“Viking Ships Before a Rocky Coast,” by Michael Zeno Diemer (1911)
Vikings acquired the capacity to produce tar at an industrial scale as early as the 8th century AD, according to new research. The protective black goo was applied to the planks and sails of ships, which the Vikings used for trade and launching raids. Without the ability to produce copious amounts of tar, this new study suggests, the Viking Age may have never happened.
Tar sounds like a relatively modern invention, but it’s actually been around for quite some time. By the 16th century, Europeans had developed a technique whereby piles of wood, placed in funnel-shaped pits, were burned slowly under an oxygen-constricting layer of an earth-clay mixture and charcoal. Dripping tar from the burning wood fell into an outlet pipe, from which the precious material was collected.
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