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Viking health

Viking health
Hand of Viking man around 55 years old.

Skeletons show that arthritis of the back, hands and knees plagued ordinary Viking farmers. Many Vikings also suffered from tooth problems. More than a quarter of the population had holes in their teeth. Finds of crania show that most Vikings had several teeth missing. In a number of cases only a couple of teeth were left by the time that death occurred. Many other illnesses must have affected the Vikings. However, these are not shown by the bones. The other illnesses are likely to have included pneumonia and badly inflamed wounds, which caused many deaths up until the modern era. There are many written sources from the European Middle Ages, which describe how plants were used to treat illnesses. However, we can only guess what knowledge the Vikings had of plants and their curative effects.

How long did the Vikings live?

Life was hard for a Viking. Infant mortality was high and the Vikings rarely reached 35-40 years of age. Only a few people lived until they were over the age of 50. As is the case today, the women often lived slightly longer than the men.

Terrible wounds

On rune stones and in various written sources we can read about bloody dramas and parents who mourned for lost sons. This shows that violence was a significant cause of death for Viking men. Male skeletons displaying terrible cut marks have also been found.


The pelvis of an unlucky Viking, who received a severe cut to the hip.