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Longships were naval vessels made and used by the Vikings from Scandinavia and Iceland for trade, commerce, exploration, and warfare during the Viking Age. The longship’s design evolved over many years, beginning in the Stone Age with the invention of the umiak and continuing up to the 9th century with the Nydam and Kvalsund ships. The longship appeared in its complete form between the 9th and 13th centuries. The character and appearance of these ships have been reflected in Scandinavian boat-building traditions until today. The average speed of Viking ships varied from ship to ship but lay in the range of 5–10 knots and the maximal speed of a longship under favorable conditions was around 15 knots.

The long-ship is characterized as a graceful, long, narrow, light wooden boat with a shallow draft hull designed for speed. The ship's shallow draft allowed navigation in waters only one metre deep and permitted beach landings, while its light weight enabled it to be carried over portages. Longships were also double-ended, the symmetrical bow and stern allowing the ship to reverse direction quickly, without having to turn around. Longships were fitted with oars along almost the entire length of the boat itself. Later versions sported a rectangular sail on a single mast which was used to replace or augment the effort of the rowers, particularly during long journeys.

Longships were the epitome of Scandinavian naval power at the time, and were highly valued possessions. They were often owned by coastal farmers and commissioned by the king in times of conflict, in order to build a powerful naval force. While longships were used by the Norse in warfare, they were troop transports, not warships. In the tenth century, these boats would sometimes be tied together in battle to form a steady platform for infantry warfare. They were called dragonships by enemies such as the English because they had a dragon-shaped bow and a dragon-snake tail. The Norse had a strong sense of naval architecture, and during the 8th–11th centuries, they were advanced for their time, compared to other European nations (earlier shipbuilding techniques, for example those of Mediterranean peoples, such as ancient Greece and Rome, were far more sophisticated and varied, especially in terms of joinery).

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Additional Photos by Daniel Draghici (dkmurphys) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3778 W: 83 N: 5656] (46140)
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