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"Squatting Vikings" Topic

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1,479 hits since 28 Jun 2012
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ochoin deach Inactive Member28 Jun 2012 5:10 p.m. PST

A little known fact* is that vikings tended to squat rather than sit.

This surprising conclusion is supported by several key elements of evidence.

Amongst other things are the dearth of chairs etc in the archaeological record: it appears a viking domicile might have one bench for the Big Man, several whalebone vertebrae to serve as stools for the Quality & nothing for the Hoi Polloi.

Additionally, medical examination of skeletal material seems to show the stress that might be caused by prolonged squatting.

And finally, the evidence of rare articles of clothing, preserved in peat bogs , etc. that suggests pants were designed to squat. The breeches tend to be tight in the leg & roomy in the seat, without the centre seam of modern trousers: a weak point if you squat a lot.

Do you paint your miniature vikings with a central pants' seam or are you 100% committed to the historic record???

* "little known" because almost no-one cares

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP28 Jun 2012 5:28 p.m. PST

Squattings better for your back too.

corporalpat Inactive Member28 Jun 2012 6:21 p.m. PST

Not unless I can see them on the table from 3 feet away!

Daniel S28 Jun 2012 6:47 p.m. PST

I'd really like to see some sources supporting this theory because frankly there are some serious holes in it.

The Scandinavians were accomplised wood workers and could maked boats, ships, shields, chests and wagons from the abundant local timber but somehow they could not make the simples bench? Rather they used hard to find whalebone or squated…

I've never see a report of "whalebone vertebrae" found in any period settlement here in Sweden, all whalebone found is in the form of worked pieces of a much smaller size. And whalebone would be a scarce resource in much of Scandinavia, in particular bones large enough to use as furniture.

Pedrobear Inactive Member28 Jun 2012 7:46 p.m. PST

Them been squatting in and around York for quite while now, haven't they?

When I visited the CuChi tunnels in Vietnam the guide made the comment that the European butt isn't suitable for squatting on account of its size. :)

ochoin deach Inactive Member28 Jun 2012 11:52 p.m. PST

@ daniel:

Karpathian Inactive Member28 Jun 2012 11:58 p.m. PST

Brilliant theory!

This explains why miniature dwarves are usually wearing viking gear as the difference in height between a squatting viking & a dwarf standing tall is negligible.

I'm off to repaint my 28mm vikings' crack seam out.

ochoin deach Inactive Member29 Jun 2012 12:01 a.m. PST

I'm keen on the squatting concept.
I think I want to do more than remove the 'crack seam' (felicitous phrase, what?). I'm planning to take a hacksaw to my viking hordes tonight.

I figure if I cut them off at the knees ( my 3 warbands of berserkers will be cut just below the knee so they remain a mm taller) this will simulate squatting.

Stavka29 Jun 2012 12:05 a.m. PST

Excellent! Now I can justify using my 25mm old Citadel Vikings against my colleagues larger brethren from Gripping Beast and Artizan for our Saga games. I will claim that my Norsemen are all squatting.

Now to base their new leader, Olaf Tornbreeks. thumbs up

Wombling Free Inactive Member29 Jun 2012 5:03 a.m. PST

Ferguson's book is flawed, so you should be careful using it to make sweeping conclusions like this. It's not bad as a popular history but …
Saga Book XXXIV (2010) contains one review that points out many of its flaws. It's not available as a pdf yet, but you will find it here (along with all the back issues that are available):

There is enough evidence for timber furniture, but houses, such as the Hedeby house, which has been reconstructed at Moesgard Museum, also had rammed earth 'benches' that were used as both seats and beds.


TKindred Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2012 6:40 a.m. PST

I used to do a LOT of camping. It always easy enough to find a piece of wood to use as a bench/seat/whatever around the fire. When it's time for bed, the wood goes into the fire to keep it going through the night. In the morning, you just pulled another one off the wood pile if you needed to.

You could also just sit on the ground on a blanket or cloak.

just visiting Inactive Member29 Jun 2012 7:53 a.m. PST

"Squats", I like it. "Oh Lord, deliver us from the fury of the squatters!"…

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2012 8:05 a.m. PST

Does this mean anrchists are vikings? Or vice versa?

Chazzmak29 Jun 2012 10:23 a.m. PST

In support of your theory; the Viking diet largly consisted of berries, and piscatoreal delights rich in fish oils. Both items are known to lead to "loose" bowels, hence the predeliction for squatting.
If I remeber correctly, the rowing benches on Viking ships were carved with holes in them so that the gastronmically afflicted would not have to leave their station.
I THINK I read that somewhere, or it could be the new meds playing tricks with my memory.

Crocus Inactive Member29 Jun 2012 1:30 p.m. PST

As a vegan with a distinctly scatological bent this thread is given me much food for thought. Anyone else remember Sven Hassel's desperadoes sitting on dustbins making like Churchill smoking a cigar, whilst eating their plunder?

Dave Crowell29 Jun 2012 2:44 p.m. PST

The question is – did they squat or did they hunker?

Although, just because we do not find may wooden or wood and leather chairs does not mean they didn't have any. It just means we haven't found them preserved in the. Archeological record.

Any references in the sagas to chairs, benches, squatting etc?

ochoin deach Inactive Member29 Jun 2012 5:51 p.m. PST

@ Dave

I don't know about Beowulf but Grendal seems to be a squat-bunny:


As for the 'Hunker issue" I'm afraid your revisionist views are subversive in the extreme and are not welcomed in a family-oriented forum.


Wombling Free Inactive Member30 Jun 2012 3:02 a.m. PST

Great reference to Silverback, although that is Argent, not Grendel, squatting there! :-)

Here's Grendel squatting:


Mapleleaf Inactive Member30 Jun 2012 4:51 a.m. PST

Rowing benches but no chairs ?

I disagree with the premise that there is limited archaeological evidence for "seating" in the Viking era. Here is a link to a site on Viking woodworking with lots of pictorial evidence for chairs, stools, benches etc,


I would suspect that in a low roofed domestic building seating would have been on low benches surrounding the fire or on the side of sleeping platforms built against the walls.

Sagas speak of the large feast halls where everyone sits on long benches. There are also mentions of Thrones which are large chairs, .

Wombling Free Inactive Member30 Jun 2012 5:15 a.m. PST

Rowing benches but no chairs ?

No rowing benches as such. They sat on their luggage (wooden chests) to row.

I would suspect that in a low roofed domestic building seating would have been on low benches surrounding the fire or on the side of sleeping platforms built against the walls.

In the picture I posted above of the Hedeby house, the raised areas either side of the fire are the 'benches'. They are also what people slept on. They are made of earth with a timber facing and are not what we would normally call benches. It's worth noting that the surviving woodwork is from high status graves for the most part, which may or may not have anything to do with usual practice of ordinary people in everyday life.

Regarding the large halls and descriptions of material culture in the sagas, don't forget that they tend to describe medieval practice and not Viking Age practice, even though they were written about the Viking Age.

huevans01130 Jun 2012 6:02 a.m. PST

Is there any archaeological evidence that Vikings actually defecated? Surely, this would have some bearing on the whole squatting issue.

I think we need solid evidence on this point.

Wombling Free Inactive Member30 Jun 2012 6:41 a.m. PST

Is there any archaeological evidence that Vikings actually defecated? Surely, this would have some bearing on the whole squatting issue.

Yes, there is. The largest coprolite recovered came from a Viking in York. Pictures and discussion here:

just visiting Inactive Member30 Jun 2012 8:41 a.m. PST

Women, will not put up with squatting. And they did not wear pants either. The men may have disdained sitting in the presence of their women, but their women of a certainty did NOT squat….

Karpathian Inactive Member30 Jun 2012 5:15 p.m. PST

Leela, a woman who clearly has viking ancestory, squatting:


huevans01130 Jun 2012 7:39 p.m. PST

Yes, there is. The largest coprolite recovered came from a Viking in York. Pictures and discussion here:

Good to know. I stand corrected.

just visiting Inactive Member01 Jul 2012 9:14 a.m. PST

Leela is not a Viking woman, so non sequitur there, buddy. Also, that is not a squat, that is a sit….

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