Scandinavians: Skating for 5000 Years (ca. 3000 BC)

By: The Scribe on Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The earliest skates were created by Scandinavians about 5000 years ago… and were made of horse or cow bone!

The earliest form of alternate transportation for humans wasn’t the wheel after all – it was something much simpler, and much less time-consuming to build… not to mention convenient for winter! That’s right: northern Europeans invented ice skates around 3000 BC, which would have assisted humans in saving energy on their daily travels – not to mention help them move from one place to another much more quickly!

The first skates were made of animal bones in southern Finland, where the extremely high density of lakes would have resulted in a rather treacherous landscape for humans trying to cross frozen bodies of water on foot. And so, someone devised the brilliant idea of trimming down horse and cow bones, piercing them at either end, and strapping them onto one’s feet with leather thongs.

Unlike the skates known to Olympic athletes and minor hockey players today, these ancient skates actually were not used on their own, but were complemented by a long stick that was used at the same time. Skaters would strap the skates to their feet, straddle the stick, and pole themselves along the ice – think of cross-country skiing, except with only one pole and on skates instead of skis.

The thing is, skating is an awfully strange activity to have developed as a hobby – it seems like a much more practical idea to have come from humans living in the frozen lands of northern Europe, where surviving was a priority and winters were incredibly harsh. Ice skates would then allow hunters to find food with less energy expenditure, which meant that less food needed to be consumed to survive – which tends to be a bonus under extreme winter conditions.

Although experiments in reconstructing the ancient skates showed that a person would have moved quite slowly while using them – around 2.5 miles per hour – the energy expenditure in using the skates on Finland’s nearly 60,000 frozen lakes would have reduced a human’s energy requirements by around 10%.

Talk about a legacy in human history!

Want to read more?

Tomorrow: More Ancient Standard


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