Was Viking Eyeliner Historically Accurate?

Posted by Ms Elly on

Was Viking Eyeliner Historically Accurate? 

As far as we know, the Vikings did really care about their appearance. Of course, this is a comparison between the Vikings and other tribes of the same time. The Vikings always kept their appearance as clean as possible, grooming their hair, changing their clothes, washing their bodies, etc. 

According to some sources, the Vikings wore makeup for their eyes. 

Although we are yet to find out any artifact about the Viking eyeliner, literal sources mention it. 

Many of Middle Eastern visitors who happened to visit Viking encampment once talked about the weird eyes they saw. They said they had seen the Vikings wearing something dark around their eyes. It wasn't a mask. Instead, it was something that they could apply on the face directly. 

Viking Eyeliner real? Did the Viking really wear eye makeup?

Symbolic eye makeup of Floki in "Vikings" TV Series

Later, the scholars believed that the Vikings could have used a type of eyeliner known as kohl. It was a mixture of crushed antimony, burnt almonds, lead, oxidized copper, ochre, ash, malachite and chrysocolla. Together, they produced a dark-colored powder that the Vikings could have applied around their eyes. 

What could possibly be the purpose of this? 

Personally, I don't think the Vikings applied this to beautify their look. Because the colors that the Vikings liked were the bright colors like blue or red. Yet, some scholars also believed that the dark eyeliner helped increase the sexy appeal of the Vikings. 

Lagertha eye makeup in battle

Eyeliner of Lagertha Viking Shieldmaiden in "Vikings" TV series

This dark powder could have served to protect the eyesight from the sun glare, promising the Viking to see everything as clearly as possible. Another possible purpose was to intimidate the enemies in battle. 

Ibrahim Al-Tartushi was an Arabian traveller who happened to live among the Vikings in Hedeby around 900AD. He wrote in his records about his meeting with the Vikings that:

There is also an artificial make-up for the eyes when they use it, beauty never fades, on the contrary, it increases in men and women as well.

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