Monday, June 2, 2014

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Skis and skates - another Medieval Christian creation

Some dark age.

by Ferdinand III

William Short in his book Icelanders in the Viking age, recounts the use of skis and skates – two more medieval inventions that most people assume are 'modern'. [link]

“Skis and skates were certainly used for sport in Viking lands, but they also had practical uses for winter travel. On snow covered ground or on ice, skiing or skating would have been much easier than struggling through the snow or over ice on foot or on horseback.”

Skis were often used for hunting. Modern-looking units, made from pine had the bottoms grooved out to provide traction on the snow, contained holes to tie the ski to the boot. Relics of large single skis or 'gliders', have also been found in Scandinavia. A large variety of skis, from short to long, from thin to thick, were common in medieval northern Europe. Many ski artifacts date to the 8th century. Apparently in this 'dark age' northern Europeans were developing our modern form of winter travel and leisure.

Ice skates were also invented in the medieval period. Metatarsal animal bones, usually from the foreleg of horses or cows, which are long and rugged, were contoured to provide an edge to grip the ice. These devices were connected to the bottom of boots or shoes using leather thongs. The front of the skate would have been filed into a wedge shape to allow the blade to pass over bumpy surfaces. [link] Both skates and skis would have been used for travel, hunting and recreation.

But remember – the 'dark ages' were a wintry time of disconnect and distress. Nothing was made, nothing created, nothing known.