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Roofing in the Viking Age


Yule is a winter festival historically observed by the Germanic peoples that lasts twelve days from the 21st of December until the 1st of January and celebrates the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. Germanic and Norse pagans had similar but slightly differing versions of the same festivities, such as conducting religious rituals and sacrifices. Germanic peoples were polytheistic, believing in several gods, and most variations of pagan mythology include one or more origin stories, a story detailing the end of the world and the belief that the inhabited world was a sort of “middle-Earth (Midgard).” In Norse cosmology, the world tree Yggdrasil sat at the centre of all the worlds.

Yuletide being celebrated.

The Viking Age lasted from about 793-1066 CE and followed the Migration Period and the Germanic Iron Age. The term ‘Viking’ came to be defined as any Scandinavian person of the Viking Age. Scandinavians left their homelands of Norway, Sweden and Denmark and settled in the British Isles, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Normandy, and the Baltic Coast and even reached Newfoundland, becoming the first Europeans to reach North America. Viking settlements were located along coastlines, to allow them access to their long boats and the resources of the ocean.

A Viking longboat.

The Vikings utilised flat, well-drained areas for farm steading, so they could raise and farm livestock, such as pigs, goats, sheep, and cattle. Viking settlements would consist of several buildings, including dwellings, storage facilities and barns. These buildings were built with stone foundations and had walls made of stone, peat, sod turfs, wood, or a combination of these materials. The latter three materials were used to construct the roofs, using a method known as thatching.

stong viking longhouse
A Viking longhouse.

Thatching is the craft of layering dried vegetation, such as sedge, rushes, straw and palm leaves and various other materials depending on geography, climate, and environment to shed water away from the inside of the dwelling. It is densely packed, trapping air and thus also providing insulation. Thatching methods have traditionally been passed down from generation to generation and numerous descriptions of the materials and methods used in Europe over the past three centuries survive in archives and early publications.

thatch 1
A thatched roof in England.

Thatching has also historically been utilised in parts of Africa, the Americas and the Pacific Islands. Today, thatching is a symbol of wealth in the U.K, and has been used to restore historical buildings and as a more sustainable alternative to other roofing materials. There are currently around 1,000 professional thatchers living and working in the U.K. Thatching truly is a remarkable craft that has stood the test of time as a reliable roofing option.

An English home with a thatched roof.

Top Glaze Roofing Systems® are a licensed and experienced roofing company that have been servicing Melbourne and its surrounding suburbs since 1987. To organise a professional assessor to come out and provide a free no obligation roof report and quote for all your roofing needs, call 1800 88 77 98 anytime.


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