- On 26/10/2008
- In General Maritime History
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones
Cambridge University has launched a campaign to recast them as "new men" with an interest in grooming, fashion and poetry.
Academics claim that the old stereotype is damaging, and want teenagers to be more appreciative of the Vikings' social and cultural impact on Britain.
They say that the Norse explorers, far from being obsessed with fighting and drinking, were a largely-peaceful race who were even criticised for being too hygienic.
The university's department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic has published a guide revealing how much of the Vikings' history has been misrepresented.
They did not, in fact, wear horned or winged helmets. And they appear to have been a vain race who were concerned about their appearance.
"It seems that the Vikings may not have been as hairy and dirty as is commonly imagined," the guide says.