore, in detail, the Viking drinking horn, and what you need to know before getting your own.

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What is a Viking drinking horn called?

The name of a Viking drinking horn, based on Norse mythology, was called Gjallarhorn. That, in English, translates to “sounding horn” or “yelling horn.” It comes from the narrative where Heimdallr, the god who owned the Gjallarhorn, sounded the coming of Ragnarök, marking the death of many Norse gods.

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A lot of the horns found in the Viking Age were in women’s graves, where they also found other drinking equipment. The drinking horns would get used to drinking water, milk, or the mead they’d made. The reason they were found in women’s gravesites is that they were responsible for making mead and serve it to their men and guests. The horns were readily available on a lot of farms and also during hunting trips.

In Trondheim, the NTNU University Museum has a collection of about twenty drinking horns, either whole or in pieces. They were found in the oldest grave findings that date back between 500 BC and 1050 AD, that is, the late Iron Age in which the Viking age falls under. There was evidence that these horns had been passed down through generations.

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How are drinking horns made?

There are few examples that survived the centuries, but the horns found were made from domesticated cows and goats. It’s also believed the Vikings did use drinking vessels either made from antlers from hunted moose, elk, deer or the like, or stone. For practicality purposes, many of the horns did have a stand. It would otherwise be difficult to always have a cup in your hand, even when eating.

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What about the smell of a horn would typically have? Drinking off a horn cup straight from an animal would otherwise be unpleasant. Thankfully, artisans put a resilient coating that gives the horn a complete seal. Even so, horns in their raw form are not water-resistant. They would absorb what’s in the cup, and that could lead to breeding bacteria. Over time that would not only leave a nasty state from the previous drinks but also make you unwell.

Currently, artisans take the time to craft the horns before selling them. As the buyer, you should ensure that you get a watertight horn as you want it to contain your beverage even after years of use. However, there tends to be a catch with the horns. A lot of those currently found do act better as souvenirs that you use liberally. That means using it during special occasions as those suggested. Alternatively, you can opt for a plastic replica if you’d like to use it more often.

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What you need to know about drinking horns

You can purchase horn cups from various sites that specialize in Viking merchandise. They are great for any occasion, particularly theme parties. One such example is having a movie night where you want Viking themed movies and series, enjoying the various aspects incorporated into the characters and their apparent culture. Festivals too are a great time to grab your cup horn and make merry.

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When you decide to buy a couple of Viking drinking horns, you’ll note that they have different colors. That’s typical, given that animals are unique looking horns. You ought, therefore, not worry about getting horns in your package that look different. You’ll also notice that it’s not just the color that would differ, but also shape and the texture too. The horns will range from light, dark, and a combination of the two. The size also does vary, so you can get a horn that holds as little 100ml or to two liters.

For some, there is a concern about if cruelty is involved in attaining horns. The good news is that the horns are a byproduct of the meat industry. That means the stores that are getting the horns are not involved in the killing of the animal or removing the horn. One can consider this kind of sources as being sustainable. In essence, it is recycling so that part of the animal can live on for however long.

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Whatever kind of horn you settle for, ensure that you do clean it with warm soapy water. Don’t use strong detergents or chemicals as well. Also, the dishwasher would likely damage the item, so that’s something to avoid. As mentioned, get one that is treated on the inside with a layer that makes it watertight. You can also let the horn airdry, especially if the interior is polished but in its natural state. Otherwise, use soft cloths to dry the horn and keep it away from sharp objects. When storing the horn, avoid high temperatures as it would damage the integrity of the material.

Wrap up

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Using a drinking horn changes the experience that one would otherwise have when taking a beverage. It can take festivities to a new height, primarily if used in the themed Viking party. While it’s worth noting that a lot of other civilizations did use horns as a drinking utensil, it’s still pretty amazing that Vikings did the same. You, too, can enjoy this bit of culture in your everyday life, as long as you remember to treat the horn with care.

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