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Sword of Late Viking Age Burial Unveiled Exhibiting Links Between Norway and England

Sword of Late Viking Age Burial Unveiled Exhibiting Links Between Norway and England


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Though they discovered it in 2011, archaeologists from the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo had to wait through four long years of conservation and research to finally reveal the finding of a unique Late Viking Age sword excavated at a burial ground in Langeid, Norway, with mysterious links to England.

The site's lead excavator, Camilla Cecillie Wenn, told Live Science that she knew that they would find something special during excavation because in the burial grounds there was one grave that was different. It was much larger than the other 20 graves found at the site. But it wasn't only the size that indicated a special grave - the post holes (suggesting a roof over the grave) in the four corners surrounding the grave provided a clear clue to something special waiting beneath.

However, the archaeologists lost some hope as they began to dig in search of the coffin and only found fragments of two silver coins. While the coins were somewhat interesting - one with embossing suggesting it was from the German Viking Age and the other a penny from the time of Ethelred II in England (978-1016 AD), it was not what they were expecting.

Thus, Camilla Cecillie Wenn and her team continued searching even after they reached the coffin. As she explained in a press release of the University of Oslo : "But when we went on digging outside the coffin, our eyes really popped. Along both sides, something metal appeared, but it was hard to see what it was. Suddenly a lump of earth fell to one side so that the object became clearer. Our pulses raced when we realised it was the hilt of a sword!"

That wasn't the end of the story however, as the team searched the other side of the coffin they also found more metal - a big battle-axe. Many questions arise from these weapons, in no particular order, one wonders: Why were they placed alongside the coffin? Who did they belong to? When and where are they from? The archaeologists and conservators at the Museum of Cultural History have been working hard for the last four years to try to answer these questions.

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The archaeologists suggest that the placement may be to protect the corpse from enemies or, more likely, as a means to show the power and prestige of the dead body.

By dating some carbon from one of the post holes they were able to link the burial to the year 1030, which also makes sense due to the English coin discovered above the coffin.

Swords were undoubtedly seen as prestigious adornments and weapons during the Viking Age, and certainly a more ornate a sword would be a visible image of social status.

The Norse sagas also emphasize the importance of an elaborate sword. The mythical sagas speak of magical swords made by the dwarves. As the process to create a well-made sword would have been difficult, there was a sense of mystery and magic that surrounded beautiful weaponry.

King Svafrlame Secures the Dwarven-made magical Sword Tyrfing of Norse mythology from the Poetic Edda (1906) V. Rydberg ( Wikimedia Commons )

As Hanne Lovise, the author of a recent article on ornate Viking Age swords told Live Science, "[...] swords are referred to as aesthetic, powerful and magical objects. The many similarities between the descriptions of swords in Norse and Medieval literature suggest that the splendor of the sword in the latter had roots in the Viking notions of the symbolic power, magic and ritual aspects of the ornate sword... There is much to suggest that these magnificent swords were such objects, reflecting the status and power of the warrior and his clan."

The sword discovered at Langeid is 94 cm ( inches) long, and despite the rusted iron blade, the handle of the sword has been well-preserved. It was undoubtedly owned by a wealthy person, due to the silver threads entwining the handle and silver and gold details on the hilt with copper alloy thread edging. The sword decoration includes spirals, Latin letters (with a grouping that remains a mystery), and most surprising is the image depicted at the top of the pommel: a hand holding a cross.

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Full image of the Viking sword, Langeid, Norway ( Ellen C. Holthe/Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo )

"That's unique and we don't know of any similar findings on other swords from the Viking Age. Both the hand and the letters indicate that the sword was deliberately decorated with Christian symbolism," Camilla Cecillie Wenn told Live Science . She believes that this treasure of a sword may have been created in a foreign land and exported to Norway by a very important man.

The axe found alongside the burial also suggests a connection between the buried body and England. The style of the axe with its brass/coated shaft, was very rare in Norway. However, it corresponds well with axes found by the River Thames in London. The dating of the axe also relates well with the axes found in England by the Thames.

Saxo-Norman/Viking Iron & Copper alloy Battle Axe (11 th Century), from battle by the River Thames, London, England ( Museum of London )

Piecing together the evidence of the dating, the English coin, the foreign-made sword and the Thames like axe from the burial, project leader Zanette Glørstad suggests that the burial may be of one of Danish King Canute's warriors from the battles with the English King Ethelred. She is tempted to even suggest it may be the burial of the legendary warrior Bjor or his father Arnstein.

Although this special find may have taken some years to make a public appearance, it has finally come to light in an exhibition called "Take it Personally" focusing on personal adornments. As the sword had such a large role in adorning and creating the presence and image of a Viking-Age warrior, it is a suitable choice to debut it at this time.

Featured Image: Handle of newly revealed Viking sword, Langeid, Norway ( Ellen C. Holthe, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo )

By Alicia McDermott


Viking Age arms and armour

Knowledge about military technology of the Viking Age (late 8th to mid-11th century Europe) is based on relatively sparse archaeological finds, pictorial representation, and to some extent on the accounts in the Norse sagas and laws recorded in the 14th century.

According to custom, all free Norse men were required to own weapons, and permitted to carry them at all times. Indeed, the Hávamál, purported to be sage advice given by Odin, states "Don't leave your weapons lying about behind your back in a field you never know when you may need all of sudden your spear." [1]

As war was the most prestigious activity in Viking Age Scandinavia, beautifully finished weapons were an important way for a warrior to display his wealth and status. [2] A wealthy Viking would likely have a complete ensemble of a spear, a wooden shield, and either a battle axe or a sword. Battle axes were considered the "normal weapon" for middle class vikings. Swords were normally reserved for upper class and nobles. Much poetry was associated with viking weapons. The richest might have a helmet and mail armour these are thought to have been limited to the nobility and their professional warriors (retainers). Several layers of thick woollen clothing may have been used by poorer warriors. The average farmer was likely limited to a spear, shield, and perhaps a common axe or large knife (seax). Some would also bring their hunting bows (mostly long bow or flat bow) to use in the opening stages of battle. [3]


Offensive weapons

Viking sword, spearheads and battle-axe, found in the London area © Laws of the late Viking period show that all free men were expected to own weapons, and magnates were expected to provide them for their men. The main offensive weapons were the spear, sword and battle-axe, although bows and arrows and other missiles were also used. Weapons were carried not just for battle, but also as symbols of their owners' status and wealth. They were therefore often finely decorated with inlays, twisted wire and other adornments in silver, copper and bronze.

Weapons were not just for battle, but also symbols of their owners' status and wealth.

The spear was the commonest weapon with an iron blade on a wooden shaft, often of ash and 2 to 3m in length. It was used for both thrusting and throwing. The blades varied in shape from broad leaf shapes to long spikes. Skilled spearsmen are said to have been able to throw two spears at once using both hands, or even to catch a spear in flight and hurl it back with deadly effect.

Swords were very costly to make, and a sign of high status. The blades were usually double-edged and up to 90cm, or a little over, in length, but early single-edged sabres are also known. They were worn in leather-bound wooden scabbards. Early blades were pattern-welded, a technique in which strips of wrought iron and mild steel were twisted and forged together, with the addition of a hardened edge. Later blades of homogeneous steel, imported probably from the Rhineland, bore inlaid makers' marks and inscriptions, such as INGELRII or ULFBERHT. Viking craftsmen often added their own elaborately decorated hilts, and many swords were given names, such as Leg-biter and Gold-hilt.

Long-handled battle-axes might be used instead of swords, particularly in open combat. The famed, double-handed broad axe is a late development, typical of the late 10th and 11th centuries. But as the owner could not hold a shield at the same time, he would take cover behind the front line of warriors, rushing out at the right moment to hew down the enemy.


The last Viking and his 'magical' sword?

This sword was found in Langeid in Bygland in Setesdal in 2011. It is a truly unique sword from the late Viking Age, embellished with gold, inscriptions and other ornamentation. The discovery of the sword has not been published until now, when it is being displayed for the first time in the exhibition 'Take It Personally' at the Historical Museum in Oslo.

The sword must have belonged to a wealthy man in the late Viking Age. But who was he and what magic inscriptions are set into the decoration -- in gold? Was the owner of the sword in the Danish King Canute's army when it attacked England in 1014-15?

In the summer of 2011, archaeologists from the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo discovered a Viking burial ground in Langeid in Setesdal in southern Norway. In one of the graves they made a startling discovery.

"Even before we began the excavation of this grave, I realised it was something quite special. The grave was so big and looked different from the other 20 graves in the burial ground. In each of the four corners of the grave there were post holes," said excavation leader Camilla Cecilie Wenn of the Museum of Cultural History.

The post holes reveal that there was a roof over the grave, which is a sign that the grave had a prominent place in the burial ground. But when they dug down in the coffin in the bottom of the grave, there were few traces of gifts for the afterlife, only two small fragments of silver coins. The coins were from northern Europe one was probably from the German Viking Age, judging by how it was embossed, while the other was a penny minted under Ethelred II in England dating from the period 978-1016.

"But when we went on digging outside the coffin, our eyes really popped. Along both sides, something metal appeared, but it was hard to see what it was. Suddenly a lump of earth fell to one side so that the object became clearer. Our pulses raced when we realised it was the hilt of a sword! And on the other side of the coffin, the metal turned out to be a big battle-axe. Although the weapons were covered in rust when we found them, we realised straight away that they were special and unusual. Were they put there to protect the dead person from enemies, or to display power?"

Dating of charcoal from one of the post holes shows that the grave is from around the year 1030, at the very end of the Viking Age. "And that fits in well with the discovery of the English coin."

The sword must have belonged to a wealthy man who lived in the late Viking Age. The sword is 94 cm long although the iron blade has rusted, the handle is well preserved. It is wrapped with silver thread and the hilt and pommel at the top are covered in silver with details in gold, edged with a copper alloy thread," said project leader Zanette Glørstad.

"When we examined the sword more closely, we also found remnants of wood and leather on the blade. They must be remains from a sheath to put the sword in," explained curator Vegard Vike. He has had the challenging task of cleaning up the handle and preserving the sword.

The sword is decorated with large spirals, various combinations of letters and cross-like ornaments. The letters are probably Latin, but what the letter combinations meant is still a mystery.

"At the top of the pommel, we can also clearly see a picture of a hand holding a cross. That's unique and we don't know of any similar findings on other swords from the Viking Age. Both the hand and the letters indicate that the sword was deliberately decorated with Christian symbolism. But how did such a sword end up in a pagan burial ground in Norway? The design of the sword, the symbols and the precious metal used all make it perfectly clear that this was a magnificent treasure, probably produced abroad and brought back to Norway by a very prominent man," added Camilla Cecilie Weenn.

"The way swords are referred to in the sagas suggests that the sword is an important bearer of the identity of the warrior. A sword reveals the warrior's social status, his position of power and his strength. The sagas also tell us that gold had a special symbolic value in Norse society. In Norse literature gold represented power and potency.

Gold is rarely found in archaeological material from Viking Period and then too, it stood for power and potency. This indicates that gold had considerable economic and symbolic value. Based on the descriptions in the literature, we can say that the sword was the male jewellery par excellence of the Viking Age," said Hanne Lovise Aannestad, the author of a recent article on ornate swords from the days of the Vikings.

The sagas emphasise the importance of the ornate sword. Swords could have hilts of gold with ornamentation and magical runes. The mythical sagas tell of magical swords forged by dwarfs. The creation of myths around the art of the blacksmith and the making of high-quality swords may be related to the fact that few people mastered the art. The production of metal objects of high quality may have been a form of hidden knowledge unavailable to most people. This gave the objects a magical aura.

"In Mediaeval literature, swords are referred to as aesthetic, powerful and magical objects. The many similarities between the descriptions of swords in Norse and Mediaeval literature suggest that the splendour of the sword in the latter had roots in the Viking notions of the symbolic power, magic and ritual aspects of the ornate sword. The Viking Age was a period of great social upheaval. At times like that, certain symbolic objects may play an important role in negotiating social positions. There is much to suggest that these magnificent swords were such objects, reflecting the status and power of the warrior and his clan," said Hanne Lovise.

The axe found in the same grave has no gold decoration. But the shaft is coated with brass and it may well have flashed like gold when the sun shone. Such shaft coatings are very rare in Norway. But a number of similar battle-axes have been found in the River Thames in London. That makes the axe particularly interesting. Dating of the axe from Langeid shows that it belongs to the same period as the axes found in the Thames. There was a long series of battles along the Thames in the late 10th and early 11th centuries. The Danish king Sweyn Forkbeard and his son Canute led their armies against the English king in the battle for the English throne. Even the Norwegian king Olav (Haraldsson) the Holy was involved in the attack on London in 1009. The men under the Danish King were from all over Scandinavia. Did the axes get lost in the Thames during the numerous skirmishes, or did the victors throw them in the river?

Did the sword belong to a Viking from King Canute's army?

Further down the Setesdal Valley we find a runic stone, which says: "Arnstein raised this stone in memory of Bjor his son. He found death when Canute "went after" England. God is one." (Translated from the Old Norse). The text probably refers to King Canute's attacks on England in 1013-14. It is likely that the stone was erected just after the incursions, by a father whose son never came back home. A written source from the 12th century states that King Canute's closest army had to meet certain requirements. Soldiers had to honour the king, had to belong to the leading families in society and also had to provide their own gilded axes and sword hilts.

The Langeid sword would no doubt have been approved by King Canute, probably also the axe. The sword was made outside Norway and an Anglo-Saxon origin is quite possible. The axe is very similar to those found in the Thames, especially in its brass coating. The grave with the sword also contained the only coin found in Langeid from the Anglo-Saxon region, which increases the possibility that the dead man had a particular connection to the events in England.

"It's quite possible that the dead man was one of King Canute's hand-picked men for the battles with King Ethelred of England. Seen in connection with the runic stone further down the valley, it is tempting to suggest that it is Bjor himself who was brought home and buried here. Another possibility is that his father Arnstein only got his son's magnificent weapons back and that, precisely for that reason, he decided to erect a runic stone for his son as a substitute for a grave. When Arnstein himself died, his son's glorious weapons were laid in his grave. The death of his son must have been very tough on an old man. Perhaps their relatives honoured both Arnstein and Bjor by letting Arnstein be buried with the weapons with such a heroic history," said Zanette Glørstad.

The runic stone dates from the same period as the final phase of the burial ground and testifies that Christianity is about to take root in Norwegian society. It is the oldest runic stone in Norway that refers to Christianity. Could this also explain why the weapons were placed outside the coffin? In a transitional period, people may have chosen to use both pagan and Christian elements in a funeral. The Langeid grave is from one of the last pagan funerals we know of from Norway and marks both the greatness and the end of the Viking Age.

Ever since the summer of 2011, the sword found in Langeid has been unpublished. Its display today has been made possible by the meticulous work and research of conservators and archaeologists at the Museum of Cultural History. Finally, it can be seen by the public and is displayed in the exhibition called "Take it personally" -- an exhibition of personal jewellery and adornment over time and space in the Historical Museum in Oslo.
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Sword of Late Viking Age Burial Unveiled Exhibiting Links Between Norway and England - History

Albion Armorers Next Generation Jarl Sword
A hands-on review by Patrick Kelly

Introduction
The history of the sword has given us many designs that are unique, and readily associated with a particular time, place, and culture. Even people who are unfamiliar with the subject will recognize a Scottish basket-hilt, a musketeer's rapier, or the Japanese samurai's katana. One of the most distinctive sword types extant has come to us from the period commonly called the Viking Age. This is a period recognized by scholars as being roughly from 750 A.D. to 1100 A.D. This was an evolutional period between the migration era and what we have come to know as the Middle Ages. The Viking Age saw the transition from composite hilts constructed of non-ferrous metals, and organic materials, to far stronger hilts fashioned from iron. The change from pattern-welded blades to homogenous blades, or those made from one type of steel, also occurred during this period. At the beginning of the Viking Age swords featured a pattern-welded blade that was mounted on a complex and relatively fragile hilt. These swords were exclusive to Chieftains and the great warriors in their service. The hilts were elaborately mounted with precious stones set in gold, and other lavish embellishments, that perhaps contained religious significance. By the end of the age these beautifully constructed, but ungainly, swords had been replaced by swords with better blades and stronger hilts. The point-heavy blades of the great migration gave way to sleeker tapered blades that featured improved handling characteristics. The gaudy and fragile hilts were replaced with ones made of stronger iron. Inlays of bronze, copper, and silver had replaced the golden carvings and embellishments. These forms of decoration were both striking and far more durable than those they replaced. By the close of the Viking Age sword designs that we associate with the medieval knight were in use. The sword had evolved from the status symbol of the elite into a true warrior's weapon.

It was once popular to call this period the "Dark Ages". It was widely assumed that this time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Middle Ages was one of uncultured barbarism. While this was indeed a period of widespread war and violence it was also a time of rich cultural development. In recent decades archeological discoveries have yielded works in metal, textiles, and architecture that clearly show the supposed dark times to be just as diverse as anything before, or after it. Just as the age that spawned it is complex, so is the Viking sword.

As with most other things, the Viking sword is a seemingly simple, yet complex, subject. Slight variations lead to a huge variety in terms of shape and volume. The term "Viking" is a descriptor used to denote a wide variety of people from the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Like the warriors who used them Viking swords display the same variety. Fortunately for sword enthusiasts this mass of style has been categorized into several useful typologies. The preeminent typology concerning the Viking sword was written in 1919, in Oslo Norway, by Dr. Jan Petersen. Petersen concerned himself mainly with variations in hilt design and style, believing that Viking sword blade design did not deviate enough to warrant comment. Never the less, Petersen's study is exhaustive enough that everything written since is based upon it. In 1927 R.E.M. Wheeler published his own typology in England. Wheeler's work is really a condensing of Petersen's 26-member typology into a more streamlined 9-member group. Wheeler used examples found in the British Isles to formulate his system. In 1991 Alfred Geibig published a study, which focuses on sword types, and material, found in western Germany. The one important feature that sets Geibig apart from his peers is his blade typology. Geibig created a typology of Viking blade design based on the features of length and profile taper, as well as fuller and point design. While these various works include and omit different specimens based on their nationality and local, they have been discussed, and beautifully illustrated, in the book Swords of the Viking Age by Ian Peirce.

The Jarl is based on several swords that date from the tenth century, late in the Viking Age. The most famous of these is a sword that is housed in the British Museum in London. This sword is possibly the most recognizable survivor from the Viking Age. Photographs of it have been featured in nearly every book dealing with Viking arms. (Shown on pages 77-79 in Swords of the Viking Age, as well as pg. 26, X.8, of Oakeshott's Records of the Medieval Sword.) This excellent sword was found in the River Witham opposite Monks Abbey, Lincoln, England in October 1848. One needs to look no further than this outstanding sword to find the Jarl's inspiration. The Jarl shares the Witham sword's sleek lines and bold proportions. The hilt design of the Jarl is a variation of Petersen's Type S, as well as Wheeler's Type 6.

One of the swords serving as inspiration for the Jarl, now in the British Museum, London.

While being a late Viking Age design the Jarl's pommel features the lobed design that is so familiar to Viking enthusiasts. The Type S pommel is dominated by a large central lobe, which is flanked by several smaller lobes. This is a common feature on earlier pommel designs, and is retained on the Type S. The Jarl's hilt is not a pure Type S, but is instead a variation due to its curved upper and lower guards. These curved guards are a predominant feature of Anglo-Saxon swords of the period, and since several swords of this type have been found in England this may possibly be seen as a local influence on Nordic design.

The Jarl's blade design is categorized as a Type 4 in the Geibig typology. This type is found from the mid-tenth century through the mid-eleventh century. The blade features a moderate taper with a fuller that runs the length of the blade, and follows the same degree of taper as the blade's profile. Type 4 blades tend to be shorter, and narrower, than their earlier counterparts. In this sense the Jarl is again a variation instead of a pure example, since it is larger than the standard Type 4. This should not be seen as a point of contention since the swords on which the Jarl is based are larger than the norm, for the type. This was an intentional choice on the part of the Albion Staff, and the sword's designer, noted sword smith Peter Johnsson, and in my opinion is a wise one. The bold proportions of the Jarl make for an impressive sword.

Fit and Finish
The Jarl is a visually striking sword, and a key feature of this is the sword's pommel. The vast majority of Viking swords on the production market feature pommels that are of one-piece construction. These pommels will typically be cast, or ground to shape, with the details of a two-piece pommel being incorporated into the surface. The end result is usually neither pleasing nor satisfying. The Jarl's pommel is of historically accurate construction, consisting of a separate pommel cap that is secured to the upper guard by two rivets. One of the best features of the pommel, as well as one of the most attractive, is the silver wire accents. This feature consists of strands of twisted wire that have been laid, in pairs, between the pommel lobes. The wire strands have been twisted in opposite directions from one another. This results in a very pleasing herringbone effect. The look is completed by a strand of wire that runs horizontally between the juncture of the upper guard and pommel. This wire is of slightly larger gauge than the rest and provides a nice little bit of contrast. All of the wire is cleanly inset and tight. The rivet heads on the underside of the upper guard are cleanly peened and finished.

The sword's grip is of Albion's typical construction. The grip has been fashioned from two halves of stabilized birch that has been hollowed out to accept the blade's tang. A central cord riser is then added to the grip for visual detail, and as an aid in gripping. Finally, the grip is covered with thin leather that is glued into place. The completed assembly results in a finished grip that is well proportioned and aesthetically pleasing. The Jarl's lower guard is a simple curved design, which features a cross section that tapers inwards from the grip towards the blade. The guard is tightly fitted to the blade's shoulder by means of a cleanly executed slot in its lower face. There is no perceptible movement in any of the hilt components. Everything is tight and secure. Given Albion's method of hilt construction it should remain so throughout the life of the sword.

The blade is cleanly machined and very nicely finished. The fuller's profile is sharp and crisp, with no wandering or drifting of its outer edges. The blade features an edge geometry that is acute yet substantial enough to give good service. This edge would have been more than sufficient against the mail byrnies and wooden shields in use during the tenth century. The Jarl's blade would have done well against the lightly armored warriors of the Viking Age. Albion's Jason Dingledine is responsible for the blade's finishing, and he's done an excellent job of it. The more practice Jason gets the better he becomes. All of the sword's steel components have been finished with Albion's signature satin finish. This is a finish that is very attractive and practical at the same time. For practitioners this is an ideal finish, as it is very easily touched up by the use of a little grey Scotchbrite and oil. There is certainly nothing to complain about in the Jarl's finish.

Handling Characteristics


Sword in Hand
Last year Albion's head cutler Eric McHugh traveled to Sweden where, along with Peter Johnsson, he had the opportunity to examine several Viking Age swords. I spoke with Eric upon his return, and the one comment that I especially recall concerns swords of this type. Eric stated, "These things are big butcher knives!" I feel that this is a very apt description. The Jarl features a blade that is broad yet thin in cross-section. This design allows for a blade that is an efficient cutter yet still retains the necessary mass for strength, as well as impetus during the cut. The blade is topped off with a serviceable point that would have been effective against the typical body defenses of the period. In spite of this, however, the blade is still a dedicated cutter. The cut was the preferred offensive technique of the period and the Jarl's design shows this. I used the traditional Japanese cutting medium of rolled, and water-soaked, tatami mats for my cutting exercises. The Jarl tracked well into and out of the cut. The sword was also responsive in thrusting maneuvers. The Jarl is an agile and efficient cutter that strikes with authority. The sword's grip, being 3.75 inches in length, may be considered by some to be too long. We have been educated to believe that Viking sword grips were very short. However, when examining the grip lengths of the swords listed in Swords of the Viking Age it will be seen that the Jarl's grip is well within the historic parameters of the type.

While cutting with the Jarl I utilized both the typical "hammer" style grip, as well as the "Viking" method of palming the sword's pommel. I found that both methods gave satisfactory, though very different, results. When using the hammer grip very powerful chopping blows were possible. This is a technique that would have been effective in the close press of a shield wall, where broad movements aren't possible. When palming the pommel longer range slashing cuts were the norms. I used the Jarl in conjunction with a Viking pattern shield during these exercises, and I found that the palming method allowed for a longer reach while still maintaining cover behind one's shield.

Previously I had preferred Viking swords with blades that don't feature quite as much profile taper. The broad surfaces of the Geibig Types 2 and 3 were more to my liking. I chose the Jarl primarily for its hilt design, which is my standout favorite among the Viking types. After spending time with the Jarl I have changed my preferences in blade types. I found the Jarl to be lively yet powerful. The Geibig Type 4 is now my favorite blade design of the Viking Age.

Conclusion
The Jarl is the third sword that I have received from the Next Generation Line. Albion Armorers continues to break new ground in the field of production swords. Recently they raised the bar with the introduction of the Regent, the first production sword to feature an accurately hollow-ground blade. The Albion/Peter Johnsson collaboration has again set a new standard with the Jarl. For the first time it is possible to own a production sword that features the historically accurate details of hilt construction, pommel construction, and blade design. Viking arms have always been of particular interest to me. Consequently, over the years I have owned more than a few Viking replicas, both custom and production. Simply put, the Jarl is the best one yet.

About the Author
Patrick is a State Trooper serving with the Kansas Highway Patrol. He has been fascinated with edged weapons, particularly the medieval sword, since early childhood. Not only is Patrick thankful for any opportunity to indulge in his favorite hobby, he is also blessed with a wife who tolerates a house full of sharp pointy things.

Acknowledgements
Photographer: Patrick Kelly


Delving into History ® _ periklis deligiannis

This sword was found in Langeid in Bygland in Setesdal in 2011. It is a truly unique sword from the late Viking Age, embellished with gold />, inscriptions and other ornamentation. The discovery of the sword has not been published until now, when it is being displayed for the first time in the exhibition TAKE IT PERSONALLY at the Historical Museum in Oslo.

The sword must have belonged to a wealthy man in the late Viking Age. But who was he and what magic inscriptions are set into the decoration – in gold />? Was the owner of the sword in the Danish King Canute’s army when it attacked England in 1014-15?

In the summer of 2011, archaeologists from the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo discovered a Viking burial ground in Langeid in Setesdal in southern Norway. In one of the graves they made a startling discovery.

Arbeidsbilde konservator Vegard Vike Photo: Ellen C. Holthe, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo

“Even before we began the excavation of this grave, I realised it was something quite special. The grave was so big and looked different from the other 20 graves in the burial ground. In each of the four corners of the grave there were post holes,” said excavation leader Camilla Cecilie Wenn of the Museum of Cultural History.

The post holes reveal that there was a roof over the grave, which is a sign that the grave had a prominent place in the burial ground. But when they dug down in the coffin in the bottom of the grave, there were few traces of gifts for the afterlife, only two small fragments of silver coins. The coins were from northern Europe one was probably from the German Viking Age, judging by how it was embossed, while the other was a penny minted under Ethelred II in England dating from the period 978-1016.

“But when we went on digging outside the coffin, our eyes really popped. Along both sides, something metal appeared, but it was hard to see what it was. Suddenly a lump of earth fell to one side so that the object became clearer. Our pulses raced when we realised it was the hilt of a sword! And on the other side of the coffin, the metal turned out to be a big battle-axe. Although the weapons were covered in rust when we found them, we realised straight away that they were special and unusual. Were they put there to protect the dead person from enemies, or to display power?”

Dating of charcoal from one of the post holes shows that the grave is from around the year 1030, at the very end of the Viking Age. “And that fits in well with the discovery of the English coin.”

Langeidsverdet helfigur Photo: Ellen C. Holthe, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo

The sword must have belonged to a wealthy man who lived in the late Viking Age. The sword is 94 cm long although the iron blade has rusted, the handle is well preserved. It is wrapped with silver thread and the hilt and pommel at the top are covered in silver with details in gold, edged with a copper alloy thread,” said project leader Zanette Glørstad.

“When we examined the sword more closely, we also found remnants of wood and leather on the blade. They must be remains from a sheath to put the sword in,” explained curator Vegard Vike. He has had the challenging task of cleaning up the handle and preserving the sword.

The sword is decorated with large spirals, various combinations of letters and cross-like ornaments. The letters are probably Latin, but what the letter combinations meant is still a mystery.

“At the top of the pommel, we can also clearly see a picture of a hand holding a cross. That’s unique and we don’t know of any similar findings on other swords from the Viking Age. Both the hand and the letters indicate that the sword was deliberately decorated with Christian symbolism. But how did such a sword end up in a pagan burial ground in Norway? The design of the sword, the symbols and the precious metal used all make it perfectly clear that this was a magnificent treasure, probably produced abroad and brought back to Norway by a very prominent man,” added Camilla Cecilie Weenn.

“The way swords are referred to in the sagas suggests that the sword is an important bearer of the identity of the warrior. A sword reveals the warrior’s social status, his position of power and his strength. The sagas also tell us that gold had a special symbolic value in Norse society. In Norse literature gold represented power and potency.

Gold is rarely found in archaeological material from Viking Period and then too, it stood for power and potency. This indicates that gold had considerable economic and symbolic value. Based on the descriptions in the literature, we can say that the sword was the male jewellery par excellence of the Viking Age,” said Hanne Lovise Aannestad, the author of a recent article on ornate swords from the days of the Vikings.

The sagas emphasise the importance of the ornate sword. Swords could have hilts of gold with ornamentation and magical runes. The mythical sagas tell of magical swords forged by dwarfs. The creation of myths around the art of the blacksmith and the making of high-quality swords may be related to the fact that few people mastered the art. The production of metal objects of high quality may have been a form of hidden knowledge unavailable to most people. This gave the objects a magical aura.

“In Mediaeval literature, swords are referred to as aesthetic, powerful and magical objects. The many similarities between the descriptions of swords in Norse and Mediaeval literature suggest that the splendour of the sword in the latter had roots in the Viking notions of the symbolic power, magic and ritual aspects of the ornate sword. The Viking Age was a period of great social upheaval. At times like that, certain symbolic objects may play an important role in negotiating social positions. There is much to suggest that these magnificent swords were such objects, reflecting the status and power of the warrior and his clan,” said Hanne Lovise.

The battle-axe

The axe found in the same grave has no gold decoration. But the shaft is coated with brass and it may well have flashed like gold when the sun shone. Such shaft coatings are very rare in Norway. But a number of similar battle-axes have been found in the River Thames in London. That makes the axe particularly interesting. Dating of the axe from Langeid shows that it belongs to the same period as the axes found in the Thames. There was a long series of battles along the Thames in the late 10th and early 11th centuries. The Danish king Sweyn Forkbeard and his son Canute led their armies against the English king in the battle for the English throne. Even the Norwegian king Olav (Haraldsson) the Holy was involved in the attack on London in 1009. The men under the Danish King were from all over Scandinavia. Did the axes get lost in the Thames during the numerous skirmishes, or did the victors throw them in the river?


AXE OF IRON

Earlier this month the following article from Ancient Origins about the medieval Viking's beliefs about the afterlife were detailed.

Much of the author's statements can only be construed as supposition, but that it about all we have from a culture that existed more than 1000-years ago, for which we have no records written by the Vikings themselves, in spite of ongoing archaeological efforts.

As always, draw your own conclusions. (Ed.)

Like many ancient societies, the Vikings believed in an afterlife, and these were based on the religious beliefs they held. The current understanding of Viking funerary practices has been discovered in both archaeological and textual sources. One of the best-known accounts describing a Viking funeral is to be found in the writings of Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, a member of the Abbasid embassy that was sent to Volga Bulgaria.

What Did the Vikings Believe About the Afterlife?

Like many other ancient cultures, the Vikings believed that it was possible to take their worldly possessions into the afterlife with them. Therefore, an important feature of Viking funerals was the grave goods. The Vikings believed that warriors who fell in battle would earn the right to enter Valhalla, an enormous hall located in Asgard, the domain of Odin. There, the fallen warriors would feast and fight until the arrival of Ragnarok. Therefore, it was essential that dead Vikings be equipped by the living with the gear necessary for their journey to and stay in Valhalla. Apart from Valhalla, other Viking realms of the dead include Folkvangr (also for warriors), Helgafjell (for those who have led good lives), and Helheim (for those who died dishonorable deaths).

Funeral of a Viking - grave goods were buried with them for their journey and stay into the afterlife. ( igorigorevich / Adobe)

One of the most important objects required by a dead Viking was a warship. As the Vikings were great sea-farers, they believed that ships would also provide them with safe passage into the afterlife. Although the warship played a prominent role in Viking funerals, there was no typical ‘one-size fits-all’ custom and variations existed according to the status and wealth of the deceased.

Vikings Traveled to the Afterlife by Ship but Not by Sea

Archaeology has revealed that some Viking burial mounds were meant to resemble ships and stones were used to outline the shape of the vessels. Higher ranking Vikings, such as chiefs and kings, were even able to have actual ships accompany them into the afterlife. In some cases, the boats would be buried with its contents, while in others, they would be burnt before the burial. There is also the popular belief today that Viking ships would be set on fire before sent off to sea, though there is no archaeological proof for this practice if it did occur.

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Archaeologists have found that blades were part of a Viking’s grave goods. ( Petr / Adobe)
Why Was Human Sacrifice Part of the Viking Funeral?

Viking funerals also involved human sacrifice, as servants and slaves were sent by this means to serve their dead master in the afterlife. The human sacrifice, however, depended on whether the deceased was cremated or buried. For the former, those accompanying the dead would be burnt alive, whereas for the latter, their bodies would be placed in a specific position so as to ensure that they would arrive in the afterlife.



If the deceased was cremated the human sacrifice would be burnt alive to accompany them to the afterlife. ( Erica Guilane-Nachez / Adobe)

Consequences of an Inadequate Viking Funeral Ritual

Grave goods also served to ensure that the deceased was satisfied in the afterlife. The Vikings believed that if the dead were not appeased, they could return as a draugr (or revenants) to haunt the living. These undead beings could cause much trouble for the living, including crop failure, defeat in war, and pestilence. If a draugr was suspected of causing such troubles, the Vikings would exhume the recently dead and look for signs of undead activity. When a draugr was identified, the Vikings would rebury the body with more grave goods, assuming that the person had been a highly respected person in life. Alternatively, a wooden stake could simply be used to pin the body to the ground and the head chopped off, so as to kill the creature.

Lastly, a few words may be said about Ahmad Ibn Fadlan’s famous description of a Viking funeral . Ibn Fadlan was a 10 th century Arab who was part of the embassy sent by the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad to Volga Bulgaria (in modern day Russia). A detailed account of the Volga Vikings, including the funeral of a chieftain, may be found in Ibn Fadlan’s writing, known as the Risala. One of the funerary rituals recorded in the Risala is that of a peculiar form of human sacrifice. According to Ibn Fadlan, a slave girl had volunteered to accompany the dead chief into the afterlife. Before being sacrificed, however, she had sexual intercourse with six different men, so as to collect their ‘essence of life’ for the dead chief. It must be pointed out, however, that such a ritual was rare. Ibn Fadlan’s description of a Volga Bulgarian Viking funeral may be unique to that area and is not necessarily representative of Viking funerals elsewhere.


Top image: The Funeral of a Viking - painting 1893. Source (Manchester Art Gallery / Public Domain )


Contents

The etymology of "viking" is uncertain. In the Middle Ages it came to mean Scandinavian pirate or raider, while other names such as "heathens", "Danes" or "Northmen" were also used. [19] [20] [21]

The form occurs as a personal name on some Swedish runestones. The stone of Tóki víking (Sm 10) was raised in memory of a local man named Tóki who got the name Tóki víking (Toki the Viking), presumably because of his activities as a Viking. [22] The Gårdstånga Stone (DR 330) uses the phrase "Þeʀ drængaʀ waʀu wiða unesiʀ i wikingu" (These valiant men were widely renowned on viking raids), [23] referring to the stone's dedicatees as Vikings. The Västra Strö 1 Runestone has an inscription in memory of a Björn, who was killed when "on a viking raid". [24] [25] In Sweden there is a locality known since the Middle Ages as Vikingstad. The Bro Stone (U 617) was raised in memory of Assur who is said to have protected the land from Vikings (Saʀ vaʀ vikinga vorðr með Gæiti). [26] [27] There is little indication of any negative connotation in the term before the end of the Viking Age.

Another less popular theory is that víking from the feminine vík, meaning "creek, inlet, small bay". [28] Various theories have been offered that the word viking may be derived from the name of the historical Norwegian district of Víkin, meaning "a person from Víkin".

However, there are a few major problems with this theory. People from the Viken area were not called "Viking" in Old Norse manuscripts, but are referred to as víkverir, ('Vík dwellers'). In addition, that explanation could explain only the masculine (víkingr) and not the feminine (víking), which is a serious problem because the masculine is easily derived from the feminine but hardly the other way around. [29] [30] [31]

Another etymology that gained support in the early twenty-first century, derives Viking from the same root as Old Norse vika, f. 'sea mile', originally 'the distance between two shifts of rowers', from the root *weik or *wîk, as in the Proto-Germanic verb *wîkan, 'to recede'. [32] [33] [34] [35] This is found in the Proto-Nordic verb *wikan, 'to turn', similar to Old Icelandic víkja (ýkva, víkva) 'to move, to turn', with well-attested nautical usages. [36] Linguistically, this theory is better attested, [36] and the term most likely predates the use of the sail by the Germanic peoples of North-Western Europe, because the Old Frisian spelling Witsing or Wīsing shows that the word was pronounced with a palatal k and thus in all probability existed in North-Western Germanic before that palatalisation happened, that is, in the 5th century or before (in the western branch). [35] [34] [37]

In that case, the idea behind it seems to be that the tired rower moves aside for the rested rower on the thwart when he relieves him. The Old Norse feminine víking (as in the phrase fara í víking) may originally have been a sea journey characterised by the shifting of rowers, i.e. a long-distance sea journey, because in the pre-sail era, the shifting of rowers would distinguish long-distance sea journeys. A víkingr (the masculine) would then originally have been a participant on a sea journey characterised by the shifting of rowers. In that case, the word Viking was not originally connected to Scandinavian seafarers but assumed this meaning when the Scandinavians begun to dominate the seas. [32]

In Old English, the word wicing appears first in the Anglo-Saxon poem, Widsith, which probably dates from the 9th century. In Old English, and in the history of the archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen written by Adam of Bremen in about 1070, the term generally referred to Scandinavian pirates or raiders. As in the Old Norse usages, the term is not employed as a name for any people or culture in general. The word does not occur in any preserved Middle English texts. One theory made by the Icelander Örnolfur Kristjansson is that the key to the origins of the word is "wicinga cynn" in Widsith, referring to the people or the race living in Jórvík (York, in the ninth century under control by Norsemen), Jór-Wicings (note, however, that this is not the origin of Jórvík). [38]

The word Viking was introduced into Modern English during the 18th-century Viking revival, at which point it acquired romanticised heroic overtones of "barbarian warrior" or noble savage. During the 20th century, the meaning of the term was expanded to refer to not only seaborne raiders from Scandinavia and other places settled by them (like Iceland and the Faroe Islands), but also any member of the culture that produced said raiders during the period from the late 8th to the mid-11th centuries, or more loosely from about 700 to as late as about 1100. As an adjective, the word is used to refer to ideas, phenomena, or artefacts connected with those people and their cultural life, producing expressions like Viking age, Viking culture, Viking art, Viking religion, Viking ship and so on. [38]

The term ”Viking" that appeared in Northwestern Germanic sources in the Viking Age denoted pirates. According to some researchers, the term back then had no geographic or ethnic connotations that limited it to Scandinavia only. The term was instead used about anyone who to the Norse peoples appeared as a pirate. Therefore, the term had been used about Israelites on the Red Sea Muslims encountering Scandinavians in the Mediterranean Caucasian pirates encountering the famous Swedish Ingvar-Expedition, and Estonian pirates on the Baltic Sea. Thus the term "Viking" was supposedly never limited to a single ethnicity as such, but rather an activity. [39]

In Eastern Europe, of which parts were ruled by a Norse elite, víkingr came be perceived as a positive concept meaning "hero" in the Russian borrowed form vityaz' ( витязь ). [40]

Other names

The Vikings were known as Ascomanni ("ashmen") by the Germans for the ash wood of their boats, [41] Dubgail and Finngail ( "dark and fair foreigners") by the Irish, [42] Lochlannaich ("people from the land of lakes") by the Gaels, [43] Dene (Dane) by the Anglo-Saxons [44] and Northmonn by the Frisians. [37]

The scholarly consensus [45] is that the Rus' people originated in what is currently coastal eastern Sweden around the eighth century and that their name has the same origin as Roslagen in Sweden (with the older name being Roden). [46] [47] [48] According to the prevalent theory, the name Rus ' , like the Proto-Finnic name for Sweden (*Ruotsi), is derived from an Old Norse term for "the men who row" (rods-) as rowing was the main method of navigating the rivers of Eastern Europe, and that it could be linked to the Swedish coastal area of Roslagen (Rus-law) or Roden, as it was known in earlier times. [49] [50] The name Rus ' would then have the same origin as the Finnish and Estonian names for Sweden: Ruotsi and Rootsi. [50] [51]

The Slavs and the Byzantines also called them Varangians (Russian: варяги , from Old Norse Væringjar 'sworn men', from vàr- "confidence, vow of fealty", related to Old English wær "agreement, treaty, promise", Old High German wara "faithfulness" [52] ). Scandinavian bodyguards of the Byzantine emperors were known as the Varangian Guard. The Rus' initially appeared in Serkland in the 9th century, traveling as merchants along the Volga trade route, selling furs, honey, and slaves, as well as luxury goods such as amber, Frankish swords, and walrus ivory.[26] These goods were mostly exchanged for Arabian silver coins, called dirhams. Hoards of 9th century Baghdad-minted silver coins have been found in Sweden, particularly in Gotland.

During and after the Viking raid on Seville in 844 CE the Muslim chroniclers of al-Andalus referred to the Vikings as Magians (Arabic: al-Majus مجوس), conflating them with fire worshipping Zoroastrians from Persia. [53] [54] When Ibn Fadlan was taken captive by Vikings in the Volga, he referred to them as Rus. [55] [56] [57]

The Franks normally called them Northmen or Danes, while for the English they were generally known as Danes or heathen and the Irish knew them as pagans or gentiles. [58]

Anglo-Scandinavian is an academic term referring to the people, and archaeological and historical periods during the 8th to 13th centuries in which there was migration to—and occupation of—the British Isles by Scandinavian peoples generally known in English as Vikings. It is used in distinction from Anglo-Saxon. Similar terms exist for other areas, such as Hiberno-Norse for Ireland and Scotland.

Viking Age

The Viking Age in Scandinavian history is taken to have been the period from the earliest recorded raids by Norsemen in 793 until the Norman conquest of England in 1066. [59] Vikings used the Norwegian Sea and Baltic Sea for sea routes to the south.

The Normans were descendants of those Vikings who had been given feudal overlordship of areas in northern France, namely the Duchy of Normandy, in the 10th century. In that respect, descendants of the Vikings continued to have an influence in northern Europe. Likewise, King Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, had Danish ancestors. Two Vikings even ascended to the throne of England, with Sweyn Forkbeard claiming the English throne in 1013 until 1014 and his son Cnut the Great being king of England between 1016 and 1035. [60] [61] [62] [63] [64]

Geographically, the Viking Age covered Scandinavian lands (modern Denmark, Norway and Sweden), as well as territories under North Germanic dominance, mainly the Danelaw, including Scandinavian York, the administrative centre of the remains of the Kingdom of Northumbria, [65] parts of Mercia, and East Anglia. [66] Viking navigators opened the road to new lands to the north, west and east, resulting in the foundation of independent settlements in the Shetland, Orkney, and Faroe Islands Iceland Greenland [67] and L'Anse aux Meadows, a short-lived settlement in Newfoundland, circa 1000. [68] The Greenland settlement was established around 980, during the Medieval Warm Period, and its demise by the mid-15th century may have been partly due to climate change. [69] The Viking Rurik dynasty took control of territories in Slavic and Finno-Ugric-dominated areas of Eastern Europe they annexed Kiev in 882 to serve as the capital of the Kievan Rus'. [70]

As early as 839, when Swedish emissaries are first known to have visited Byzantium, Scandinavians served as mercenaries in the service of the Byzantine Empire. [71] In the late 10th century, a new unit of the imperial bodyguard formed. Traditionally containing large numbers of Scandinavians, it was known as the Varangian Guard. The word Varangian may have originated in Old Norse, but in Slavic and Greek it could refer either to Scandinavians or Franks. In these years, Swedish men left to enlist in the Byzantine Varangian Guard in such numbers that a medieval Swedish law, Västgötalagen, from Västergötland declared no one could inherit while staying in "Greece"—the then Scandinavian term for the Byzantine Empire—to stop the emigration, [72] especially as two other European courts simultaneously also recruited Scandinavians: [73] Kievan Rus' c. 980–1060 and London 1018–1066 (the Þingalið). [73]

There is archaeological evidence that Vikings reached Baghdad, the centre of the Islamic Empire. [74] The Norse regularly plied the Volga with their trade goods: furs, tusks, seal fat for boat sealant, and slaves. Important trading ports during the period include Birka, Hedeby, Kaupang, Jorvik, Staraya Ladoga, Novgorod, and Kiev.

Scandinavian Norsemen explored Europe by its seas and rivers for trade, raids, colonization, and conquest. In this period, voyaging from their homelands in Denmark, Norway and Sweden the Norsemen settled in the present-day Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norse Greenland, Newfoundland, the Netherlands, Germany, Normandy, Italy, Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Estonia, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, as well as initiating the consolidation that resulted in the formation of the present day Scandinavian countries.

In the Viking Age, the present day nations of Norway, Sweden and Denmark did not exist, but were largely homogeneous and similar in culture and language, although somewhat distinct geographically. The names of Scandinavian kings are reliably known for only the later part of the Viking Age. After the end of the Viking Age the separate kingdoms gradually acquired distinct identities as nations, which went hand-in-hand with their Christianisation. Thus the end of the Viking Age for the Scandinavians also marks the start of their relatively brief Middle Ages.

Intermixing with the Slavs

The Vikings significantly intermixed with the Slavs. Slavic and Viking tribes were "closely linked, fighting one another, intermixing and trading". [75] [76] [77] In the Middle Ages, a significant amount of ware was transferred from Slavic areas to Scandinavia, and Denmark was "a melting pot of Slavic and Scandinavian elements". [75] The presence of Slavs in Scandinavia is "more significant than previously thought" [75] although "the Slavs and their interaction with Scandinavia have not been adequately investigated". [78] A 10th-century grave of a warrior-woman in Denmark was long thought to belong to a Viking. However, new analyses suggest that the woman was a Slav from present-day Poland. [75] The first king of the Swedes, Eric, was married to Gunhild, of the Polish House of Piast. [79] Likewise, his son, Olof, fell in love with Edla, a Slavic woman, and took her as his frilla (concubine). [80] She bore him a son and a daughter: Emund the Old, King of Sweden, and Astrid, Queen of Norway. Cnut the Great, King of Denmark, England and Norway, was the son of a daughter of Mieszko I of Poland, [81] possibly the former Polish queen of Sweden, wife of Eric. Richeza of Poland, Queen of Sweden, married Magnus the Strong, and bore him several children, including Canute V, King of Denmark. [82] Catherine Jagiellon, of the House of Jagiellon, was married to John III, King of Sweden. She was the mother of Sigismund III Vasa, King of Poland, King of Sweden, and Grand Duke of Finland. [83] Ragnvald Ulfsson, son of Jarl Ulf Tostesson and the Wendic Princess Ingeborg, had a Slavic name (Rogvolod, from Slavic Рогволод). [84]

Expansion

Colonization of Iceland by Norwegian Vikings began in the ninth century. The first source mentioning Iceland and Greenland is a papal letter of 1053. Twenty years later, they appear in the Gesta of Adam of Bremen. It was not until after 1130, when the islands had become Christianized, that accounts of the history of the islands were written from the point of view of the inhabitants in sagas and chronicles. [85] The Vikings explored the northern islands and coasts of the North Atlantic, ventured south to North Africa, east to Kievan Rus (now – Ukraine, Belarus), Constantinople, and the Middle East. [86]

They raided and pillaged, traded, acted as mercenaries and settled colonies over a wide area. [87] Early Vikings probably returned home after their raids. Later in their history, they began to settle in other lands. [88] Vikings under Leif Erikson, heir to Erik the Red, reached North America and set up short-lived settlements in present-day L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada. This expansion occurred during the Medieval Warm Period. [89]

Viking expansion into continental Europe was limited. Their realm was bordered by powerful tribes to the south. Early on, it was the Saxons who occupied Old Saxony, located in what is now Northern Germany. The Saxons were a fierce and powerful people and were often in conflict with the Vikings. To counter the Saxon aggression and solidify their own presence, the Danes constructed the huge defence fortification of Danevirke in and around Hedeby. [90]

The Vikings witnessed the violent subduing of the Saxons by Charlemagne, in the thirty-year Saxon Wars of 772–804. The Saxon defeat resulted in their forced christening and the absorption of Old Saxony into the Carolingian Empire. Fear of the Franks led the Vikings to further expand Danevirke, and the defence constructions remained in use throughout the Viking Age and even up until 1864. [91]

The south coast of the Baltic Sea was ruled by the Obotrites, a federation of Slavic tribes loyal to the Carolingians and later the Frankish empire. The Vikings—led by King Gudfred—destroyed the Obotrite city of Reric on the southern Baltic coast in 808 AD and transferred the merchants and traders to Hedeby. [92] This secured Viking supremacy in the Baltic Sea, which continued throughout the Viking Age.

Because of the expansion of the Vikings across Europe, a comparison of DNA and archeology undertaken by scientists at the University of Cambridge and University of Copenhagen suggested that the term "Viking" may have evolved to become "a job description, not a matter of heredity," at least in some Viking bands. [93]

Motives

The motives driving the Viking expansion are a topic of much debate in Nordic history.

Researchers have suggested that Vikings may have originally started sailing and raiding due to a need to seek out women from foreign lands. [94] [95] [96] [97] The concept was expressed in the 11th century by historian Dudo of Saint-Quentin in his semi imaginary History of The Normans. [98] Rich and powerful Viking men tended to have many wives and concubines these polygynous relationships may have led to a shortage of eligible women for the average Viking male. Due to this, the average Viking man could have been forced to perform riskier actions to gain wealth and power to be able to find suitable women. [99] [100] [101] Viking men would often buy or capture women and make them into their wives or concubines. [102] [103] Polygynous marriage increases male-male competition in society because it creates a pool of unmarried men who are willing to engage in risky status-elevating and sex seeking behaviors. [104] [105] The Annals of Ulster states that in 821 the Vikings plundered an Irish village and "carried off a great number of women into captivity". [106]

One common theory posits that Charlemagne "used force and terror to Christianise all pagans", leading to baptism, conversion or execution, and as a result, Vikings and other pagans resisted and wanted revenge. [107] [108] [109] [110] [111] Professor Rudolf Simek states that "it is not a coincidence if the early Viking activity occurred during the reign of Charlemagne". [107] [112] The ascendance of Christianity in Scandinavia led to serious conflict, dividing Norway for almost a century. However, this time period did not commence until the 10th century, Norway was never subject to aggression by Charlemagne and the period of strife was due to successive Norwegian kings embracing Christianity after encountering it overseas. [113]

Another explanation is that the Vikings exploited a moment of weakness in the surrounding regions. Contrary to Simek's assertion, Viking raids occurred sporadically long before the reign of Charlemagne but exploded in frequency and size after his death, when his empire fragmented into multiple much weaker entities. [114] England suffered from internal divisions and was relatively easy prey given the proximity of many towns to the sea or to navigable rivers. Lack of organised naval opposition throughout Western Europe allowed Viking ships to travel freely, raiding or trading as opportunity permitted. The decline in the profitability of old trade routes could also have played a role. Trade between western Europe and the rest of Eurasia suffered a severe blow when the Western Roman Empire fell in the 5th century. [115] The expansion of Islam in the 7th century had also affected trade with western Europe. [116]

Raids in Europe, including raids and settlements from Scandinavia, were not unprecedented and had occurred long before the Vikings arrived. The Jutes invaded the British Isles three centuries earlier, pouring out from Jutland during the Age of Migrations, before the Danes settled there. The Saxons and the Angles did the same, embarking from mainland Europe. The Viking raids were, however, the first to be documented in writing by eyewitnesses, and they were much larger in scale and frequency than in previous times. [114]

Vikings themselves were expanding although their motives are unclear, historians believe that scarce resources or a lack of mating opportunities were a factor. [117]

The "Highway of Slaves" was a term for a route that the Vikings found to have a direct pathway from Scandinavia to Constantinople and Baghdad while traveling on the Baltic Sea. With the advancements of their ships during the ninth century, the Vikings were able to sail to Kievan Rus and some northern parts of Europe. [118]

Jomsborg

Jomsborg was a semi-legendary Viking stronghold at the southern coast of the Baltic Sea (medieval Wendland, modern Pomerania), that existed between the 960s and 1043. Its inhabitants were known as Jomsvikings. Jomsborg's exact location, or its existence, has not yet been established, though it is often maintained that Jomsborg was somewhere on the islands of the Oder estuary. [119]

End of the Viking Age

While the Vikings were active beyond their Scandinavian homelands, Scandinavia was itself experiencing new influences and undergoing a variety of cultural changes. [120]

Emergence of nation-states and monetary economies

By the late 11th century, royal dynasties were legitimised by the Catholic Church (which had had little influence in Scandinavia 300 years earlier) which were asserting their power with increasing authority and ambition, with the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden taking shape. Towns appeared that functioned as secular and ecclesiastical administrative centres and market sites, and monetary economies began to emerge based on English and German models. [121] By this time the influx of Islamic silver from the East had been absent for more than a century, and the flow of English silver had come to an end in the mid-11th century. [122]

Assimilation into Christendom

Christianity had taken root in Denmark and Norway with the establishment of dioceses in the 11th century, and the new religion was beginning to organise and assert itself more effectively in Sweden. Foreign churchmen and native elites were energetic in furthering the interests of Christianity, which was now no longer operating only on a missionary footing, and old ideologies and lifestyles were transforming. By 1103, the first archbishopric was founded in Scandinavia, at Lund, Scania, then part of Denmark.

The assimilation of the nascent Scandinavian kingdoms into the cultural mainstream of European Christendom altered the aspirations of Scandinavian rulers and of Scandinavians able to travel overseas, and changed their relations with their neighbours.

One of the primary sources of profit for the Vikings had been slave-taking from other European peoples. The medieval Church held that Christians should not own fellow Christians as slaves, so chattel slavery diminished as a practice throughout northern Europe. This took much of the economic incentive out of raiding, though sporadic slaving activity continued into the 11th century. Scandinavian predation in Christian lands around the North and Irish Seas diminished markedly.

The kings of Norway continued to assert power in parts of northern Britain and Ireland, and raids continued into the 12th century, but the military ambitions of Scandinavian rulers were now directed toward new paths. In 1107, Sigurd I of Norway sailed for the eastern Mediterranean with Norwegian crusaders to fight for the newly established Kingdom of Jerusalem, and Danes and Swedes participated energetically in the Baltic Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries. [123]

A variety of sources illuminate the culture, activities, and beliefs of the Vikings. Although they were generally a non-literate culture that produced no literary legacy, they had an alphabet and described themselves and their world on runestones. Most contemporary literary and written sources on the Vikings come from other cultures that were in contact with them. [124] Since the mid-20th century, archaeological findings have built a more complete and balanced picture of the lives of the Vikings. [125] [126] The archaeological record is particularly rich and varied, providing knowledge of their rural and urban settlement, crafts and production, ships and military equipment, trading networks, as well as their pagan and Christian religious artefacts and practices.

Literature and language

The most important primary sources on the Vikings are contemporary texts from Scandinavia and regions where the Vikings were active. [127] Writing in Latin letters was introduced to Scandinavia with Christianity, so there are few native documentary sources from Scandinavia before the late 11th and early 12th centuries. [128] The Scandinavians did write inscriptions in runes, but these are usually very short and formulaic. Most contemporary documentary sources consist of texts written in Christian and Islamic communities outside Scandinavia, often by authors who had been negatively affected by Viking activity.

Later writings on the Vikings and the Viking Age can also be important for understanding them and their culture, although they need to be treated cautiously. After the consolidation of the church and the assimilation of Scandinavia and its colonies into the mainstream of medieval Christian culture in the 11th and 12th centuries, native written sources begin to appear in Latin and Old Norse. In the Viking colony of Iceland, an extraordinary vernacular literature blossomed in the 12th through 14th centuries, and many traditions connected with the Viking Age were written down for the first time in the Icelandic sagas. A literal interpretation of these medieval prose narratives about the Vikings and the Scandinavian past is doubtful, but many specific elements remain worthy of consideration, such as the great quantity of skaldic poetry attributed to court poets of the 10th and 11th centuries, the exposed family trees, the self images, the ethical values, that are contained in these literary writings.

Indirectly, the Vikings have also left a window open onto their language, culture and activities, through many Old Norse place names and words found in their former sphere of influence. Some of these place names and words are still in direct use today, almost unchanged, and shed light on where they settled and what specific places meant to them. Examples include place names like Egilsay (from Eigils ey meaning Eigil's Island), Ormskirk (from Ormr kirkja meaning Orms Church or Church of the Worm), Meols (from merl meaning Sand Dunes), Snaefell (Snow Fell), Ravenscar (Ravens Rock), Vinland (Land of Wine or Land of Winberry), Kaupanger (Market Harbour), Tórshavn (Thor's Harbour), and the religious centre of Odense, meaning a place where Odin was worshipped. Viking influence is also evident in concepts like the present-day parliamentary body of the Tynwald on the Isle of Man.

Common words in everyday English language, such as the names of weekdays (Thursday means Thor's day, Friday means Freya's day, Wednesday means Woden, or Odin's day, Tuesday means Týr's day, Týr being the Norse god of single combat, law, and justice), axle, crook, raft, knife, plough, leather, window, berserk, bylaw, thorp, skerry, husband, heathen, Hell, Norman and ransack stem from the Old Norse of the Vikings and give us an opportunity to understand their interactions with the people and cultures of the British Isles. [129] In the Northern Isles of Shetland and Orkney, Old Norse completely replaced the local languages and over time evolved into the now extinct Norn language. Some modern words and names only emerge and contribute to our understanding after a more intense research of linguistic sources from medieval or later records, such as York (Horse Bay), Swansea (Sveinn's Isle) or some of the place names in Normandy like Tocqueville (Toki's farm). [130]

Linguistic and etymological studies continue to provide a vital source of information on the Viking culture, their social structure and history and how they interacted with the people and cultures they met, traded, attacked or lived with in overseas settlements. [131] [132] A lot of Old Norse connections are evident in the modern-day languages of Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Faroese and Icelandic. [133] Old Norse did not exert any great influence on the Slavic languages in the Viking settlements of Eastern Europe. It has been speculated that the reason for this was the great differences between the two languages, combined with the Rus' Vikings more peaceful businesses in these areas and the fact that they were outnumbered. The Norse named some of the rapids on the Dnieper, but this can hardly be seen from the modern names. [134] [135]

Runestones

The Norse of the Viking Age could read and write and used a non-standardised alphabet, called runor, built upon sound values. While there are few remains of runic writing on paper from the Viking era, thousands of stones with runic inscriptions have been found where Vikings lived. They are usually in memory of the dead, though not necessarily placed at graves. The use of runor survived into the 15th century, used in parallel with the Latin alphabet.

The runestones are unevenly distributed in Scandinavia: Denmark has 250 runestones, Norway has 50 while Iceland has none. [136] Sweden has as many as between 1,700 [136] and 2,500 [137] depending on definition. The Swedish district of Uppland has the highest concentration with as many as 1,196 inscriptions in stone, whereas Södermanland is second with 391. [138] [139]

The majority of runic inscriptions from the Viking period are found in Sweden. Many runestones in Scandinavia record the names of participants in Viking expeditions, such as the Kjula runestone that tells of extensive warfare in Western Europe and the Turinge Runestone, which tells of a war band in Eastern Europe.

Other runestones mention men who died on Viking expeditions. Among them include the England runestones (Swedish: Englandsstenarna) which is a group of about 30 runestones in Sweden which refer to Viking Age voyages to England. They constitute one of the largest groups of runestones that mention voyages to other countries, and they are comparable in number only to the approximately 30 Greece Runestones [140] and the 26 Ingvar Runestones, the latter referring to a Viking expedition to the Middle East. [141] They were engraved in Old Norse with the Younger Futhark. [142]

The Jelling stones date from between 960 and 985. The older, smaller stone was raised by King Gorm the Old, the last pagan king of Denmark, as a memorial honouring Queen Thyre. [143] The larger stone was raised by his son, Harald Bluetooth, to celebrate the conquest of Denmark and Norway and the conversion of the Danes to Christianity. It has three sides: one with an animal image, one with an image of the crucified Jesus Christ, and a third bearing the following inscription:

King Haraldr ordered this monument made in memory of Gormr, his father, and in memory of Thyrvé, his mother that Haraldr who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian. [144]

Runestones attest to voyages to locations such as Bath, [145] Greece (how the Vikings referred to the Byzantium territories generally), [146] Khwaresm, [147] Jerusalem, [148] Italy (as Langobardland), [149] Serkland (i.e. the Muslim world), [150] [151] England [152] (including London [153] ), and various places in Eastern Europe. Viking Age inscriptions have also been discovered on the Manx runestones on the Isle of Man.

Runic alphabet usage in modern times

The last known people to use the Runic alphabet were an isolated group of people known as the Elfdalians, that lived in the locality of Älvdalen in the Swedish province of Dalarna. They spoke the language of Elfdalian, the language unique to Älvdalen. The Elfdalian language differentiates itself from the other Scandinavian languages as it evolved much closer to Old Norse. The people of Älvdalen stopped using runes as late as the 1920s. Usage of runes therefore survived longer in Älvdalen than anywhere else in the world. [154] The last known record of the Elfdalian Runes is from 1929 they are a variant of the Dalecarlian runes, runic inscriptions that were also found in Dalarna.

Traditionally regarded as a Swedish dialect, [155] but by several criteria closer related to West Scandinavian dialects, [156] Elfdalian is a separate language by the standard of mutual intelligibility. [157] [158] [159] Although there is no mutual intelligibility, due to schools and public administration in Älvdalen being conducted in Swedish, native speakers are bilingual and speak Swedish at a native level. Residents in the area who speak only Swedish as their sole native language, neither speaking nor understanding Elfdalian, are also common. Älvdalen can be said to have had its own alphabet during the 17th and 18th century. Today there are about 2,000-3000 native speakers of Elfdalian.

Burial sites

There are numerous burial sites associated with Vikings throughout Europe and their sphere of influence—in Scandinavia, the British Isles, Ireland, Greenland, Iceland, Faeroe Islands, Germany, The Baltic, Russia, etc. The burial practices of the Vikings were quite varied, from dug graves in the ground, to tumuli, sometimes including so-called ship burials.

According to written sources, most of the funerals took place at sea. The funerals involved either burial or cremation, depending on local customs. In the area that is now Sweden, cremations were predominant in Denmark burial was more common and in Norway both were common. [160] Viking barrows are one of the primary source of evidence for circumstances in the Viking Age. [161] The items buried with the dead give some indication as to what was considered important to possess in the afterlife. [162] It is unknown what mortuary services were given to dead children by the Vikings. [163] Some of the most important burial sites for understanding the Vikings include:

  • Norway: Oseberg Gokstad Borrehaugene.
  • Sweden: Gettlinge gravfält the cemeteries of Birka, a World Heritage Site [164]Valsgärde Gamla Uppsala Hulterstad gravfält, near Alby Hulterstad, Öland.
  • Denmark: Jelling, a World Heritage Site Lindholm Høje Ladby ship Mammen chamber tomb and hoard.
  • Estonia: Salme ships – The largest ship burial ground ever uncovered.
  • Scotland: Port an Eilean Mhòir ship burial Scar boat burial, Orkney.
  • Faroe Islands: Hov.
  • Iceland: Mosfellsbær in Capital Region [165][166] the boat burial in Vatnsdalur, Austur-Húnavatnssýsla. [160][167][168]
  • Greenland: Brattahlíð. [169]
  • Germany: Hedeby.
  • Latvia: Grobiņa.
  • Ukraine: the Black Grave.
  • Russia: Gnezdovo.

Ships

There have been several archaeological finds of Viking ships of all sizes, providing knowledge of the craftsmanship that went into building them. There were many types of Viking ships, built for various uses the best-known type is probably the longship. [170] Longships were intended for warfare and exploration, designed for speed and agility, and were equipped with oars to complement the sail, making navigation possible independently of the wind. The longship had a long, narrow hull and shallow draught to facilitate landings and troop deployments in shallow water. Longships were used extensively by the Leidang, the Scandinavian defence fleets. The longship allowed the Norse to go Viking, which might explain why this type of ship has become almost synonymous with the concept of Vikings. [171] [172]

The Vikings built many unique types of watercraft, often used for more peaceful tasks. The knarr was a dedicated merchant vessel designed to carry cargo in bulk. It had a broader hull, deeper draught, and a small number of oars (used primarily to manoeuvre in harbours and similar situations). One Viking innovation was the 'beitass', a spar mounted to the sail that allowed their ships to sail effectively against the wind. [173] It was common for seafaring Viking ships to tow or carry a smaller boat to transfer crews and cargo from the ship to shore.

Ships were an integral part of the Viking culture. They facilitated everyday transportation across seas and waterways, exploration of new lands, raids, conquests, and trade with neighbouring cultures. They also held a major religious importance. People with high status were sometimes buried in a ship along with animal sacrifices, weapons, provisions and other items, as evidenced by the buried vessels at Gokstad and Oseberg in Norway [174] and the excavated ship burial at Ladby in Denmark. Ship burials were also practised by Vikings abroad, as evidenced by the excavations of the Salme ships on the Estonian island of Saaremaa. [175]

Well-preserved remains of five Viking ships were excavated from Roskilde Fjord in the late 1960s, representing both the longship and the knarr. The ships were scuttled there in the 11th century to block a navigation channel and thus protect Roskilde, then the Danish capital, from seaborne assault. The remains of these ships are on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde.

In 2019, archaeologists uncovered two Viking boat graves in Gamla Uppsala. They also discovered that one of the boats still holds the remains of a man, a dog, and a horse, along with other items. [176] This has shed light on death rituals of Viking communities in the region.

Everyday life

Social structure

Viking society was divided into the three socio-economic classes: Thralls, Karls and Jarls. This is described vividly in the Eddic poem of Rígsþula, which also explains that it was the god Ríg—father of mankind also known as Heimdallr—who created the three classes. Archaeology has confirmed this social structure. [177]

Thralls were the lowest ranking class and were slaves. Slaves comprised as much as a quarter of the population. [178] Slavery was of vital importance to Viking society, for everyday chores and large scale construction and also to trade and the economy. Thralls were servants and workers in the farms and larger households of the Karls and Jarls, and they were used for constructing fortifications, ramps, canals, mounds, roads and similar hard work projects. According to the Rigsthula, Thralls were despised and looked down upon. New thralls were supplied by either the sons and daughters of thralls or captured abroad. The Vikings often deliberately captured many people on their raids in Europe, to enslave them as thralls. The thralls were then brought back home to Scandinavia by boat, used on location or in newer settlements to build needed structures, or sold, often to the Arabs in exchange for silver. Other names for thrall were 'træl' and 'ty'.

Karls were free peasants. They owned farms, land and cattle and engaged in daily chores like ploughing the fields, milking the cattle, building houses and wagons, but used thralls to make ends meet. Other names for Karls were 'bonde' or simply free men.

The Jarls were the aristocracy of the Viking society. They were wealthy and owned large estates with huge longhouses, horses and many thralls. The thralls did most of the daily chores, while the Jarls did administration, politics, hunting, sports, visited other Jarls or went abroad on expeditions. When a Jarl died and was buried, his household thralls were sometimes sacrificially killed and buried next to him, as many excavations have revealed. [179]

In daily life, there were many intermediate positions in the overall social structure and it is believed that there must have been some social mobility. These details are unclear, but titles and positions like hauldr, thegn, landmand, show mobility between the Karls and the Jarls.

Other social structures included the communities of félag in both the civil and the military spheres, to which its members (called félagi) were obliged. A félag could be centred around certain trades, a common ownership of a sea vessel or a military obligation under a specific leader. Members of the latter were referred to as drenge, one of the words for warrior. There were also official communities within towns and villages, the overall defence, religion, the legal system and the Things.

Status of women

Like elsewhere in medieval Europe, most women in Viking society were subordinate to their husbands and fathers and had little political power. [180] [181] However, the written sources portray free Viking women as having independence and rights. Viking women generally appear to have had more freedom than women elsewhere, [181] as illustrated in the Icelandic Grágás and the Norwegian Frostating laws and Gulating laws. [182]

Most free Viking women were housewives, and the woman's standing in society was linked to that of her husband. [181] Marriage gave a woman a degree of economic security and social standing encapsulated in the title húsfreyja (lady of the house). Norse laws assert the housewife's authority over the 'indoor household'. She had the important roles of managing the farm's resources, conducting business, as well as child-rearing, although some of this would be shared with her husband. [183]

After the age of 20, an unmarried woman, referred to as maer and mey, reached legal majority and had the right to decide her place of residence and was regarded as her own person before the law. [182] An exception to her independence was the right to choose a husband, as marriages were normally arranged by the family. [184] The groom would pay a bride-price (mundr) to the bride's family, and the bride brought assets into the marriage, as a dowry. [183] A married woman could divorce her husband and remarry. [181] [185]

Concubinage was also part of Viking society, whereby a woman could live with a man and have children with him without marrying such a woman was called a frilla. [185] Usually she would be the mistress of a wealthy and powerful man who also had a wife. [180] The wife had authority over the mistresses if they lived in her household. [181] Through her relationship to a man of higher social standing, a concubine and her family could advance socially although her position was less secure than that of a wife. [180] There was no distinction made between children born inside or outside marriage: both had the right to inherit property from their parents, and there were no "legitimate" or "illegitimate" children. [185] However, children born in wedlock had more inheritance rights than those born out of wedlock. [183]

A woman had the right to inherit part of her husband's property upon his death, [183] and widows enjoyed the same independent status as unmarried women. [185] The paternal aunt, paternal niece and paternal granddaughter, referred to as odalkvinna, all had the right to inherit property from a deceased man. [182] A woman with no husband, sons or male relatives could inherit not only property but also the position as head of the family when her father or brother died. Such a woman was referred to as Baugrygr, and she exercised all the rights afforded to the head of a family clan, until she married, by which her rights were transferred to her new husband. [182]

Women had religious authority and were active as priestesses (gydja) and oracles (sejdkvinna). [186] They were active within art as poets (skalder) [186] and rune masters, and as merchants and medicine women. [186] There may also have been female entrepreneurs, who worked in textile production. [181] Women may also have been active within military office: the tales about shieldmaidens are unconfirmed, but some archaeological finds such as the Birka female Viking warrior may indicate that at least some women in military authority existed. [187]

These liberties of the Viking women gradually disappeared after the introduction of Christianity, [188] and from the late 13th-century, they are no longer mentioned. [182]

Examinations of Viking Age burials suggests that women lived longer, and nearly all well past the age of 35, as compared to earlier times. Female graves from before the Viking Age in Scandinavia holds a proportional large number of remains from women aged 20 to 35, presumably due to complications of childbirth. [189]

Appearances

Scandinavian Vikings were similar in appearance to modern Scandinavians "their skin was fair and the hair color varied between blond, dark and reddish". Genetic studies suggest that people were mostly blond in what is now eastern Sweden, while red hair was mostly found in western Scandinavia. [190] Most Viking men had shoulder-length hair and beards, and slaves (thralls) were usually the only men with short hair. [191] The length varied according to personal preference and occupation. Men involved in warfare, for example, may have had slightly shorter hair and beards for practical reasons. Men in some regions bleached their hair a golden saffron color. [191] Females also had long hair, with girls often wearing it loose or braided and married women often wearing it in a bun. [191] The average height is estimated to have been 67 inches (5'5") for men and 62 inches (5'1") for women. [190]

The three classes were easily recognisable by their appearances. Men and women of the Jarls were well groomed with neat hairstyles and expressed their wealth and status by wearing expensive clothes (often silk) and well crafted jewellery like brooches, belt buckles, necklaces and arm rings. Almost all of the jewellery was crafted in specific designs unique to the Norse (see Viking art). Finger rings were seldom used and earrings were not used at all, as they were seen as a Slavic phenomenon. Most Karls expressed similar tastes and hygiene, but in a more relaxed and inexpensive way. [177] [192]

Archaeological finds from Scandinavia and Viking settlements in the British Isles support the idea of the well groomed and hygienic Viking. Burial with grave goods was a common practice in the Scandinavian world, through the Viking Age and well past the Christianization of the Norse peoples. [193] Within these burial sites and homesteads, combs, often made from antler, are a common find. [194] The manufacturing of such antler combs was common, as at the Viking settlement at Dublin hundreds of examples of combs from the tenth-century have survived, suggesting that grooming was a common practice. [195] The manufacturing of such combs was also widespread throughout the Viking world, as examples of similar combs have been found at Viking settlements in Ireland, [196] England, [197] and Scotland. [198] The combs share a common visual appearance as well, with the extant examples often decorated with linear, interlacing, and geometric motifs, or other forms of ornamentation depending on the comb's period and type, but stylistically similar to Viking Age art. [199] The practice of grooming was a concern for all levels of Viking age society, as grooming products, combs, have been found in common graves as well as aristocratic ones. [200]

Farming and cuisine

The sagas tell about the diet and cuisine of the Vikings, [201] but first hand evidence, like cesspits, kitchen middens and garbage dumps have proved to be of great value and importance. Undigested remains of plants from cesspits at Coppergate in York have provided much information in this respect. Overall, archaeo-botanical investigations have been undertaken increasingly in recent decades, as a collaboration between archaeologists and palaeoethno-botanists. This new approach sheds light on the agricultural and horticultural practices of the Vikings and their cuisine. [202]

The combined information from various sources suggests a diverse cuisine and ingredients. Meat products of all kinds, such as cured, smoked and whey-preserved meat, [203] sausages, and boiled or fried fresh meat cuts, were prepared and consumed. [204] There were plenty of seafood, bread, porridges, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, berries and nuts. Alcoholic drinks like beer, mead, bjórr (a strong fruit wine) and, for the rich, imported wine, were served. [205] [206]

Certain livestock were typical and unique to the Vikings, including the Icelandic horse, Icelandic cattle, a plethora of sheep breeds, [207] the Danish hen and the Danish goose. [208] [209] The Vikings in York mostly ate beef, mutton, and pork with small amounts of horse meat. Most of the beef and horse leg bones were found split lengthways, to extract the marrow. The mutton and swine were cut into leg and shoulder joints and chops. The frequent remains of pig skull and foot bones found on house floors indicate that brawn and trotters were also popular. Hens were kept for both their meat and eggs, and the bones of game birds such as black grouse, golden plover, wild ducks, and geese have also been found. [210]

Seafood was important, in some places even more so than meat. Whales and walrus were hunted for food in Norway and the north-western parts of the North Atlantic region, and seals were hunted nearly everywhere. Oysters, mussels and shrimp were eaten in large quantities and cod and salmon were popular fish. In the southern regions, herring was also important. [211] [212] [213]

Milk and buttermilk were popular, both as cooking ingredients and drinks, but were not always available, even at farms. [214] Milk came from cows, goats and sheep, with priorities varying from location to location, [215] and fermented milk products like skyr or surmjölk were produced as well as butter and cheese. [216]

Food was often salted and enhanced with spices, some of which were imported like black pepper, while others were cultivated in herb gardens or harvested in the wild. Home grown spices included caraway, mustard and horseradish as evidenced from the Oseberg ship burial [205] or dill, coriander, and wild celery, as found in cesspits at Coppergate in York. Thyme, juniper berry, sweet gale, yarrow, rue and peppercress were also used and cultivated in herb gardens. [202] [217]

Vikings collected and ate fruits, berries and nuts. Apple (wild crab apples), plums and cherries were part of the diet, [218] as were rose hips and raspberry, wild strawberry, blackberry, elderberry, rowan, hawthorn and various wild berries, specific to the locations. [217] Hazelnuts were an important part of the diet in general and large amounts of walnut shells have been found in cities like Hedeby. The shells were used for dyeing, and it is assumed that the nuts were consumed. [202] [214]

The invention and introduction of the mouldboard plough revolutionised agriculture in Scandinavia in the early Viking Age and made it possible to farm even poor soils. In Ribe, grains of rye, barley, oat and wheat dated to the 8th century have been found and examined, and are believed to have been cultivated locally. [219] Grains and flour were used for making porridges, some cooked with milk, some cooked with fruit and sweetened with honey, and also various forms of bread. Remains of bread from primarily Birka in Sweden were made of barley and wheat. It is unclear if the Norse leavened their breads, but their ovens and baking utensils suggest that they did. [220] Flax was a very important crop for the Vikings: it was used for oil extraction, food consumption and most importantly the production of linen. More than 40% of all known textile recoveries from the Viking Age can be traced as linen. This suggests a much higher actual percentage, as linen is poorly preserved compared to wool for example. [221]

The quality of food for common people was not always particularly high. The research at Coppergate shows that the Vikings in York made bread from whole meal flour—probably both wheat and rye—but with the seeds of cornfield weeds included. Corncockle (Agrostemma), would have made the bread dark-coloured, but the seeds are poisonous, and people who ate the bread might have become ill. Seeds of carrots, parsnip, and brassicas were also discovered, but they were poor specimens and tend to come from white carrots and bitter tasting cabbages. [218] The rotary querns often used in the Viking Age left tiny stone fragments (often from basalt rock) in the flour, which when eaten wore down the teeth. The effects of this can be seen on skeletal remains of that period. [220]

Sports

Sports were widely practised and encouraged by the Vikings. [222] [223] Sports that involved weapons training and developing combat skills were popular. This included spear and stone throwing, building and testing physical strength through wrestling (see glima), fist fighting, and stone lifting. In areas with mountains, mountain climbing was practised as a sport. Agility and balance were built and tested by running and jumping for sport, and there is mention of a sport that involved jumping from oar to oar on the outside of a ship's railing as it was being rowed. [224] Swimming was a popular sport and Snorri Sturluson describes three types: diving, long-distance swimming, and a contest in which two swimmers try to dunk one another. Children often participated in some of the sport disciplines and women have also been mentioned as swimmers, although it is unclear if they took part in competition. King Olaf Tryggvason was hailed as a master of both mountain climbing and oar-jumping, and was said to have excelled in the art of knife juggling as well.

Skiing and ice skating were the primary winter sports of the Vikings, although skiing was also used as everyday means of transport in winter and in the colder regions of the north.

Horse fighting was practised for sport, although the rules are unclear. It appears to have involved two stallions pitted against each other, within smell and sight of fenced-off mares. Whatever the rules were, the fights often resulted in the death of one of the stallions.

Icelandic sources refer to the sport of knattleik. A ball game akin to hockey, knattleik involved a bat and a small hard ball and was usually played on a smooth field of ice. The rules are unclear, but it was popular with both adults and children, even though it often led to injuries. Knattleik appears to have been played only in Iceland, where it attracted many spectators, as did horse fighting.

Hunting, as a sport, was limited to Denmark, where it was not regarded as an important occupation. Birds, deer, hares and foxes were hunted with bow and spear, and later with crossbows. The techniques were stalking, snare and traps and par force hunting with dog packs.

Games and entertainment

Both archaeological finds and written sources testify to the fact that the Vikings set aside time for social and festive gatherings. [222] [223] [225]

Board games and dice games were played as a popular pastime at all levels of society. Preserved gaming pieces and boards show game boards made of easily available materials like wood, with game pieces manufactured from stone, wood or bone, while other finds include elaborately carved boards and game pieces of glass, amber, antler or walrus tusk, together with materials of foreign origin, such as ivory. The Vikings played several types of tafl games hnefatafl, nitavl (nine men's morris) and the less common kvatrutafl. Chess also appeared at the end of the Viking Age. Hnefatafl is a war game, in which the object is to capture the king piece—a large hostile army threatens and the king's men have to protect the king. It was played on a board with squares using black and white pieces, with moves made according to dice rolls. The Ockelbo Runestone shows two men engaged in Hnefatafl, and the sagas suggest that money or valuables could have been involved in some dice games. [222] [225]

On festive occasions storytelling, skaldic poetry, music and alcoholic drinks, like beer and mead, contributed to the atmosphere. [225] Music was considered an art form and music proficiency as fitting for a cultivated man. The Vikings are known to have played instruments including harps, fiddles, lyres and lutes. [222]

Experimental archaeology

Experimental archaeology of the Viking Age is a flourishing branch and several places have been dedicated to this technique, such as Jorvik Viking Centre in the United Kingdom, Sagnlandet Lejre and Ribe Viking Center [da] in Denmark, Foteviken Museum in Sweden or Lofotr Viking Museum in Norway. Viking-age reenactors have undertaken experimental activities such as iron smelting and forging using Norse techniques at Norstead in Newfoundland for example. [226]

On 1 July 2007, the reconstructed Viking ship Skuldelev 2, renamed Sea Stallion, [227] began a journey from Roskilde to Dublin. The remains of that ship and four others were discovered during a 1962 excavation in the Roskilde Fjord. Tree-ring analysis has shown the ship was built of oak in the vicinity of Dublin in about 1042. Seventy multi-national crew members sailed the ship back to its home, and Sea Stallion arrived outside Dublin's Custom House on 14 August 2007. The purpose of the voyage was to test and document the seaworthiness, speed, and manoeuvrability of the ship on the rough open sea and in coastal waters with treacherous currents. The crew tested how the long, narrow, flexible hull withstood the tough ocean waves. The expedition also provided valuable new information on Viking longships and society. The ship was built using Viking tools, materials, and much the same methods as the original ship.

Other vessels, often replicas of the Gokstad ship (full- or half-scale) or Skuldelev have been built and tested as well. The Snorri (a Skuldelev I Knarr), was sailed from Greenland to Newfoundland in 1998. [228]

Cultural assimilation

Elements of a Scandinavian identity and practices were maintained in settler societies, but they could be quite distinct as the groups assimilated into the neighboring societies. Assimilation to the Frankish culture in Normandy for example was rapid. [229] Links to a Viking identity remained longer in the remote islands of Iceland and the Faroes. [229]

Knowledge about the arms and armour of the Viking age is based on archaeological finds, pictorial representation, and to some extent on the accounts in the Norse sagas and Norse laws recorded in the 13th century. According to custom, all free Norse men were required to own weapons and were permitted to carry them at all times. These arms indicated a Viking's social status: a wealthy Viking had a complete ensemble of a helmet, shield, mail shirt, and sword. However, swords were rarely used in battle, probably not sturdy enough for combat and most likely only used as symbolic or decorative items. [230] [231]

A typical bóndi (freeman) was more likely to fight with a spear and shield, and most also carried a seax as a utility knife and side-arm. Bows were used in the opening stages of land battles and at sea, but they tended to be considered less "honourable" than melee weapons. Vikings were relatively unusual for the time in their use of axes as a main battle weapon. The Húscarls, the elite guard of King Cnut (and later of King Harold II) were armed with two-handed axes that could split shields or metal helmets with ease.

The warfare and violence of the Vikings were often motivated and fuelled by their beliefs in Norse religion, focusing on Thor and Odin, the gods of war and death. [232] [233] In combat, it is believed that the Vikings sometimes engaged in a disordered style of frenetic, furious fighting known as berserkergang, leading them to be termed berserkers. Such tactics may have been deployed intentionally by shock troops, and the berserk-state may have been induced through ingestion of materials with psychoactive properties, such as the hallucinogenic mushrooms, Amanita muscaria, [234] or large amounts of alcohol. [235]

The Vikings established and engaged in extensive trading networks throughout the known world and had a profound influence on the economic development of Europe and Scandinavia. [236] [237]

Except for the major trading centres of Ribe, Hedeby and the like, the Viking world was unfamiliar with the use of coinage and was based on so called bullion economy, that is, the weight of precious metals. Silver was the most common metal in the economy, although gold was also used to some extent. Silver circulated in the form of bars, or ingots, as well as in the form of jewellery and ornaments. A large number of silver hoards from the Viking Age have been uncovered, both in Scandinavia and the lands they settled. [238] [ better source needed ] Traders carried small scales, enabling them to measure weight very accurately, so it was possible to have a very precise system of trade and exchange, even without a regular coinage. [236]

Goods

Organized trade covered everything from ordinary items in bulk to exotic luxury products. The Viking ship designs, like that of the knarr, were an important factor in their success as merchants. [239] Imported goods from other cultures included: [240]

    were obtained from Chinese and Persian traders, who met with the Viking traders in Russia. Vikings used homegrown spices and herbs like caraway, thyme, horseradish and mustard, [241] but imported cinnamon. was much prized by the Norse. The imported glass was often made into beads for decoration and these have been found in the thousands. Åhus in Scania and the old market town of Ribe were major centres of glass bead production. [242][243][244] was a very important commodity obtained from Byzantium (modern day Istanbul) and China. It was valued by many European cultures of the time, and the Vikings used it to indicate status such as wealth and nobility. Many of the archaeological finds in Scandinavia include silk. [245][246][247] was imported from France and Germany as a drink of the wealthy, augmenting the regular mead and beer.

To counter these valuable imports, the Vikings exported a large variety of goods. These goods included: [240]

    —the fossilised resin of the pine tree—was frequently found on the North Sea and Baltic coastline. It was worked into beads and ornamental objects, before being traded. (See also the Amber Road).
  • Fur was also exported as it provided warmth. This included the furs of pine martens, foxes, bears, otters and beavers.
  • Cloth and wool. The Vikings were skilled spinners and weavers and exported woollen cloth of a high quality. was collected and exported. The Norwegian west coast supplied eiderdowns and sometimes feathers were bought from the Samis. Down was used for bedding and quilted clothing. Fowling on the steep slopes and cliffs was dangerous work and was often lethal. [248] , known as thralls in Old Norse. On their raids, the Vikings captured many people, among them monks and clergymen. They were sometimes sold as slaves to Arab merchants in exchange for silver.

Other exports included weapons, walrus ivory, wax, salt and cod. As one of the more exotic exports, hunting birds were sometimes provided from Norway to the European aristocracy, from the 10th century. [248]

Many of these goods were also traded within the Viking world itself, as well as goods such as soapstone and whetstone. Soapstone was traded with the Norse on Iceland and in Jutland, who used it for pottery. Whetstones were traded and used for sharpening weapons, tools and knives. [240] There are indications from Ribe and surrounding areas, that the extensive medieval trade with oxen and cattle from Jutland (see Ox Road), reach as far back as c. 720 AD. This trade satisfied the Vikings' need for leather and meat to some extent, and perhaps hides for parchment production on the European mainland. Wool was also very important as a domestic product for the Vikings, to produce warm clothing for the cold Scandinavian and Nordic climate, and for sails. Sails for Viking ships required large amounts of wool, as evidenced by experimental archaeology. There are archaeological signs of organised textile productions in Scandinavia, reaching as far back as the early Iron Ages. Artisans and craftsmen in the larger towns were supplied with antlers from organised hunting with large-scale reindeer traps in the far north. They were used as raw material for making everyday utensils like combs. [248]

Medieval perceptions

In England the Viking Age began dramatically on 8 June 793 when Norsemen destroyed the abbey on the island of Lindisfarne. The devastation of Northumbria's Holy Island shocked and alerted the royal courts of Europe to the Viking presence. "Never before has such an atrocity been seen," declared the Northumbrian scholar Alcuin of York. [249] Medieval Christians in Europe were totally unprepared for the Viking incursions and could find no explanation for their arrival and the accompanying suffering they experienced at their hands save the "Wrath of God". [250] More than any other single event, the attack on Lindisfarne demonised perception of the Vikings for the next twelve centuries. Not until the 1890s did scholars outside Scandinavia begin to seriously reassess the achievements of the Vikings, recognizing their artistry, technological skills, and seamanship. [251]

Norse Mythology, sagas, and literature tell of Scandinavian culture and religion through tales of heroic and mythological heroes. Early transmission of this information was primarily oral, and later texts relied on the writings and transcriptions of Christian scholars, including the Icelanders Snorri Sturluson and Sæmundur fróði. Many of these sagas were written in Iceland, and most of them, even if they had no Icelandic provenance, were preserved there after the Middle Ages due to the continued interest of Icelanders in Norse literature and law codes.

The 200-year Viking influence on European history is filled with tales of plunder and colonisation, and the majority of these chronicles came from western witnesses and their descendants. Less common, though equally relevant, are the Viking chronicles that originated in the east, including the Nestor chronicles, Novgorod chronicles, Ibn Fadlan chronicles, Ibn Rusta chronicles, and brief mentions by Photius, patriarch of Constantinople, regarding their first attack on the Byzantine Empire. Other chroniclers of Viking history include Adam of Bremen, who wrote, in the fourth volume of his Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum, "[t]here is much gold here (in Zealand), accumulated by piracy. These pirates, which are called wichingi by their own people, and Ascomanni by our own people, pay tribute to the Danish king." In 991, the Battle of Maldon between Viking raiders and the inhabitants of Maldon in Essex was commemorated with a poem of the same name.

Post-medieval perceptions

Early modern publications, dealing with what is now called Viking culture, appeared in the 16th century, e.g. Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (History of the northern people) of Olaus Magnus (1555), and the first edition of the 13th-century Gesta Danorum (Deeds of the Danes), by Saxo Grammaticus, in 1514. The pace of publication increased during the 17th century with Latin translations of the Edda (notably Peder Resen's Edda Islandorum of 1665).

In Scandinavia, the 17th-century Danish scholars Thomas Bartholin and Ole Worm and the Swede Olaus Rudbeck used runic inscriptions and Icelandic sagas as historical sources. An important early British contributor to the study of the Vikings was George Hickes, who published his Linguarum vett. septentrionalium thesaurus (Dictionary of the Old Northern Languages) in 1703–05. During the 18th century, British interest and enthusiasm for Iceland and early Scandinavian culture grew dramatically, expressed in English translations of Old Norse texts and in original poems that extolled the supposed Viking virtues.

The word "viking" was first popularised at the beginning of the 19th century by Erik Gustaf Geijer in his poem, The Viking. Geijer's poem did much to propagate the new romanticised ideal of the Viking, which had little basis in historical fact. The renewed interest of Romanticism in the Old North had contemporary political implications. The Geatish Society, of which Geijer was a member, popularised this myth to a great extent. Another Swedish author who had great influence on the perception of the Vikings was Esaias Tegnér, a member of the Geatish Society, who wrote a modern version of Friðþjófs saga hins frœkna, which became widely popular in the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

Fascination with the Vikings reached a peak during the so-called Viking revival in the late 18th and 19th centuries as a branch of Romantic nationalism. In Britain this was called Septentrionalism, in Germany "Wagnerian" pathos, and in the Scandinavian countries Scandinavism. Pioneering 19th-century scholarly editions of the Viking Age began to reach a small readership in Britain, archaeologists began to dig up Britain's Viking past, and linguistic enthusiasts started to identify the Viking-Age origins of rural idioms and proverbs. The new dictionaries of the Old Norse language enabled the Victorians to grapple with the primary Icelandic sagas. [252]

Until recently, the history of the Viking Age was largely based on Icelandic sagas, the history of the Danes written by Saxo Grammaticus, the Russian Primary Chronicle, and Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib. Few scholars still accept these texts as reliable sources, as historians now rely more on archaeology and numismatics, disciplines that have made valuable contributions toward understanding the period. [253] [ citation needed ]

In 20th-century politics

The romanticised idea of the Vikings constructed in scholarly and popular circles in northwestern Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries was a potent one, and the figure of the Viking became a familiar and malleable symbol in different contexts in the politics and political ideologies of 20th-century Europe. [254] In Normandy, which had been settled by Vikings, the Viking ship became an uncontroversial regional symbol. In Germany, awareness of Viking history in the 19th century had been stimulated by the border dispute with Denmark over Schleswig-Holstein and the use of Scandinavian mythology by Richard Wagner. The idealised view of the Vikings appealed to Germanic supremacists who transformed the figure of the Viking in accordance with the ideology of a Germanic master race. [255] Building on the linguistic and cultural connections between Norse-speaking Scandinavians and other Germanic groups in the distant past, Scandinavian Vikings were portrayed in Nazi Germany as a pure Germanic type. The cultural phenomenon of Viking expansion was re-interpreted for use as propaganda to support the extreme militant nationalism of the Third Reich, and ideologically informed interpretations of Viking paganism and the Scandinavian use of runes were employed in the construction of Nazi mysticism. Other political organisations of the same ilk, such as the former Norwegian fascist party Nasjonal Samling, similarly appropriated elements of the modern Viking cultural myth in their symbolism and propaganda.

Soviet and earlier Slavophile historians emphasized a Slavic rooted foundation in contrast to the Normanist theory of the Vikings conquering the Slavs and founding the Kievan Rus'. [256] They accused Normanist theory proponents of distorting history by depicting the Slavs as undeveloped primitives. In contrast, Soviet historians stated that the Slavs laid the foundations of their statehood long before the Norman/Viking raids, while the Norman/Viking invasions only served to hinder the historical development of the Slavs. They argued that Rus' composition was Slavic and that Rurik and Oleg' success was rooted in their support from within the local Slavic aristocracy. [ citation needed ] . After the dissolution of the USSR, Novgorod acknowledged its Viking history by incorporating a Viking ship into its logo. [257]

In modern popular culture

Led by the operas of German composer Richard Wagner, such as Der Ring des Nibelungen, Vikings and the Romanticist Viking Revival have inspired many creative works. These have included novels directly based on historical events, such as Frans Gunnar Bengtsson's The Long Ships (which was also released as a 1963 film), and historical fantasies such as the film The Vikings, Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead (movie version called The 13th Warrior), and the comedy film Erik the Viking. The vampire Eric Northman, in the HBO TV series True Blood, was a Viking prince before being turned into a vampire. Vikings appear in several books by the Danish American writer Poul Anderson, while British explorer, historian, and writer Tim Severin authored a trilogy of novels in 2005 about a young Viking adventurer Thorgils Leifsson, who travels around the world.

In 1962, American comic book writer Stan Lee and his brother Larry Lieber, together with Jack Kirby, created the Marvel Comics superhero Thor, which they based on the Norse god of the same name. The character is featured in the 2011 Marvel Studios film Thor and its sequels Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok. The character also appears in the 2012 film The Avengers and its associated animated series.

The appearance of Vikings within popular media and television has seen a resurgence in recent decades, especially with the History Channel's series Vikings (2013), directed by Michael Hirst. The show has a loose grounding in historical facts and sources, but bases itself more so on literary sources, such as fornaldarsaga Ragnars saga loðbrókar, itself more legend than fact, and Old Norse Eddic and Skaldic poetry. [258] The events of the show frequently make references to the Völuspá, an Eddic poem describing the creation of the world, often directly referencing specific lines of the poem in the dialogue. [259] The show portrays some of the social realities of the medieval Scandinavian world, such as slavery [260] and the greater role of women within Viking society. [261] The show also addresses the topics of gender equity in Viking society with the inclusion of shield maidens through the character Lagertha, also based on a legendary figure. [262] Recent archaeological interpretations and osteological analysis of previous excavations of Viking burials has given support to the idea of the Viking woman warrior, namely the excavation and DNA study of the Birka female Viking warrior, within recent years. However, the conclusions remain contentious.

Vikings have served as an inspiration for numerous video games, such as The Lost Vikings (1993), Age of Mythology (2002), and For Honor (2017). [263] All three Vikings from The Lost Vikings series—Erik the Swift, Baleog the Fierce, and Olaf the Stout—appeared as a playable hero in the crossover title Heroes of the Storm (2015). [264] The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) is an action role-playing video game heavily inspired by Viking culture. [265] [266] Vikings are the lead focus of the 2020 video game Assassin's Creed Valhalla, which is set in 873 AD, and recounts an alternative history of the Viking invasion of Britain. [267]

Modern reconstructions of Viking mythology have shown a persistent influence in late 20th- and early 21st-century popular culture in some countries, inspiring comics, movies, television series, role-playing games, computer games, and music, including Viking metal, a subgenre of heavy metal music.

Since the 1960s, there has been rising enthusiasm for historical reenactment. While the earliest groups had little claim for historical accuracy, the seriousness and accuracy of reenactors has increased. The largest such groups include The Vikings and Regia Anglorum, though many smaller groups exist in Europe, North America, New Zealand, and Australia. Many reenactor groups participate in live-steel combat, and a few have Viking-style ships or boats.

The Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League are so-named owing to the large Scandinavian population in the US state of Minnesota.

During the banking boom of the first decade of the twenty-first century, Icelandic financiers came to be styled as útrásarvíkingar (roughly 'raiding Vikings'). [268] [269] [270]

Common misconceptions

Horned helmets

Apart from two or three representations of (ritual) helmets—with protrusions that may be either stylised ravens, snakes, or horns—no depiction of the helmets of Viking warriors, and no preserved helmet, has horns. The formal, close-quarters style of Viking combat (either in shield walls or aboard "ship islands") would have made horned helmets cumbersome and hazardous to the warrior's own side.

Historians therefore believe that Viking warriors did not wear horned helmets whether such helmets were used in Scandinavian culture for other, ritual purposes, remains unproven. The general misconception that Viking warriors wore horned helmets was partly promulgated by the 19th-century enthusiasts of Götiska Förbundet, founded in 1811 in Stockholm. [271] They promoted the use of Norse mythology as the subject of high art and other ethnological and moral aims.

The Vikings were often depicted with winged helmets and in other clothing taken from Classical antiquity, especially in depictions of Norse gods. This was done to legitimise the Vikings and their mythology by associating it with the Classical world, which had long been idealised in European culture.

The latter-day mythos created by national romantic ideas blended the Viking Age with aspects of the Nordic Bronze Age some 2,000 years earlier. Horned helmets from the Bronze Age were shown in petroglyphs and appeared in archaeological finds (see Bohuslän and Vikso helmets). They were probably used for ceremonial purposes. [272]

Cartoons like Hägar the Horrible and Vicky the Viking, and sports kits such as those of the Minnesota Vikings and Canberra Raiders have perpetuated the myth of the horned helmet. [273]

Viking helmets were conical, made from hard leather with wood and metallic reinforcement for regular troops. The iron helmet with mask and mail was for the chieftains, based on the previous Vendel-age helmets from central Sweden. The only original Viking helmet discovered is the Gjermundbu helmet, found in Norway. This helmet is made of iron and has been dated to the 10th century. [274]

Barbarity

The image of wild-haired, dirty savages sometimes associated with the Vikings in popular culture is a distorted picture of reality. [8] Viking tendencies were often misreported, and the work of Adam of Bremen, among others, told largely disputable tales of Viking savagery and uncleanliness. [275]

Use of skulls as drinking vessels

There is no evidence that Vikings drank out of the skulls of vanquished enemies. This was a misconception based on a passage in the skaldic poem Krákumál speaking of heroes drinking from ór bjúgviðum hausa (branches of skulls). This was a reference to drinking horns, but was mistranslated in the 17th century [276] as referring to the skulls of the slain. [277]

Margaryan et al. 2020 analyzed 442 Viking world individuals from various archaeological sites in Europe. [278] They were found to be closely related to modern Scandinavians. The Y-DNA composition of the individuals in the study was also similar to that of modern Scandinavians. The most common Y-DNA haplogroup was I1 (95 samples), followed by R1b (84 samples) and R1a, especially (but not exclusively) of the Scandinavian R1a-Z284 subclade (61 samples). The study showed what many historians have hypothesized, that it was common for Norseman settlers to marry foreign women. Some individuals from the study, such as those found in Foggia, display typical Scandinavian Y-DNA haplogroups but also Southern European autosomal ancestry, suggesting that they were the descendants of Viking settler males and local women. The 5 individual samples from Foggia were likely Normans. The same pattern of a combination of Scandinavian Y-DNA and local autosomal ancestry is seen in other samples from the study, for example Varangians buried near lake Ladoga and Vikings in England, suggesting that Viking men had married into local families in those places too. [278]

Unsurprisingly, and very much consistent with historical records, the study found evidence of a major influx of Danish Viking ancestry into England, a Swedish influx into Estonia and Finland and Norwegian influx into Ireland, Iceland and Greenland during the Viking Age. [278]

Margaryan et al. 2020 examined the skeletal remains of 42 individuals from the Salme ship burials in Estonia. The skeletal remains belonged to warriors killed in battle who were later buried together with numerous valuable weapons and armour. DNA testing and isotope analysis revealed that the men came from central Sweden. [278]

Female descent studies show evidence of Norse descent in areas closest to Scandinavia, such as the Shetland and Orkney islands. [279] Inhabitants of lands farther away show most Norse descent in the male Y-chromosome lines. [280]

A specialised genetic and surname study in Liverpool showed marked Norse heritage: up to 50% of males of families that lived there before the years of industrialisation and population expansion. [281] High percentages of Norse inheritance—tracked through the R-M420 haplotype—were also found among males in the Wirral and West Lancashire. [282] This was similar to the percentage of Norse inheritance found among males in the Orkney Islands. [283]

Recent research suggests that the Celtic warrior Somerled, who drove the Vikings out of western Scotland and was the progenitor of Clan Donald, may have been of Viking descent, a member of haplogroup R-M420. [284]

Margaryan et al. 2020 examined an elite warrior burial from Bodzia (Poland) dated to 1010-1020 AD. The cemetery in Bodzia is exceptional in terms of Scandinavian and Kievian Rus links. The Bodzia man (sample VK157, or burial E864/I) was not a simple warrior from the princely retinue, but he belonged to the princely family himself. His burial is the richest one in the whole cemetery, moreover, strontium analysis of his teeth enamel shows he was not local. It is assumed that he came to Poland with the Prince of Kiev, Sviatopolk the Accursed, and met a violent death in combat. This corresponds to the events of 1018 AD when Sviatopolk himself disappeared after having retreated from Kiev to Poland. It cannot be excluded that the Bodzia man was Sviatopolk himself, as the genealogy of the Rurikids at this period is extremely sketchy and the dates of birth of many princes of this dynasty may be quite approximative. The Bodzia man carried haplogroup I1-S2077 and had both Scandinavian ancestry and Russian admixture. [285] [286] [287]


Vikings in Britain: background and legacy

Historians disagree about the origin of the word Viking. In Old Norse the word means a pirate raid, from either vikja (to move swiftly) or vik (an inlet). This captures the essence of the Vikings, fast-moving sailors who used the water as their highway to take them across the northern Atlantic, around the coasts of Europe and up its rivers to trade, raid or settle. In their poetry they call the sea 'the whale road'.

Anglo-Saxon writers called them Danes, Norsemen, Northmen, the Great Army, sea rovers, sea wolves, or the heathen.

From around 860AD onwards, Vikings stayed, settled and prospered in Britain, becoming part of the mix of people who today make up the British nation. Our names for days of the week come mainly from Norse gods &ndash Tuesday from Tiw or Týr, Wednesday from Woden (Odin), Thursday from Thor and so on. Many of their other words have also become part of English, for example egg, steak, law, die, bread, down, fog, muck, lump and scrawny.

To see questions children have asked about the Vikings, see our Viking starter lesson.


The cognitive schemes of the 9th–10th centuries?

As Mary Weismantel points out, out the categorization of diverging ontologies within anthropology, including the Amazonian perspectivism of Viveiros de Castro, may be criticized for lacking a historical dimension. Thus archaeology may provide such a material and historical dimension to these perspectives (Weismantel Reference Weismantel 2015, 4–5). Aiming at grasping the ontology of Viking Age Scandinavia or the Carolingian world also includes moving beyond the outsider etic perspective towards an emic perspective. When we reduce our studies into searching for one category known from our own modern perspective, such as belief or power, what we see is only ourselves. Rather we should act in order to make room for the other, and let the other, ontologically speaking, have it their own way, to use de Castro's wording (de Castro Reference de Castro 2015, 12).

The presence of animated objects in Scandinavia was hardly the result of a mere diffusion of Carolingian ideas. In numerous ways, the elite of Viking Age Scandinavia used similar cultural expression as the Carolingians, but with a completely different content. For instance, the reuse of stylistic elements, manuscripts or sarcophagi from the Christian Roman Empire in what has been termed the Carolingian renaissance (see, for example, Koenigsberger Reference Koenigsberger 1987, 126–35) may be seen as equivalent or correspondent to the use of multiple pasts through the reuse of burial sites in Viking Age elite centres (Pedersen Reference Pedersen, Andrén, Jennbert and Raudvere 2006 Holst et al. Reference Holst, Jessen, Andersen and Pedersen 2012 Lund and Arwill-Nordbladh forthcoming). Aspects of Viking Age attitudes towards material culture may thus be recognized as a counterpart to the Carolingian. The personhood of a Carolingian relic was not identical to the personhood of a unique, Scandinavian sword. What they have in common is the understanding, and handling, of specific objects as animated within the same period of time in two areas that were in contact. One could argue that the similarities were not the result of contact, but were caused by overlaps in the cognitive schemes of the Norse of the Viking Age and the Carolingians. Descola's notions on animistic ontology appear to apply to the Norse, and even to Carolingian Christianity, with regard to the Viking swords and Carolingian relics. Yet animist thinking by no means dominated mentalities or world views in either of these two contexts. On another level, in terms of the links between cosmology and ritual, Old Norse and Carolingian Christianity may rather be understood in light of Descola's notions of analogist ontology (Descola Reference Descola 2013, 129–43, 201–31). These classifications or groups of basic sets of ontologies should by no means be considered a typology of world views, but as a heuristic device activated in specific contexts (Descola Reference Descola 2010, 338–39). As the animation of the object is understood as occurring in specific situations, we may turn our attention towards such artefacts, which in specific cultural contexts were treated, handled and categorized differently than were object features in general. We may understand this as an expression of a specific type of connectedness with things. This does not in any way imply that these are traces of an animistic religion per se. It means that animistic perspectives may offer an insight into the mindsets relating to the ritual depositions of artefacts and the reopening of graves in the south Scandinavian Viking Age, the reopening of Reihengräber and the stealing of relics. Thus it is likely that people of the Viking Age, and perhaps more surprisingly Carolingian Christians, considered some, but certainly not all, artefacts to be animated, in certain contexts.


Watch the video: Viking Age Capital of Denmark. Roskilde Vikings Documentary (May 2022).