Snekkar

Forget your magnificient dragon-head wonderfully carved "drakkars". Typical viking ships were these simple, forgettable Snekkars.

Although less prestigious than the Dreki (from which derives "Drakkar"), Snekkars formed the bulk of the Scandinavian "Langskips". The Snekkar ("Snake Ship") is a very ancient Scandinavian term for distinguishing certain warships among Langskips. The name "snake" which by analogy to the Drakkar of the Western archaeologists will give the famous "Snekkar", was a reference not peculiar to the figurehead but to the length of the ship or rather to its length/width ratio of 7/1 which Is the lowest of all Scandinavian vessels. Some wrecks discovered had an inferior ratio of 11/1. Such a ship was unstable and designed for pure speed. Therefore Snekkars were very fast warships. Their sails were much less developed than other Langskips as they had to be able to pull down the masts quickly, and propulsion by oar was practically default. Smaller ones (like this illustration above) were not decked and the frames rested on the keel rather than being embedded. Perfectly symmetrical, they were designed so that the helmsman could move his rowing from the rear to the front and the mast was in the center to balance the masses.

Snekkars were clinker-built (overlapped planks like on a roof), scandinavian-specific, but often from green pine, which gave them their great flexibility, or Oak (Like the Oseberg ships). Curved parts came from trees or branches in the desired shapes. Snekkars, known sagas, were probably the main ships of the Vikings from the ninth to the twelfth centuries. These are the ships of great invasions and raids, not the so-called "drakkars" which are mostly a posterior Western invention (although the term existed). Thanks to their large, tightened form, and almost flat bottom they could go virtually unimpeded on all rivers in Europe. On the other hand, they are not strong enough to face the high seas serenely in heavy weather, except the Langskips of the largest dimensions.

The Snekkars are divided into subclasses relating to their rowing numbers: The Tólfoeringr had 12 benches (24 oars), the Fimtánsessa 15 and the Tvitogsessa 20. The latter formed the majority of the Snekkars. The Snekkars were known and used by the Normans under the Latinized name of Esnèque or Seneca. The name was derived from Snekkja, which was borrowed from Snekjur. It was always Herkskips, "warships". The shields rested on the Skjaldrim, a loose trim that increased buoyancy and protected spray while covering the oars and providing a tie to the shields. The latter could be placed simply consecutively or overlap to form the "shield wall" also used by the Vikings ashore.