The world of the Vikings

Essay by jess. April 2003

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The Viking age has long been associated with unbridled piracy,

when freebooters swarmed out of the northlands in their longships to

burn and pillage their way across civilized Europe. Modern scholarship

provides evidence this is a gross simplification, and that during this

period much progress was achieved in terms of Scandinavian art and

craftsmanship, marine technology, exploration, and the development of

commerce. It seems the Vikings did as much trading as they did


The title "Viking" encompasses a wide designation of Nordic

people; Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians, who lived during a period of

brisk Scandinavian expansion in the middle ages, from approximately

800 to 1100 AD. This name may be derived from the old Norse vik(bay or

creek). These people came from what is now Denmark, Sweden, and

Norway, and had a self-sustaining, agricultural society, where farming

and cattle breeding were supplemented by hunting, fishing, the

extraction of iron and the quarrying of rock to make whetstones and

cooking utensils; some goods, however, had to be traded; salt, for

instance, which is a necessity for man and cattle alike, is an

everyday item and thus would not have been imported from a greater

distance than necessary, while luxury items could be brought in from

farther south in Europe.

Their chief export products were, iron,

whetstones, and soapstone cooking pots, these were an essential

contribution to a trade growth in the Viking age.

The contemporary references we have about the Vikings stem

mainly from sources in western Europe who had bitter experiences with

the invaders, so we're most likely presented with the worst side of

the Vikings. Archaeological excavations have shown evidence of

homesteads, farms, and marketplaces, where discarded or lost articles

tell of a common everyday life. As the Viking period progressed,

society changed; leading Chieftain families accumulated...