AD 200

Many books and articles on skating history (I won’t name names) state that metal-bladed skates first appeared in Scandinavia in about AD 200 without citing any evidence, except maybe the claim that Old Norse literature mentions them.

I haven’t been able to find anything to support this statement. There wasn’t any Old Norse literature at that time (Snorri Sturluson, author of the Prose Edda, lived around 1000 years later; Codex Regius, the manuscript containing the Poetic Edda, was written around the same time). There are runic inscriptions from around 200, but they say things like “I, Hlewagistiz of Holt, made the horn” that are not really helpful for skating history.

The oldest evidence for metal-bladed skates that I’ve been able to find so far is  described in an article by Olaf Goubitz. It is a skate excavated in the Netherlands  that dates to the thirteenth century, which is about 1000 years later than the supposed first skate.

So where did the AD 200 date come from?

The earliest reference to it that I’ve found is in Vandervell & Witham’s A System of Figure Skating. This was a very well-known book in the late nineteenth century, and it includes a short piece on skating history, translated from Swedish, at the beginning. They “subjoin a translation, merely premising that it fixes the  introduction of the iron skate at two hundred years after the birth of Christ” (2). There’s the date. But here’s what the translated-from-Swedish text actually says:

“The origin of skates in their present form of a wooden shoe with iron runners cannot be reckoned further back than the so-called Iron Age or about two hundred years after the birth of Christ, because iron first came into general use then throughout the North.” (2)

This means that metal-bladed skates couldn’t have been made before AD 200 because people didn’t have iron until then. There’s no evidence that skates were the first thing people made from iron.


Olaf Goubitz. 2000. “Nederland’s oudste schaats?” Kouwe Drukte 3.9:4–5.

Henry Eugene Vandervell & T. Maxwell Witham. 1880. A System of Figure Skating: Being the Theory and Practice of the Art as Developed in England, with a Glance at its Origin and History. 3rd ed. London: Horace Cox.