Viking Art

Viking Art

Art made by Scandinavians during the Viking Age (c. 790-1100 CE) mostly encompassed the decoration of functional objects made of wood, metal, stone, textile and other materials with relief carvings, engravings of animal shapes and abstract patterns. The motif of the stylised animal ('zoomorphic' art) – Viking Age art's most popular motif – stems from a tradition that existed across north-western Europe from as early as the 4th century CE, but which developed in Scandinavia into a confident native style by the end of the 7th century CE. Often, these animals twist and churn across their surface – imagine decorated carts, engraved jewellery and weapons, wall-tapestries and memorial stones – interwoven with other animals and plant ornamentation.

Narrative art of the region that tells an actual story is found in only a few instances before the last stage of the Viking Age, such as on the rare tapestries that have evaded being unravelled by the passage of time, and on the picture stones found on the island of Gotland in present-day Sweden. Besides the many different carved surfaces, some instances of more properly 3D-art are also preserved, mostly in the form of animal heads that were used to adorn posts, carts or caskets.

Several succeeding and sometimes overlapping styles have been identified within Viking Age decorative art, usually named after the finding place of a famous example of that style, such as:

  • Style E (late 8th century CE-late 9th century CE). Important finds from Broa (Gotland, Sweden) and the Oseberg ship burial (Norway); long animal bodies; small heads in profile with bulging eyes; 'gripping-beasts' with muscular bodies and claws gripping everything nearby.
  • The Borre Style (c. 850-late 10th century CE). Ribbon plait ('ring-chain', a symmetrical interlaced pattern); a single gripping-beast with triangular head and contorted body; most widespread of all the styles, found throughout Scandinavia and across the Viking colonies.
  • The Jelling Style (just before 900-end of the 10th century CE). Beast with a ribbon-like body; head seen in profile; usually double-contoured body which is beaded; closely related to and overlapping with the Borre style.
  • The Mammen Style (c. 950-1000 CE). Great, fighting beasts; spiral-shaped shoulders and hips; often asymmetrical; vigorous and dynamic; ribbon- and plant elements.
  • The Ringerike Style (c. 990-1050 CE). Large animal in dynamic pose; movement; powerful and elegant; plant ornament; popular in England and especially Ireland.
  • The Urnes Style (c. 1040-at least 1100 CE). Also named 'runestone style'; very elegant; asymmetrical; motif of the great beast; interweaving, looped snakes and tendrils; very popular in Ireland.

Rather than creating art for art's sake, Viking Age Scandinavians almost exclusively made applied art; everyday objects were jazzed up to make them more pleasing to look at.

It must be said that although wood and textile must have been prime vehicles for Viking Age art, their often more expensive counterparts in metal and stone do better at surviving, causing a bias in our source material.

Purpose

Rather than creating art specifically for art's sake, Viking Age Scandinavians almost exclusively made applied art; everyday objects were jazzed up to make them more pleasing to look at. The rarer pictorial art often seems to match known stories about Norse mythology, depicting such scenes as a Valkyrie welcoming a warrior into Valhalla or Sigurd the Dragonslayer's story. As Anne-Sofie Gräslund explains:

Religion permeated life in the Viking Age and was especially important in Viking art. Artists and craftsmen certainly would have been important people because (…) art was generally created not for its own sake but as a mark of social prestige, often commissioned by the upper levels of society. Even though much of its meaning is lost to us, we can be confident of our interpretations at least in cases where myths known from Old Norse literature can be identified. Elements of Viking mythology are present in artistic ornamentation, and that religious content would have been obvious to contemporary viewers. (Fitzhugh & Ward, 62).

Both Viking art's link with the higher levels of society and with religion may help explain why the Viking Age art styles were (for the most part) common across Scandinavia throughout all levels of society. Copying was also standard-practice, which is not so odd considering Viking art's decorative purpose.

Love History?

Sign up for our free weekly email newsletter!

Materials & Techniques

Viking Age art's favoured materials were mostly things that could be carved or engraved: wood, stone, metal, but also such things as bone and amber. Textile, leather or cloth, for instance in the shape of colourful wall tapestries adorned with pictorial scenes, were also commonly used, although along with wood they are rather bad at standing the test of time. The bulk of material we can actually study thus consists mainly of decorated jewellery or metal utility goods such as horse equipment, as well as weapons and the lively, large memorial stones found in abundance across mainly Sweden and the island of Gotland. The carved wood that has survived, however, is spectacular and stems from such finds as the Oseberg ship burial (c. 834 CE) which was richly furnished with among others a beautifully carved wooden cart and three splendid sleighs, as well as five iconic 3D carved animal-head posts. These rare finds vividly demonstrate what we are missing out on.

The techniques that were used in Viking Age art were mainly those of relief carving or engraving and the use of contrasting materials and colours, with filigree and granulation being popular. A piece of jewellery, for instance, could be made of gilded bronze but decorated with silver. Traces of paint have frequently been found on the larger wooden- and stone objects, too, betraying that these once popped with vibrant shades of black, white and red, although yellow, blue, green and brown were also used.

Origins & Early Developments

The roots of Viking Age ornamentation mainly lie in a broader European Germanic tradition which was utterly smitten with animal ornamentation and was popular through much of north-western Europe from the 4th century CE onwards. Beginning with basic animal shapes, through the Migration & Vendel periods (c. 375-800 CE) when – surprisingly – mass migrations took place throughout Europe, Scandinavia gradually embraced full-blown animal ornamentation, being influenced by Scythic, Oriental, Celtic and Roman art along the way.

The motif of the stylised animal in profile remained a central motif in Scandinavian art throughout the Viking Age.

In the early 20th century CE, Swedish archaeologist Bernhard Salin divided pre-Viking Age Germanic ornamentation into three styles: styles I, II and III. Style I, which flourished in the 6th century CE in north-western Europe, saw metal chip-carving embellish objects with separate animal-body parts mostly along the borders of central, abstract patterns. Style II was popular throughout Germanic cultures during the 7th century CE and focused on non-naturalistic animals (including otherwise rare predatory animals) forming interlacing patterns, and on the aristocratic image of a horse and rider. By contrast, from the 7th century CE into the early Viking Age, Style III developed within Scandinavia itself. Its basic motif often had two band-shaped animals seen in profile, with openwork shoulders and hips and tendril-outgrowths, the bodies arranged in the form of a lyre. Although this style changed over course of the next few centuries, the motif of the stylised animal in profile remained a central motif in Scandinavian art until the Middle Ages (and even beyond, staying alive in folk art genres although otherwise abandoned).

Style E (Oseberg & Broa)

Style E – the first of the properly Viking Age animal ornamentation styles when it comes to dates – is generally seen as a sub-category or offshoot of Style III and was in vogue from the second half of the 8th century CE through to nearly the end of the 9th century CE. Although related to the broader Germanic tradition, this style is very much native Scandinavian. Animals, often set within a framework, became more abstract than before, displaying long, almost ribbon-shaped, curving bodies with intertwining limbs that develop into open loops and tendrils. Their heads are small and are shown in profile but have big, bulging eyes. Specific variants include a double-contoured creature with a nearly triangular body, a beaked head and forked feet; a round-headed, more coherent animal with little claws and a flap; and the standout so-called gripping-beast style. Anne-Sofie Gräslund vividly describes the gripping-beast:

Its thin ribbonlike body is set off by large muscular shoulders and hips, and its legs end in paws, which grip tight to everything—to the edge of the ornamentation border, to neighbouring animals, or to its own body. The tigerlike beast appears filled with energy and seems to cling to the assemblage at all costs. (Fitzhugh & Ward, 63-64).

Famous for high-quality finds from both the Oseberg ship burial and graves found at Broa on Gotland, Style E is sometimes referred to as the 'Oseberg Style' or the 'Broa Style'. At Broa, 22 gilt-bronze bridle-mounts were found in a grave, indicating the clearly wealthy owner's horse would have been well-kitted out indeed. The decorations show animals with eyes so large not much space remains for the rest of their heads. Of course, these are standout items; more basic items such as the oval brooches used to fasten women's clothing were widely decorated in this style, too, demonstrating it permeated Scandinavian society at large.

The Borre Style

Around the mid-9th century CE, the Borre style made its grand entrance, succeeding Style E and remaining popular until at the latest the late 10th century CE. Fully on board with the previously introduced gripping-beasts, the Borre style's main motif put the beast wholly in the limelight: a single, contorted gripping-beast, its body forming a sort of curved ribbon between its two hips, its face triangular – catlike or masked – with its claws gripping either the border or part of its own body, dominates the scene. A second variant depicts a semi-naturalistic animal seen from the side. The Borre style's real giveaway is the introduction of the ribbon plait, known as the 'ring-chain'. Imagine two interlaced ribbons, their intersections overlaid with interlacing circles covered with lozenges (diamond shapes) or other geometrical figures. Crossways nicks could be added for extra bling, and filigree and granulation were frequently-used techniques.

The Borre style is named after the location of a ship burial in Borre, Vestfold, Norway, where gilt-bronze harness mounts displaying this style were found. It was hugely popular not just across Scandinavia but throughout the Viking colonies, too. With the Viking expansion at its maximum at this point in time, this means the Borre style appeared – in more or less pure forms - from the British Isles, including Wales and Scotland, to Russia and eastern Europe, and even to Byzantium. As David Wilson concludes, 'no other style was so widespread' (Brink & Price, 328). With Scandinavia gradually converting to Christianity in the last stages of the 10th century CE, the Borre style spans the last full period of paganism and its accompanying burial customs, perhaps explaining the large volume of Borre objects that are preserved.

The Jelling Style

Probably first cropping up just before 900 CE, the Jelling (or Jellinge) style flourished during the mid-10th century and then gradually developed into the succeeding Mammen style. Artistically close friends with – and largely contemporary with – the Borre style, the Jelling style is less common and seems to take inspiration from Style III from the pre-Viking Vendel period (c. 550-c. 800 CE) and Style E with its ribbon-shaped animals seen in profile. Its main motif is an s-shaped beast with a beaded or patterned body, which is usually double-contoured, its head appearing in profile and sporting a round eye and tendrils sprouting out from its nose and neck. Intertwining ribbon interlace and foliage often accompany the animals. The Jelling style is rarely directly merged with the Borre style, but objects sometimes feature both styles used side by side.

The Jelling style was named after a small silver cup decorated in this style, found in a royal burial place at Jelling, Denmark, and just like the Borre style, it was popular not just inside Scandinavia but also in Russia and the British Isles. The north of England even became home to a melting-pot Anglo-Scandinavian style which contained both clear Borre and Jelling elements.

The Mammen Style

The Mammen style developed from the Jelling style from c. 950 CE onwards, prevailing for a few decades while gradually merging with the succeeding Ringerike style, its best-before date expired around 1000 CE. Its main motif really stands out: a great four-legged beast – a griffin or a lion – with a double-contoured body and spiral-shaped hips and shoulders, battles with a snake. The Mammen motif is bold and dynamic, laid out in an asymmetrical way, unaligned with the surface's axis, and embellished with branching plant ornamentation such as acanthus-shaped crests. The acanthus-shapes betray a likely English influence; they greatly resemble the Anglo-Saxon Winchester style and probably crossed over to Danish carvers during the first half of the 10th century CE, when the Danish presence in England was at its height. The lion or griffin, which is not originally a Scandinavian motif either but suggests a Christian influence, might also have reached Scandinavian ears through this route, although this story is harder to trace.

The style's most famous example is a runestone found at Jelling in Denmark and imaginatively known as the Jelling Stone which depicts the iconic twisting great beast entwined with a snake. Otherwise, although not many Mammen objects are preserved, the style is found throughout Europe from Ukraine through to Spain, the British Isles, and obviously within Scandinavia itself.

The Ringerike Style

The Ringerike style developed from the Mammen style by around 990 CE and remained popular until c. 1050 CE. Named after memorial stones from Ringerike, north of Oslo, Norway, this style strongly resembles its predecessor, especially where it concerns the large animal motifs – curving snakes, lions, or ribbon animals which strike dynamic poses. However, where Mammen is more wavy and chaotic in its embellishment, the Ringerike designs are laid out on an axis and show a more disciplined, basic asymmetry, with taut and evenly curved scrolls of plant motifs, tendrils and loops. These become even more important in the overall design and create a rich impression of elegant movement, even though the animals are beginning to be a cause for worry when looking at the amount of these tendrils and plants that sprout out of their bodies. Luckily, some tendrils also grow by themselves.

The Ringerike style dominates the runestones of south- and middle Sweden as well as on Gotland, while also appearing in Denmark and in modified form in Norway. In metalwork, the style did not lag behind, either, and some splendid examples are preserved, such as two copper-gilt weather vanes found in Sweden (one from Källunge, Gotland, and one from Söderala, Hälsingland). Loops flow from an axis, taking the form of snakes from which symmetrically-placed tendrils sprout. Their heads both have a pear-shaped eye whose tip points towards the snout – a characteristic feature of the Ringerike style. Acanthus-bud motifs – another staple within this style, and quite probably an English influence – fill up two corners. Presumed to have been brought along to England by Cnut the Great (r. 1016-1035 CE), King of Denmark, England and Norway, the Ringerike style was both popular and influential across the British Isles. It was especially enthusiastically adopted in Ireland, where it struck such a chord it developed independently, even appearing on objects originating from native Irish contexts such as the Clonmacnois crozier.

The Urnes Style

The last of the Scandinavian animal ornamentation-based art styles is the Urnes style, which was most prominent between c. 1040 CE and c. 1100 CE. Because of its prevalence on the runestones of Uppland, Sweden, the term 'runestone style' is also found there. Sophisticated, elegant and sleek, even decadent, the Urnes designs are often asymmetric and form an interweaving mass of sinuous, gently curving animals and snakes. There are no abrupt transitions or breaks in the lines. Its characteristic motif is that of a great four-legged beast often struggling with surrounding snakes, biting each other. The greyhound- or deer-esque animals have long necks and slim heads, with snake-like creatures (sometimes with one foreleg, sometimes just a tendril ending in a snake's head) coiling around the design in figure-eight loops. The pointed, almond-shaped eyes fill almost the entire heads, which are usually depicted in profile. Variation existed, too, which is most obviously visible in metalwork of the time.

The style was named after the stave church that stands in Urnes, Sogn, western Norway, which was rebuilt in the 12th century CE and recycled decorated wood of an earlier date which depicts this particular style. The Urnes style is often found in a Christian context, highlighting the idea that Viking Age art styles were not specifically 'pagan' per se but part of society at large. Outside of Scandinavia, it is sometimes found in England and, like the Ringerike style, it was especially well-liked in Ireland. Here, the Urnes style flourished from c. 1090 CE onwards to the end of the 12th century CE and even beyond, impacting not just metalwork but also stonework and manuscript decoration.

The End of the Viking Age

Although the use of animal ornamentation petered out around 1100 CE, it did not disappear abruptly and was actually used on some early 12th-century CE ecclesiastical objects (Scandinavia had been Christian since c. 1000 CE). The Lisbjerg altar from Jutland, Denmark, for instance, combines the native Viking style with European Romanesque. Furthermore, animal art remained in use in peasant society for many centuries after the end of the Viking Age – surely a testament to its role and appeal in this culture.


Viking Art - History

The Oseberg ship was discovered in a burial mound in Norway and is one of the finest artistic and archaeological finds from the Viking Age.

Learning Objectives

Identify the important artifacts found in the burial mound of the Oseberg ship

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Vikings used their great ships to invade European coasts, harbors, and river settlements on a seasonal basis. These ships were not only vessels used for war and trade but also the primary means of artistic expression. The Oseberg burial mound contained numerous grave goods and the remains of two female human skeletons. The ship’s interment into its burial mound dates from 834 CE, but parts of the ship date from around 800 CE, and scholars believe that ship itself is older.
  • The bow and stern of the ship are elaborately decorated with complex woodcarvings in the characteristic “gripping beast” style , also known as the Oseberg style.
  • The Oseberg burial contains agricultural and household tools as well as a series of textiles included woolen garments, imported silks, and narrow tapestries . The Oseberg burial is one of the few sources of Viking age textiles, and the wooden cart is the only complete Viking age cart found so far.

Key Terms

  • Oseberg Ship: A well-preserved Viking vessel discovered in a large burial mound in Norway.

Of Scandinavian descent, Norsemen are often called Vikings after their trading locations on the Norwegian shoreline. Known as pre-Christian traders and pirates, Vikings used their great ships to invade European coasts, harbors, and river settlements on a seasonal basis. They created fast and seaworthy longships that served not only as warring and trading vessels, but also as media for artistic expression and individual design.

The great ships of the Vikings contain some of the major artworks left from this time. For instance, the Oseberg Bow demonstrates the Norse mastery of decorative wood carving and intricate inlay of metal. Likewise, the ship head post—representing a roaring beast—is five inches high with complicated surface ornamentation in the form of interwoven animals that twist and turn.

Osberg Ship Head Post: Animal head post found in the Oseberg ship. Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway. The exact function of the head post is unknown.

Other examples of artistic design on Norse ships include the “King” or “Chieftain” vessels designated for the wealthier classes. Chieftain ships were distinguishable by the design of the bow of their vessel with designs such as bulls, dolphins, gold lions, drakes spewing fire out of their nose, human beings cast in gold and silver, and other unidentifiable animals cast in bronze metal. Typically, the sides of these vessels were decorated using bright colors and wood-carvings.

A Ship Burial

The Oseberg ship (Norwegian: Osebergskipet) is a well-preserved Viking ship discovered in a large burial mound at the Oseberg farm near Tønsberg in Vestfold County, Norway. This ship is widely celebrated as one of the finest artistic and archaeological finds to have survived the Viking Age.

The Oseberg Ship: The Oseberg ship (Viking Ship Museum, Norway)

The Oseberg burial mound contained numerous grave goods and the remains of two female human skeletons. The ship’s interment into its burial mound dates from 834 CE, but parts of the ship date from around 800 CE, and scholars believe that ship itself is older. The bow and stern of the ship are elaborately decorated with complex woodcarvings in the characteristic “gripping beast” style, also known as the Oseberg style. This style’s primary features are the paws that grip the borders around it, neighboring beasts, or parts of its own body. Although the Osberg style distinguishes early Viking art from previous trends, it is no longer generally accepted as an independent style. Although seaworthy, the ship is relatively frail. It is thought to have been used only for coastal voyages.

Oseberg Ship: This detail from the Oseberg ship demonstrates the elaborate woodcarving designs used as ornamentation on the bow and front of the ship.

The skeletons of two women were found in the Oseberg burial mound. One may have been sacrificed to accompany the other in death. Regardless, the opulence of the burial rite and the grave goods suggests that this was a burial of very high status. For instance, one woman wore a very fine red wool dress of fabric woven in a lozenge twill pattern (a luxury commodity) and a fine white linen veil in a gauze weave. The other wore a plainer blue wool dress with a wool veil, showing some stratification in their social status. Neither woman wore anything entirely made of silk, although small silk strips were appliqued onto a tunic worn under the red dress.

The grave had been disturbed in antiquity and many precious metals that were initially buried with Oseberg ship went missing. Nevertheless, many everyday items and artifacts were found during the early 20th-century excavations of the site. These included four elaborately decorated sleighs, a four-wheel wooden cart, bedposts, wooden chests, and other richly decorated items. For instance, the so-called “Buddha bucket” is a well-known object from the Oseberg site that features a brass and cloisonné enamel ornament of a bucket (pail) handle in the shape of a figure sitting with crossed legs. The bucket itself is made from yew wood held together with brass strips, and the handle is attached to two anthropomorphic figures often compared to depictions of the Buddha in lotus posture (although any connection to Buddhism is uncertain). Archaeologists also found more mundane items, such as agricultural and household tools, and a series of textiles that included woolen garments, imported silks, and narrow tapestries. The Oseberg burial is one of the few sources of Viking-age textiles, and the wooden cart is the only complete Viking-age cart found so far.

“Buddha Bucket”: The so-called “Buddha bucket” (Buddha-bøtte), brass and cloisonné enamel ornament of a bucket (pail) handle in the shape of a figure sitting with crossed legs.


The Vikings were also skilled artisans

But the Vikings weren‘t just ruthless warriors, thirsty for blood, silver and gold. They were also skillful craftsmen and artisan. During the bloody Viking age, their artisans did also create works of great beauty. Their artisans created works in their own, unique Viking art styles. In terms of form and composition, despite the alleged ruthless and blood thirsty character of the Vikings, these works were even more sophisticated and elegant than much of the works that were being created for the kings and queens in more southern lands of Europe at the same time.


Viking Art – Introduction

Norse artworks are some of the only first-hand sources concerning the people inhabiting Scandinavia in the Viking Age. But it may be very difficult and daunting to decipher the individual artworks, and even more difficult to try to recreate them, without a mental model of how the individual pieces fit together, drawn from extensive study of the works of experienced scholars. Often, the surviving original artworks are presented with little or no context, and often are also damaged or distorted due to wear and the effects of time. This guide is intended to paint a broad but cohesive picture of the styles and their development over time. It is by no means meant to be an exhaustive resource, but instead, to act as a stepping stone to help you understand the central concepts of Viking Age art.

I am neither a historian nor an archaeologist. My background is in graphic design and architecture, and this guide is intended to be the resource I wish I had when I began to try to understand the art of the Norse, and made my first unsuccessful attempts to recreate authentic artwork based on the Viking Age art styles. The guide is based on the work of knowledgeable scholars and my own studies of the archaeological artefacts. Owing to the lack of reliable documentation, and because of possible copyright concerns, all the illustrations in this guide are my own new designs, based on the principles of original Viking Age art. Creating these has been a great learning experience, and has contributed tremendously to my understanding of this art and how it is constructed.

I hope this guide will assist you in your quest to become familiar with the styles of the Norse, and get you up to speed faster than I was able to, by bypassing the otherwise challenging learning curve. I have skipped all the scholarly history and the who’s who of academia in favour of getting right to the matter at hand: Viking Age art.

The thematic division of the main characteristics under the headings of shapes, outlines, flow, pattern, composition and motifs are largely based on Signe Horn Fuglesang’s work, though I have made a few adjustments to fit the purposes of this guide. The art styles of the Viking Age are very much products of the times in which they developed. By including historical timelines and maps, I hope to help you better anchor the styles and their characteristics to the historical events and culture of their times, and also to make this a quick reference guide when creating artwork for re-enactment-purposes. This guide is structured chronologically, with the seven styles ordered from the earliest to the most recent, but be aware that there is still scholarly debate about the definition and categorisation of some of the styles. What I have presented here is, to my knowledge, the most plausible representation yet of the actual historical development, based on what we know so far. I encourage you to do your own research, and I have made it as easy as possible for you to look up any items referenced, or historical events mentioned in this guide.

I have published this guide under the cc-by-nc-sa license, which essentially means that as long as you copy and share the content without receiving compensation, you may do so as much as you like. So please share the knowledge with whomever you know who might find it interesting or useful.

I hope this guide will assist you in your study of Viking Age art, and also help you to recreate beautiful, authentic Norse artwork.


Reasons for Viking migrations abroad

Firstly, Scandinavia's population increased and, in the wild climate, it only needed a few more mouths to feed so that small farms could become overcrowded. At the same time, the ocean-going Viking ship, the Knorr , had reached a high stage of technical development that allowed humans to sail to the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic.

Second, the break-up of Charlemagne's empire and political unrest in the British Isles left a political vacuum that the Vikings quickly exploited. Although they rarely missed an opportunity to raid a monastery or city, the Vikings also had peaceful motives for travel. The Swedes had fruitful exchanges with Eastern Europe and even Asia Minor, going up and down the Volga and Dnieper rivers. This explains the large quantities of Arab silver found in the reserves of Eastern Sweden. The Norwegians left their homes to settle in the North Atlantic, in the Scottish islands, Iceland, Greenland and even, for a short time, in North America. They settled in Ireland, on the Isle of Man and in the northwest of England: the merging of cultures that occurred in these regions will have important artistic results. On the other hand, the conquest of Normandy by the Norwegian or Danish Rollo in 911 had practically no artistic effect on the Viking styles. The Danes concentrated their activities in the northern part of the Holy Roman Empire and in the east of England. Here, King Alfred granted them the Danelaw in 878 and, under the reign of King Canute (reign 1017-1035), he created the joint kingdom of England and Denmark.


Viking history and culture

The Viking period began in the year of 793 with the attack on the Lindisfarne monastery in England, which is the first known Viking raid. The occasion that marks the end of their glory days is the killing of king Harald Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066.

A Viking was a tradesman, farmer, or sea warrior from the Nordic countries during the Viking era, which lasted from approximately year 800 to 1050. They participated in expeditions and raids in Western and Eastern Europe to trade with other people, settle in new countries, plunder, and bring goods back home.

Experience the Viking culture

Viking warriors

The Vikings come alive

The Vikings are back &ndash through new, awesome technology. Participate in a rousing Viking show at The Viking Planet in Oslo and experience the dramatic Battle of Hafrsfjord at Viking House in Stavanger.

Peaceful tradesmen and mead drinkers

The Vikings are mostly known for their relentless robbing, and rightly so. At the same time, many of them lived peacefully as traders and farmers, and many expeditions were based on barter deals. Those who stayed away from seafaring robbery to work from home supported their families by simple farming activities. Their daily life might have been tough and demanding, but it was not without joy. The most well-known Viking drink is mead (&ldquomjød&rdquo in Norwegian), an alcoholic beer-like brew sweetened by honey.

The end of the Viking age

The explorers brought their cultural identity to continental Europe, but they also imported foreign cultures, languages and knowledge. By the 1100s, the Vikings were weakened due to domestic disputes and resistance from other European countries, which had painfully learnt to defend themselves against attacks by building fortified targets.


Ancient Viking Art

Ancient Viking Art

Journal of Eurasian History, Vol.3:3 (2011)

Introduction: More than a millennium ago, when Hungarians were roaming on continental Europe, Vikings were roaming on the seas around the continent. Vikings were good sailors and tough warriors, and later on proved to be talented organizers of countries. There are several countries that were organised by Viking warriors, similarly to the steppe warriors who organised steppe countries. The countries founded by the Vikings can be found mostly around the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

These skilled warriors and seamen had a unique art. Probably the best known artifices of them are the tombstones with engraved drawings most of them preserve writings with rune scripts and therefore they are called runastones. Especially the mythical drawings of the runastones from Gotland Island are outstanding. The people originating from this island were called by the name Goths, allied to Attila, the Hun King of the Carpathian Basin.

In South Italy another state was founded by the Vikings, namely Sicily. The Hungarian King, Coloman I the Book‐lover, married the daughter of the Norman King of Sicily in the 12th century. Vikings sailed to the islands of Iceland and Greenland, and settled there, too. Later on they organized principalities on the Scottish Islands of Shetland and Orkney.

Their art gradually developed during millennia into a characteristic Viking art from the arts of the northern people inhabiting the coastal areas of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Vikings are of north German stock hence in their art they used several mythic elements of the German mythology. Arguably the most joyful of them is the Sigurd (Sigfrid) saga, especially the most popular scene when Sigurd stabs with his sword the dragon Fafnir.


Historical Viking Art

The Vikings&rsquo design and sculpture was prevalent during the period between the 8th and the 11th centuries. However, this particular art form became influential only in the latter half of the tenth century. In fact, Viking art had become so popular in the European countries by this time that it eventually became an integral part of the native Romanesque Style.

Historical Viking art is best known for its sophisticated, interlacing style of decoration, which resembles the Celtic Art to a great extent. Other characteristic features of ancient Viking art included intricate woodcarving and beautiful personal ornaments made in silver and gold. &lsquoGreat Beast&rsquo, the motif of a dragon-like animal, can be seen commonly in most of the historical Viking art works.

The Viking art is broadly categorized into 3 styles -- Jellinge Style, Ringerike Style, and Urnes Style. The Jellinge Style primarily features heavy designs of animal-like creatures and various patterns similar to those of the manuscript illumination from Ireland. The 6.5 ft (2 m) tall standing cross, located in Gosforth Churchyard, Cumberland, is the best existing example of this style.

The Ringerike Style, on the other hand, features intricate, interlacing designs and foliage ornaments. Originated from Norway, this design is best represented by the Great Beast sculpture from Saint Paul&rsquos Cathedral in London and the historical bronze plate from Winchester. These relics are now on display in the Guildhall Museum and the cathedral Library respectively.

The Urnes Style also originated in Norway and is an integral part of the English Christian art forms. The twelfth century Cong&rsquos Cross and the brilliant Irish metal work are great examples of this style of historical Viking art.

The Viking Gods can be classified into many types. Firslty you need to know the God of all Odin. Odin was primarily known as the chief god under the Norse myth and was also believed to be the father of all the other Gods. The other Gods were Thor, Bragi, Balder, Tyr, Heimdall, Vali, Hermod and Vidar. More..


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]


Architectural Influence(s) in America: Tahoe’s Hidden Castle

Roughly 9 years ago, I visited Lake Tahoe, CA/NV with my husband. Amid the vacation homes and ski resorts of the mountain town lies a Viking-inspired home. The home is only accessible by boat or a 1-mile hike down a rather steep hill. It was completed in 1929 after the owner, Lora J Knight, saw Emerald Bay on which the land sat and was reminded of a Scandinavian fjord. Her nephew by marriage and Swedish architect, Lennart Palme, designed the home. During their 1928 trip to Scandinavia, Palme and Knight gathered many ideas for what would become Vikingsholm.

Exterior wide shot of Vikingsholm, 1932, photographer unknown, Lake Tahoe, CA, USA.

Old wooden churches, stone castles, and rural homes provided them with much inspiration which Palme directly translated to this now 90-year old home.

Exterior shot of Vikingsholm, 2010, photo by Rachel Witte. Lake Tahoe, CA, USA. Exterior shot of Vikingsholm, 2010, photo by Rachel Witte. Lake Tahoe, CA, USA.

Watch the video: Το Αίμα Των Βίκινγκ 2020 Ολόκληρη Ταινία Δράσης, Περιπέτεια Με Ελληνικούς Υπότιτλους Greek Subs HD