Ice AgeThe last ice age lastedfrom 110,000-10,000BCEDuring that time, few(if any) people lived inthe northern reaches ofEurope
Mesolithic ScandinaviaThe first inhabitants ofnorthern Europe werereindeer hunters.By 7000 BCE, hunters hadreached the northern forestsof modern-day Sweden andNorway.These were traditionalhunters and gatherers--following the herds and thesalmon migrations across thenorthern regions.
NeolithicAround 5000 BCE, theseearly Scandinaviansstarted to developfarming and animalhusbandry.This is about the sametime that similar cultureswere developing inBritain, France, andother parts of Europe.
Indo-European InvasionAround 4000-3000 BCE, these earlyand relatively peaceful tribes werewiped out by Indo-EuropeaninvadersThese invaders were related to thecultures that developed both Indianand Greek/Roman cultures.The invaders who arrived inScandinavia arrived first inGermany (just south); hence, there’sa direct link between Germanic andNorse tribes (and the cosmologiesof the two groups)
Battle Axe CultureThis new culture wasindividualistic andpatriarchal.They herded cattle andbuilt ships used fortransport and fishing.Their symbol was abattle axe. For thisreason, this is known asthe Battle-Axe Culture.
Nordic Bronze AgeThe period from 3200-1,500BCE is known as the BronzeAgeThe development of bronzeled to more shipbuilding andmore trade.Interestingly, the climateduring this time was verymild--allowing for densefarming and even thecultivation of grapes in thenorthern areas.
Nordic ReligionThe early developments ofNorse religion and mythologyformed at this time. Thor, Odin, and Tyr Twin gods (duality is important) Mother goddess Sacrifices (animals, weapons, jewelry, and human beings)
IronIron is stronger thanbronze and moredurableIts arrival in Europesignaled the beginningof the rapidadvancement of manycivilizations (Greeceand Rome amongthem).
Iron Age and ExpansionThe Iron Age stretches from 500BCE to 500 CE.In Scandinavia, iron’s strengthand versatility meant that moreand stronger weapons could bedeveloped.This, plus a big climate shift(Iron Age Cold Epoch) thatresulted in increasingly colderweather in the north, led to thefirst expansion of Norsepeoples into modern-dayGermany and France.
MigrationThis migration led to someimportant developments for theNordic people: Trading with Germanic and British tribes and (later) Romans Languages became similar (so much so that modern Scandinavian languages share close ties with German and English) Myths were exchanged--close connection between Norse and Germanic myths.
The Viking Age (800-1100 CE)
Lindisfarne• The Viking Age officially began on June 8, 793 when Vikings from Denmark invaded and destroyed the Christian monastery on the small island of Lindisfarne (eastern coast of northern England)
Why Did They Attack Monks?The Viking age coincidedwith the “Medieval WarmPeriod” when temperatures inthe north were mild.So Vikings didn’t invadeEngland or other places to getaway from the cold.Rather, this was a response tothe Saxon Wars, campaigns ofChristians against the paganNorse led by Charlemagne.
Viking CultureOf course, that wasn’t the onlyreason they fought.Viking culture placed anemphasis on both trade andhonor (especially honor incombat)War was one way to establishboth honor and trade (sincedefeating an enemy meantthat some of your own peoplecould live there).
Viking ExpansionReally, though, the Vikings should be best known not forkilling but for ship building and for exploring.Viking ships were fast, powerful, and flexible. Theycould navigate rivers as well as oceans.They could handle very long distances.The long distances led to the ability to explore places thatno one in Europe had ever ventured--like Iceland,Greenland and North America (which they reached about500 years before Columbus).
Oceans and GodsThe Vikings viewed theworld through theocean that surroundedtheir homelands.Their cosmologycenters around oceansand extremes oftemperatures.
Key Norse Gods
Christianization of the Vikings
Christian PagansThe Viking converted toChristianity far later than mostof the other groups in Europe.It took place between the 8thand 12th centuries--and it didn’thappen without a few fights. Much of the Viking world wasslow to abandon the old gods--and some places (like thenorthernmost parts of Swedenand Finland) remained paganuntil the 18th century.
Political DecisionsFor most, becoming Christianwas a political decision--allowing for cooperation andincreased trade with the richChristian regions of Franceand England.Official Christian adoptiondid not end the worship of theold gods.The worship of Odincontinued in secret for a verylong time.
NeopaganismIn fact, there are severalneopagan groups thatactively worship the oldgods today.The Asatru religion, forexample, is widelypracticed in Iceland.Other religions includeHeathenism andOdinism.
Snorri Sturluson and the Eddas
Snorri1179-1241Icelandic historian, poet, andpoliticianProbably didn’t write the wholeProse Eddas but collected togethera lot of different items that hadbeen written at different times.His major contribution was toplace the Norse gods into anhistorical framework that linksthe origins of Nordic/Germanicculture with Greece and Rome.
Prose EddasBest surviving record ofNorse mythology.Contains four parts: Prologue Gylfaginning Skaldskaparmal Hattatal