Author Topic: Did the Old Norse term beit refer to early sailing ships  (Read 530 times)

davidb

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Did the Old Norse term beit refer to early sailing ships
« on: February 11, 2019, 04:57:30 PM »
This article discusses a certain type of ship known from Scandinavian Viking Age and Merovingian Period iconography. This type of ship has a vertical stem and stern that meet the keel at right angles, sometimes with an extension filling the space under a sloping forefoot and a similar extension at the rear end of the keel. This design seems to be connected with the earliest sailing ships and it has been suggested that the extensions were invented to meet the increased need for lateral resistance when sailing.

https://www.academia.edu/38296860/Viking_Ships_with_Angular_Stems_Did_the_Old_Norse_term_beit_refer_to_early_sailing_ships?email_work_card=title
  • david blanchard

Erpingham

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Re: Did the Old Norse term beit refer to early sailing ships
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2019, 05:01:12 PM »
Sadly, only part of the article is available,
  • Anthony Clipsom

Patrick Waterson

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Re: Did the Old Norse term beit refer to early sailing ships
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2019, 09:47:20 AM »
Phoenician traders show a similar configuration.

In their case, the reason was simply that ships were dual-use (trading and war); when at war, usually as part of a war-fleet, they mounted bird heads on the stem and stern-posts.  When trading, they left the heads off.

Vikings appear to have had a similar arrangement: when going viking they fixed dragon heads to the posts.  When trading, they left the heads off in order to show they came to trade.  Not a lot of business would have been done otherwise.

And that, as far as I can determine, was the sole reason for the vertical stem and stern posts.

Etymologically, according to Wikionary (Old Norse, Etymology 3), beit is, among other things (primarily to do with cutting or splitting), an old Norse word for boat, and, in an apparently related context, beitiass is a sail-yard or yardarm.
  • Patrick Waterson
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Erpingham

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Re: Did the Old Norse term beit refer to early sailing ships
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2019, 10:50:43 AM »
The etymology in the portion of article relates beit to sailing to windward.  I wonder if there is any connection with the English sailing term "beat"?  OED doesn't think so, though.

As to removable figure heads, the top of the stem and stern on an ordinary drakkar is vertical, so the beit design wouldn't be a pre-requisite for removable figure heads.

Add : Now having access to the full article, the authors do state the derivation of "beat" is from ON beita

« Last Edit: February 12, 2019, 11:03:31 AM by Erpingham »
  • Anthony Clipsom

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Re: Did the Old Norse term beit refer to early sailing ships
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2019, 10:57:13 AM »
I have found a full version of the article here
  • Anthony Clipsom

Patrick Waterson

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Re: Did the Old Norse term beit refer to early sailing ships
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2019, 07:14:33 PM »
Good find, Anthony.

The thinking in the article seems logical, albeit the implicit assumption is that the ships so endowed were poorly designed and hence 'leewardly', as sailors used to say.  The more compact Phoenician and Viking designs appear not to have any such arrangement.

The comparatively brief and apparently localised appearance of the 'keelships' suggests that a better design was found, the 'arrow' ships perhaps pointing the way.

As to removable figure heads, the top of the stem and stern on an ordinary drakkar is vertical, so the beit design wouldn't be a pre-requisite for removable figure heads.

True, that was just me making an observation without paying attention to its relevance. :)
  • Patrick Waterson
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." - Winston Churchill