According to tradition, Vikings performed a magnificent and cruel torture rite that entailed spreading a person’s ribs from their spine to represent eagle’s wings and dangling their lungs out through the wounds while they were still alive. The ceremony is shown in the TV show Vikings in the computer game Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, but did it actually take place? Is it merely the stuff of tall stories and misunderstanding, or is it anything more?
This gruesome ceremony was recently researched by researchers from Keele University and the University of Iceland, concluded that this terrible death is physically conceivable, Furthermore, according to a sociocultural examination of Viking society, this kind of ceremony would not necessarily be unusual.
Their findings were published in the historical journal Speculum recently. We know about the “Blood Eagle” torture procedure because of accounts in Old Norse and Latin poetry from the early middle Ages. “He carved an eagle on his back in such a way, that he inserted a sword into the chest cavity at the spine, and cut down through all the ribs to the loins, and took out the lungs through the incision,” according to an Icelandic source from the 12th century. Hálfdan died in that manner.” Another source from 12th-century Denmark describes a torture rite in which a victim’s back covered with the “likeness of an eagle.”
However, no clear archeological proof of the ceremony has yet been unearthed; leading some researchers to question if the mythology of the “Blood Eagle” was a mistake. While this recent research cannot conclusively verify that the ceremony took place, it does appear feasible. Dr. Luke John Murphy, a research author from the University of Iceland’s Department of Archaeology, told IFLScience, “We began out by reanalyzing the medieval accounts of the rite – really combing over them with a fine-tooth comb.”
“Then we went through the two sets of restrictions that any blood eagle would have had to work within: the human body’s limits and the human behavior’s limits.” ‘Can this be done physically?’ and ‘Can this be done socially?’ are the basic questions. An examination of historical materials revealed that the Viking society was not afraid of violent displays of death: mutilation, harsh beheadings, and the public exhibition of dead bodies in religious contexts were all commonplace.
They also demonstrated that the ceremony is physiologically achievable using cutting-edge computer software. It would not have been a nice experience, to say the least. “You’d be astonished, anatomically speaking, how much skin can be sliced and removed without a considerable quantity of blood loss,” said Dr Monte A Gates, research author from Keele University’s School of Medicine.
“The back is fairly large, with numerous blood arteries supplying blood to the skin. However, because these blood veins are not very large, the initial stage of any blood-eagle – removing the skin on the back – would not necessarily result in death due to blood loss. It is a different story if you die from shock “Gates said.
“The following phase of the blood-eagle, commencing to cleave the ribs down the back and opening the thorax, would have very likely killed the individual. This is because the primary artery supplying the entire body runs down the side of the spine where the ribs would have sliced, even if the heart and lungs missed. Cutting into this artery, known as the “thoracic aorta,” would quickly lower blood pressure throughout the body, including the brain “He went on to say more. He said, “An analogue would be turning on a garden hose and then cutting it in half.”