THE VIKINGS From the eighth to the eleventh centuries, the Vikings, comprising mainly Danes and Norwegians, shot around the Northern Hemisphere, plundering vast swaths of territory with the rapacity of a Genghis Khan. The Norsemen raided throughout the British Isles and the Frankish empire, and even attacked North Africa. They headed west to Iceland, Greenland, and what is now Canada, becoming the first Europeans to set foot in the Americas. And they traveled east into what is now northern Russia, ultimately lending their own name Rus, the Slavs' name for them, to that great country.
789 - Vikings begin their attacks on England. 800 - The Oseberg Viking longship is buried about this time 840 - Viking settlers found the city of Dublin in Ireland. 844 - A Viking raid on Seville is repulsed. 860 - Rus Vikings attack Constantinople (Istanbul). 862 - Novgorod in Russia is founded by the Rus Viking, Ulrich. 866 - Danish Vikings establish a kingdom in York, England. 871 - Alfred the Great becomes king of Wessex; the Danish advance is halted in England. 872 - Harald I gains control of Norway. 879 - Rurik establishes Kiev as the center of the Kievan Rus' domains. 886 - Alfred divides England with the Danes under the Danelaw pact. 900 - The Vikings raid along the Mediterranean coast. 911 - The Viking chief Rollo is granted land by the Franks and founds Normandy in France. 941 - Rus Vikings attack Constantinople (Istanbul). 981 - Viking leader Erik the Red discovers Greenland. 986 - Viking ships sail in Newfoundland waters. 991 - Æthelred II pays the first Danegeld ransom to stop Danish attacks on England. 995 - Olav I conquers Norway and proclaims it a Christian kingdom. 1000 - Christianity reaches Greenland and Iceland. 1000 - Leif Eriksson, son of Erik the Red, explores the coast of North America. 1000 - Olav I dies; Norway is ruled by the Danes. 1002 - Brian Boru defeats the Norse and becomes the king of Ireland. 1010 - Viking explorer Thorfinn Karlsefni attempts to found a settlement in North America. 1013 - The Danes conquer England; Æthelred flees to Normandy. 1015 - Vikings abandon the Vinland settlement on the coast of North America. 1016 - Olav II regains Norway from the Danes. 1016 - The Danes under Knut (Canute) rule England. 1028 - Knut (Canute), king of England and Denmark, conquers Norway. 1042 - Edward the Confessor rules England with the support of the Danes. 1050 - The city of Oslo is founded in Norway. 1066 - Harold Godwinson king of England defeats Harald Hardrada king of Norway at the Battle of Stamford Bridge 1066 - William duke of Normandy defeats the Saxon king Harold at the Battle of Hastings. The Viking Timeline
The Vikings were venturesome seafarers. Although they are often thought of primarily as raiders, the Vikings were also traders, explorers and settlers. Behind them they left a legacy not only of archaeological remains, but also of family names, place names and fieldnames. Their "remains" can be found in local dialects and customs, in folk tales and oral traditions, and of course in the genetic make up of the local people themselves. Originally pagan worshipers of Thor and Odi , many became Christians, and during the 10th century they brought Christianity back to Scandinavia. Most of the Viking trading was over short distances
The Longship - Drakkar Secrets of Norse Ships For three turbulent centuries, the glimpse of a square sail and dragon-headed prow on the horizon struck terror into the hearts of medieval Europeans. Indeed, the Viking Age, from A.D. 800-1100, was the age of the sleek, speedy longship. Without this crucial advance in ship technology, the Vikings would never have become a dominant force in medieval warfare, politics, and trade. The development of the Viking shi , made this expansion possible. With its flexible hull and its keel and sail, the Viking ship was far superior to ships and boats used by other peoples at the time.
The drekar, or dragon-headed longships, were stealthy troop-carriers. They could cross the open oceans under sail and then switch to oars for lightning-fast hit-and-run attacks on undefended towns and monasteries. Far surpassing contemporary English or Frankish vessels in lightness and efficiency, longships carried Viking raiders from northern England to north Africa. Viking expertise in naval craftsmanship soon led to the evolution of other types of ship. Among these were the knarr, or ocean-going cargo vessel, which facilitated far-flung trade networks and the colonization of Iceland, Greenland, and America. The knarr drew on similar design principles as the longship but was higher and wider in relation to its length and had only limited numbers of oars to assist with maneuvers in narrow channels. Cargo decks were installed fore and aft. Discovered in Norway in 1906, the Oseberg ship (above), the best preserved Viking ship ever found, reveals its Norse shipbuilders' graceful construction style.
The secret of the Viking ship lay in its unique construction. Using a broad ax rather than a saw, expert woodworkers would first split oak tree trunks into long, thin planks. They then fastened the boards with iron nails to a single sturdy keel and then to each other, one plank overlapping the next. The Vikings gave shape to the hull using this "clinker" technique rather than the more conventional method of first building an inner skeleton for the hull. Next, the boat builder’s affixed evenly spaced floor timbers to the keel and not to the hull; this insured resilience and flexibility. They then added crossbeams to provide a deck and rowing benches, and secured a massive beam along the keel to support the mast. The longships' light, economic construction was a major factor behind their success. Modern replicas have achieved speeds of up to 14 knots. In marked contrast to modern sailboats, the ships' lack of a big, vertical keel meant that they were highly maneuverable and could easily penetrate shallow surf and river estuaries. Seafarers steered using a single side rudder on the right, the 'starboard' or "steering board" side. (The term 'starboard' is thought to have originated in the Viking era.) They could also reef the square sails in strong winds and adjust them to permit rapid tacking. MASTHEAD
Some of the exports from various regions during the Norse era include: Fínland: timber Greenland: walrus ivory, furs, skins, wool Iceland: fish, animal fat, wool cloth and clothing, sulfur, falcons England: tin, wheat, honey, woolens, silver Russia: slaves, furs, wax, honey Byzantium: silks, fruits, spices, wines, gems, silver, jewelry, brocade Frankish kingdoms: weapons, jewelry, wine, glass, salt, woolen cloth Shetland Islands: soapstone Norway: timber, iron, soapstone, whetstones Sweden: iron, furs East Baltic regions: amber, slaves, furs
Throughout the Norse lands, people lived in longhouses ( langhús ), which were typically 5 to 7 meters wide (16 to 23 feet) and anywhere from 15 to 75 meters long (50 to 250 feet), depending on the wealth and social position of the owner. In much of the Norse region, the longhouses were built around wooden frames on simple stone footings. Walls were constructed of planks, of logs, or of wattle and daub. Smoke holes in the roof On either side of the central corridor (between the roof support columns and the walls), raised wooden benches topped with wooden planks ran the length of the longhouse. They provided a surface for sitting, eating, working, and sleeping.
The structural support for the house was provided by wooden interior posts and beams (rather than by the walls, which supported essentially no weight). The wooden beams locked together using pegs and notches, rather than iron nails. The main structural elements are shown in the sketch to the left. Pillars, resting on stones on the floor, rise to support two long rafter-bracing roof beams, which run the length of the house. At each pair of pillars, the roof beams are tied together with a cross beam. Rising from the middle of the cross beam is a short pillar which supports the long roof ridge beam. The house begins with the construction of stone footings. Besides forming a firm base on which the house rests, they also keep the wooden structural elements of the house away from the soil, protecting them from rot. The footings of the house at Stöng are shown to the right.
For the walls, turf blocks (left) were used, approximately 15 to 20cm thick by about 50cm by 1.5m. (8 inches by 20 inches by 60 inches). The roof is made of a layer of small tree branches laid over the main support rafters (seen from the inside at Stöng in the photo on the left). Over this goes a layer of turf. Ideally, a layer of birch bark is placed on top of this (for water proofing) and another layer of turf. The branches allow air to circulate between the turf and wooden rafters, helping to prevent rot. Most of the interior doors and passageways at Stöng are low and narrow, requiring one to bend over to pass through. The photo to the left shows the passageway between stofa and skáli. The thickness of the interior turf wall is quite apparent in the photo.
People lived in houses on small, fenced plots. Most houses had a well and an outhouse, and many had other outbuildings. The house measured 5 by 12 meters (16 by 40 feet). The central room was the main living quarters, for cooking, living, and sleeping, having the typical central fire pit and raised benches along the walls. The room to the left contained a domed cook oven and storage space. Food for the town was imported from nearby farms. The room to the right was a workshop, with a window in the gable for light. The vast majority of Norse people lived on small farms.
Tools were widely used for cultivating, harvesting, and processing the crops. Iron-shod spades with a wooden blade and handle, and only a thin iron edge were used to dig ditches. Iron picks and iron-shod hoes were used to work the soil. Iron scythes, sickles, and leaf-knives were used for harvesting. Wooden pitchforks and rakes were used for haymaking. Flails were used to thresh the grain. Stone querns were used to mill the flour (although archaeological evidence suggests that water powered mills might have been used in towns during the Norse era). Farm Tools
The main farming activity throughout the Norse region was animal husbandry. Cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats were raised. Sheep were allowed to roam free in the summer. In the fall, all the farmers in a region worked together to round up the sheep and sort them by owner. This practice is still followed in Iceland; the sorting pen shown to the right differs little from those used in medieval times. 11 th century farm
CIRCULAR FORTRESSES Although earlier settlements had existed at the site, the Norse town was clearly planned. Wood-paved streets were laid out on a regular perpendicular grid. The creek which ran through the site was channeled. A semicircular earth and timber wall surrounded and protected the town. The wall was 1.3km (0.6 miles) around, and 5.1m (16 feet) high. The only entrances to the town were through the two gates to the north and south, and from the harbor on the fjord. The harbor had several causeways and a semi-circular palisade for defense. The wall enclosed an area of approximately 24 hectare (60 acres).
Towns sprung up in places that were easy for traders to reach by both land and sea. Since the concentration of valuable articles would be tempting to any raider, towns tended to be located in strategic points, where they could be defended. Royal protection and support was important in the development of towns. A guarantee of peace and order was necessary for the marketplaces, otherwise merchants would stay away. Regional kings or chieftains provided the traders with protection from pirates, while the traders filled the royal coffers with tolls and taxes. The chieftain also provided the authority needed to organize and set up the town, allocating permanent plots of land to families. The chieftain's hall at Kaupang was partially excavated in the summer of 2000. The site of the hall is on a hill outside the town, with a commanding view of the town and the roads approaching it. VIKING TOWN
Towns typically appeared along the main trading routes early in the Norse era. They were centers of transshipment, exchange, and redistribution. Professional craftsmen and smiths were naturally drawn to these locations to practice their crafts. Towns were distinguished from villages by the presence of these traders and craftsmen. Agriculture was of secondary importance to town residents. They made their living by making and selling their goods, rather than consuming them themselves. It has been difficult to determine whether these settlements were seasonal, or permanent. Excavations at Kaupang from 1956-1967 indicated only seasonal occupancy, since no evidence of hearths in the excavated houses was found. However, excavations in the summer of 2000 found ample evidence of houses with hearths, which suggests year-round occupancy. The depth of the refuse pits and the number of graves on the site also suggest that the site was a permanent settlement.
HVALSEY CHURCH-GREENLAND first built in 1100’s A well preserved middle age structure which was part of a community which was inhabited up until the mid 1500’s. The Hvalsey Church is a unique structure from this time period because it was built from large carefully fitted stones, at the time, most other structures were built from wood or sod. The builders were able to build solid walls by fitting small chips in between the large stones.
The stones used in construction weighed four or five tons; some even heavier than that creating a wall that is about a meter and a half thick. Archeologists and building experts are unsure if lime mortar was used in the construction of Hvalsey Church, they believe mortar was used but as a grout. The last written record of Norse population in Greenland was a wedding recorded at this church in 1408. At the end of the 15th century, the Norse population of Greenland disappeared. HVALSEY CHURCH
GRAVEFIELD AT LINDHOLMSHØJE, DENMARK VIKING RELIGION Vikings had a polytheistic religion, meaning they believed and worshiped many gods. There were 2 group of gods: The Aesir (the warrior gods which included Odin, Loki, Thor and Fryja and lived in Asgard) and the Vanir (the gods of fertility, wealth and health such as Honir and Mimir and lived in Vanahiem). The apocalypse which is called Ragnarok by the Vikings, is a common mythological theme. In Viking afterlife, it was believed that after a battle beautiful maidens called Valkyries would come and take the warrior spirits to Valhalla, a great hall for warriors. In Valhalla the fallen warriors would feast and fight continuously in preparation for Ragnorak, the final battle in which they would fight along side their Gods.
Trullhalsar, Norrlanda Grave field with 350 graves consisting of stone cairns, stone circles and stone ships. Bulverket, Tingstäde In the middle of Tingstäde lake lies the Bulverket. It is made up of large coffins of wooden logs, which make a square with sides of about 170 metres in length. Believed to be built during the beginning of the 12th c., and used only for a short period of time.
Many beads were found at Viking women burial sites. Beads were made from amber, rock crystal, carnelian an amethyst as well as glass, metal, limestone and bone/horn.
L’ANSE AUX MEADOWS - NEWFOUNDLAND L’anse Aux Meadows is a historic site which shows European presence in the Americas. The ruins are of a Norse settlement from the 11th century, these earthen and wooden homes are similar to those found in Norway.
L’ANSE AUX MEADOWS Fence and close up detail of fence
ARTEFACTS from L’ANSE AUX MEADOWS 1 2 3 4 5 1: stone lamp,indent for animal fat and wick, 2: spindle whorl, carved soapstone used as small flywheel on spindles, 3: carved wooden pieces, use unknown believed to be for ships, 4: ship repair part, 5: clothing pin used by men and women to fasten outer garments closed
RUNES & PICTURE STONES OLDER & YOUNGER GEOMETRIC FUTHHARKEN The first runic alphabet was called FUTHARK, after its first 6 letters. Rune stones were often carved and raised in celebration or memory of ancestors and battles. Runes were very easy to carve into wood or stone because they were made up of straight or diagonal lines. The basic alphabet consisted of 16 runes. Picture stones do not usually have runes carved on them but are filled with images of people, gods, ships and warriors.
KENSINGTON RUNESTONE Letters, bills and accounts were written on sticks in runes, this is an example of a letter inscribed on an antler.
This stone is one of a group of seven stones (see image below), two have rune inscriptions, they are from a field at Västra Strö in Skåne. The inscription means: “ Father let cut these runes after his brother Asser, who met his death to the north when going viking."
VIKING COINS Vikings minted their own coins towards the end of the Viking Age, before coins Vikings paid with pieces of silver or traded goods. The images Vikings put on their coins were sometimes of important and powerful kings and sometimes of objects that were valuable to them such as their ships. As Christianity began to gain influence images of the cross became more popular.
Hneftafl was a popular Viking board game in which 1 player used 8 pieces to protect his King from the other player who had 16 pieces Typical Viking Helmet with iron plates welded together Women were keepers of the home and this meant keepers of the lockbox and key in which they kept the valuables (usually coins and jewelry). When a woman died she was buried with the box and its key. Combs made from bone or antler were used by men and women for grooming. They also made tweezers for plucking hair and metal “ear scoops” for cleaning their ears. 2 Hneftafl game pieces VIKING CRAFTS
COMPASS BED Beds and chairs were often only for the wealthy. Ordinary Vikings sat on benches, stools or the floor and at night they slept on rugs atop platforms. This bed was 1 of 3 buried with a very wealthy woman. The headboard planks has a carving of an animal head with an arched neck. CARVED WOODEN BOX from a Viking site in Ireland with sliding lid, in which the lid slides in a groove cut in the body of the box This is called “tongue and groove joint”. VIKING CRAFTS
VIKING BROOCHES 1 2 3 4 5 2: boat brooch 3: dragon brooch 4: pair of animal head brooches 5: box brooch, 9-10th century 1: mens brooch, bronze, 11th century
Week 05 Questions: 1. Who were the Vikings? 2. What does drekar mean? 3. Where does the word starboard come from? 4. Why was the Viking town a circle like shape? 5. Could we use some of the ideas of the Viking house today? 6. Please describe the Viking religion. 7. Choose one Viking god, research and write a minimum of 4 sentences about that God. 8. What was the function of rune stones and picture stones? 9. Why was the Hvalsey Church a unique structure? 10. What is a tongue and groove joint?