The Cthulhu Viking Challenge

We welcome the Vikings to the blog today in the way of a postcard:

JORVIK Viking Centre



Isn’t this amazing, it’s glass! The Vikings made glass beads!!

Get me excited with a postcard why don’t you Steve. This card measures a whopping 5.75 x 8.25 inches, it’s a piece of art.

I scanned this in to make a digital jigsaw of 408 pieces out of it and the spouse said “That’s too hard” and I smiled my secret smile, knowing that I specialize in seemingly unsolvable solid-coloured backgrounds. The trick is in the subtle variations of black. The gauntlet has been thrown.

While I was making tentative steps on the outside border, the spouse, who was sitting behind me, said he liked my hair and I said “Why, what’s it doing?” and he said it was forming fountains. Yes, it’s me in my Cthulhu guise again, a sign that Cthulhu wants me to show my husband that I can finish this puzzle successfully.


Would a Viking give up? NO!!

Okay, back to glass and Vikings. While they could make glass from quartz (sand) and soda (natron) from the Mediterranean, it was difficult. Natron was a mineral salt (which contained soda ash, sodium chloride and sulphate, and baking soda) from dry saline lake beds. The Egyptians used it for embalming, cleaning, as soap when mixed with oil, an antiseptic, insecticide, teeth cleaner and mouthwash, and at some point the Romans figured out how to mix it to get glass, a technique which the Vikings learned. Clever humans.

[Imagine that, when we clean our teeth with baking soda, we have the Egyptians to thank.]

The Vikings had their own glass furnace at Coppergate and it was more usual for them to use waste glass to fashion new items. If they wanted a colour they often used mosaics from the continent of Europe, and melted them to tint clear glass. They did know how to add minerals to basic glass to give it colour, but the process was more difficult than melting down mosaics I expect. Tin could be used to make the glass opaque.

I was also surprised to learn that they knew how to blow glass to make goblets and bowls. They liked cups and beads and finger rings made of glass. Beads were made much like today by being formed on metal rods and dropped off. The Vikings picked up this knowledge from other civilizations via trading and adapted it for the objects they wanted.

The Vikings as chemists? Far from the stupid, blood-thirsty lunatics they are often depicted as. Coppergate comes from Koppari-gata which in Old Norse means “street of the cup makers” or “street of the wood-turners.”

I never knew all this, and this is why postcards are important.

Happy Sunday!




2 thoughts on “The Cthulhu Viking Challenge

  1. Don’t underestimate the Vikings. Fantastic race of people who build wide ranging trade links and were much much more sophisticated than the burn, rape and pillage image that is regularly portrayed these days. I read a great book by Neil Oliver which accompanied a TV series sometime ago about them that I’d recommend.

    • Thanks Graham! I know Neil Oliver from his History of Scotland series and also Coast.

      I’ll see if I can do an inter-library loan for the book, I would enjoy knowing what they actually were like behind the stereotype.

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