Horn Tableware

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Horn Tableware

Horns are perhaps THE item associated with the Vikings because of the mythical horned helmets, so the public are usually very interested in any horns on show. For table ware the use of a prepared horn for straight forward drinking horns is obvious but other uses such as bowls and tankards are more dubious and should be avoided. Note that horn is made of keratin, which is the same stuff that your finger and toes nails are made of. This does not survive well in the archaeological record as it rots very quickly. As such it could be argued that the number of horn finds are not entirely representative of the volume in actual use.

Shaping Horn

Horn becomes pliable when heated in oil and can be shaped over formers. Subsequently dishes and bowls can be formed, however, the technology to keep the horn within the required temperature range to do this without damaging it is modern.

Drinking Horns

Fully cleaned and polished horns can be used as drinking vessels, although size is important. The usual large horn with a capacity of over 1 pint is a re-enactorism based on the modern ability to produce such size vessels. It is much more authentic to have a drinking horn with a maximum capacity of less than 1 pint, and preferably not larger than 225mm (9inches).

Horns are also commercially available made into cups or tankards with side handles. These are not authentic and therefore not permitted, especially considering the alternatives such as pot or wooden cups.

Belt holders for horns

There is no evidence for leather belt loops to suspend drinking horns. These should not be used.

Bowls and Spoons

There has not been any archaeological finds of bowls made from horn, so the use of large formed bowls, dishes and large spoons etc is banned from public display in the LHE.

Small horn eating size spoons are similarly questionable on authenticity grounds, but they are permitted on the basis that many people have difficulty eating with a wooden spoon.

Horns as storage containers

Full horns can have a wooden lid fitted so that they can be used as storage containers. This is a straightforward adaptation of a drinking horn. The lid can be a simple plug, but a more secure version has a slot cut into one side of the horn that the lid slides through and via a small hole in the lid it can be pegged in place.