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The History of Vikings


Some Vikings did spend their raiding and fighting, but the majority of Viking men and women lived peacefully at home, working hard to make a living from their lands, or to find a market for the goods they had produced. The Vikings lived in Northern Europe, in the present-day countries of Norway, Denmark and Sweden. their ancestors had been settled there for centuries, but between AD 800 and 1100 the Viking peoples grew powerful. They established strong towns and grew rich through trade. They designed sleek ships, and sailed across oceans to settle in distant lands.

Viking Lives

The vikings were farmers, fishermen, trappers and traders. Viking craftsmen made beautiful objects out of wood, metal and bone. Viking women were skillful weavers, and produced fine, warm textiles. All free adult men had a say in how their community was run; trace of this early Viking democracy still influence local government in many lands today. Viking poets, known as skalds, recorded all these achievements in their verses.

The vikings lived at a time when most people could not read or write, so documents describing their activities are rare. The also lived when warfare-and destruction that when with it - was common. Much viking evidence has therefore been lost. Viking settlements were widely spaced in the countryside, so isolated sited may still be undiscovered. And in towns important Viking evidence has been, until recently, buried deep below roads, houses and office blocks.

Preserved water

Viking clothes were made of materials like wool and leather. Viking boats, and many Viking homes, were built of wood. There are perishable; many have rotted away, but a few have been preserved underwater or in a damp, marshy ground. From the remains of Viking ships raised from the sea bed, archaeologists have been able to reconstruct their shapes and sizes. Excavations in waterlogged soil, like those at York have revealed the walls of wooden houses, along with boots, shoes, weapons, armour, fragment of clothing and cosy socks.

Viking words

Viking beliefs and traditions are preserved in songs and poems, and in sagas - long family histories and adventure stories dating from the 12th and 13th centuries. There are also Viking law-codes and runic inscriptions which record important events. People who were attacked by the Vikings, or who travelled to their lands, also wrote down their own observations and opinions of Viking life.

Viking's house design

The houses were built around a timber frame, which was covered by logs, or as turf. The walls were lined with wooden planks. There might be a central fireplace, to keep the house warm.


Life in the Viking homelands was tough. If a young man had no land, no craft skills and did not want to risk his neck in a Viking ship, what could he do? If he had energy and inteligence, h might still hope to make his fortune through international trade. Viking trade routes stretched from Ireland in the west to Baghdad and Contastinople in the east. There, they joined the intercontinental trading highways - the "Silk Route' and the 'Spice Route' - which linked Europe to India, Central Asia and China. It could take a year to make a one way journey like this so it was only worthwhile if you had valueable goods to sell. Exotic, imported treasures from many lands have been found at Viking sites, and Viking products have been unearthed at trading towns in Europe and the
Mediterranean lands. The Viking preferred to barter, although they sometimes paid with coins.

Buried treasure : This hoard ofsilver was found in the grave of a rich Viking buried in Sweden during the 10th century. As well as money from different parts of Europe, it also contains solid silver coins patterned with Arabic writting , which were made in Muslim lands. Evidence like this tells us that there were trading contacts between Vikings and Muslim peoples during this time.


Viking trade would not have been possible without good ships. Nor would Viking settlements overseas, or even raids. Before Viking times, the peoples of Scandinavia had built sturdy boats, but these do not compare for speed, size or seaworthiness with the strong and graceful ships designed by craftsmen between AD 800-1100.

Viking ships were built of wood. The hulls were made of overlapping planks, fastened to a strong wooden keel. Each plank was about two and a half centimetres thick. They were nailed together, and a thick wadding of moss or tarred wool was used to fill any cracks. There was a single mast, which carried a large square sail. In calm weather, or when close to land, ships could also be rowed with oars. Viking craftsmen did not use plans or drawings to help them, they were guided by tradition and by their own judgement and experience. Ship in size, depending on how they were to be used.They were often given names, and decorated with ferocious or fanciful creatures carved n prows and sterns.

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