Life on a Viking-age farm seen through the lens of a lost toy
Normally I’m not too happy about my kids leaving their belongings where they’ll get lost, but a discovery by archaeologists in Norway has made me reconsider the value of lost toys. A toy boat, along with a handful of other discarded or lost objects, was recently found in what had once been a well for a farm. Nobody is reading too much into why a child may have dropped their boat into a well, but the craftsmanship and mere existence of the toy does reveal a number of details about life at the Viking farm 1000 years ago.
The boat was carved from a single piece of wood, and featured a nicely rendered bough and keel. It also had a hole carved in the center of the deck, presumably for a mast. Between the mast and the materials involved, there’s a decent chance that the toy would have fared well in the water (but probably not in the water in the well…) To the child at the time, the toy was probably rather exciting, representing some of the most advanced technology of that age, like a toy spaceship might today.
Archaeologists are also studying what that boat represents about the child’s life on the farm. The craftsmanship of the carving would have taken some time, indicating that someone had the time in their schedule to make it. Along those lines, the child apparently had time to play with the boat, indicating that they weren’t needed as labor on the farm every day either. Archaeologists believe that trading activity in the local town may have boosted the local economy, allowing farmers to do more than subsist from their crops.
A shoe worth saving
Other objects, namely an old shoe, follow this line of thinking. The shoe would barely rate as a minimal, padded slipper by today’s standards, but it was probably a nice enough item for the farmers 1000 years ago to bother repairing. The leather on the sole shoes signs of being patched, but only to a point. The heal is worn through, which was apparently damage not worth repairing further, at which point it was discarded. Together with the boat, it seems that while these farmers weren’t the richest people in their society, they could be considered comfortable enough to enjoy a few amenities here and there… eventually tossing those items into a well.
Source: Archaeologists excavate 1,000-year-old toy boat in abandoned well by Nancy Bazilchuk, Phys.org