How Tall Were Vikings

How tall were Vikings? An introduction to Viking height

How tall were Vikings? This is a common question among people interested in the Viking and Old Norse people. After all, Scandinavians today are widely considered to be some of the tallest people in the world, so it’s fair to assume their ancestors would be towering individuals too.

At the same time, popular culture often depicts Vikings as larger than the average person, with rippling muscles and almost gigantic proportions. While we can’t say for certain how tall every Viking might have been, research into Viking height has revealed some interesting facts.

For instance, archaeological discoveries indicate Vikings may not have been nearly as tall as we think. However, this didn’t make them any less fearsome to their enemies.

Let’s take a closer look at the realities of Viking height.

How tall were Vikings? Were Vikings tall or short?

So, how tall were Vikings? Like most people, Vikings came in all shapes and sizes. Some were larger than others in both height and width. However, recent findings from Viking experts and researchers suggest they were a little smaller than their ancestors.

The most recent data we have about Viking height comes from scientific study at the Ohio State University, where researchers were able to excavate skeletons from Scandinavia, and track the size of their bones.

In particular, these scientists looked at the “femur” in the thigh to define how tall Vikings might have been. The femur typically compromises about a quarter of a person’s height.

The data collected from these studies found most Vikings were generally under 6 feet, with many average men only measuring around 5 foot and 7 inches.

How Tall Were Vikings

How tall was the average Viking?

The average height of Vikings as found by researchers and scholars, varied depending on a number of factors, including their age and gender. Typically, the average male Viking would usually be between 5 foot 7 and 5 foot 9, while the average female would be between 5 foot 1 and 5 foot 3.

That’s significantly shorter than the standard Scandinavian today. A Swedish male, for instance, usually measures at a little over 5 foot and 10 inches, while a female is over 5 feet and 5 inches.

Although the average height of a Viking might seem a little short, it’s worth considering it in context.

For instance, scientists believe most people were a lot shorter than they are today in Medieval times, because access to good nutrition was limited. When the water supply and sanitation systems improved in Rome, people began to get taller.

Vikings were also considered to be somewhat taller than the following communities which emerged throughout Scandinavia, because the temperatures in the region began to change, and the farmland may not have been as fertile as it once was.

What contributed to the average height of Vikings?

Various factors contributed to the average height of a Viking during their reign. With that in mind, when we ask the question “how tall were Vikings”, it’s worth considering there may have been a lot of variations to consider.

Many of the components which influenced Viking height are the same as those which depict our height today.

Genetics plays a significant role in height, so taller parents are likely to have given birth to taller Vikings. Additionally, environmental factors can also be significant in influencing how much we grow.

For example:

Nutrition

Access to good food plays a significant role in our overall health, and ability to grow. According to studies, the Vikings may have experienced warmer than average temperatures throughout Scandinavia during the Middle Ages.

This could have meant they were more capable of growing crops and looking after animals which gave them a bountiful food supply. Vikings were also well known for hunting and eating a lot of animals, which gave them significant amounts of protein to contribute to growth.

Healthcare

Obviously, Vikings didn’t have the same quality of healthcare we can expect today. In the middle ages, there was limited medicine available to help people overcome common ailments and diseases.

This meant many people struggled with their growth as a result of illness. If Vikings had access to the healthcare we have now, they may have been a lot taller on average than they actually were.

Shelter

To ensure excellent wellbeing and good health, people need access to shelter against the elements. Fortunately, the Vikings were excellent craftspeople, capable of designing all kinds of buildings and boats.

This meant they were able to create comfortable homes for their families, which contributed to successful growth.

Safety may have also been an important factor in influencing the height of the Vikings. Thanks to their incredible prowess in battle, the Vikings were able to live and thrive in relatively good health, wherever they made their home.

They could easily adapt to their surroundings, and hunt wherever they found themselves, making them an extremely strong community.

How Tall Were Vikings

Who was the tallest Viking?

As we’ve noted in other discussions about Vikings throughout this website, the community wasn’t particularly good at documenting its history. Because of this, the information we have about the tallest and shortest people in any Viking community is limited.

However, Vikings did have a habit of passing stories down throughout the generations, particularly about interesting people.

One particularly well-known Viking was Thorkell the Tall, or Thorkell the High. This historical individual was a member of the Jomsviking order, and a lord in his community. He was also the brother of a Jarl, and the chief commander of the Jomsvikings group.

He helped to protect the Jomsborg stronghold, and was also credited for caring for Cnut the Great.

Thorkell the Tall achieved many things throughout his life, assisting with the incredible battles of the Vikings throughout the decades. He even led the English invasion, where the Vikings attacked East Anglia, Ipswich, and Kent.

Unfortunately, because the Vikings didn’t have any reliable way of measuring height, or a reason to keep track of their height at the time, there are no official recordings of how tall this individual really was.

Most people assume he was at least over 6 feet in height, making him tower above the average Viking male. However, we can’t know this for sure.

Were the Vikings short?

Answering the question “How tall were Vikings” shows us these warriors were likely a lot shorter than they’re considered to be in depictions from popular culture. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean Vikings were short.

Viking height might not look like much according to today’s standards, but the Vikings were still regarded to be significantly taller than most.

Indeed, in many tales about the Vikings shared by people who were attacked by the group over the centuries, they’re described as giant-like creatures. This could be because they had better food, nutrition, and shelter than many of their enemies.

Viking heritage may also be part of the reason why many of today’s Scandinavians are quite tall. In Scandinavia, a lack of access to crops and a changing atmosphere meant many citizens lost some of their height after the Vikings disappeared.

Indeed, the average height of a European man after the Viking era was between 5 foot 5 and 5 foot 6. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution in the Western World when heights began to rise again.

How tall were the Vikings really?

So, how tall were the Vikings? Well, what we know from scientific study and research suggests the majority weren’t the towering 6-foot men and women we see in modern depictions today. Only a few extremely tall Vikings are likely to have lived throughout the Middle Ages.

On average, Vikings were rarely over 5 foot 7 in height, but this didn’t mean they weren’t large in comparison to some of the other peoples of the time. Vikings might have been short by today’s standards, but they were still seen as larger than life attackers in their day.

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