Welcome to the Viking era. This webpage will give you a closer look at Viking history. The Learning Goal for our topic is: Analyze reasons for initial exploration and colonization of North America.
Table of Contents:
-The Beginning of the Viking Age
-Life as a Viking
-Leif and Erik
-The End of the Viking Age
-Fun Facts (Conclusion)
Beginning of the Viking Age
In the 8th century (793 AD) in Scandinavia, the increased wealth and trading within Europe, especially between the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne (the Netherlands, Germany, and France) and the Baltic Sea led to the growth of trading towns including some in Denmark and Sweden.
The first recorded Viking raid occurred in the year 793 against the great monastery of Lindisfarne off the northeast coast of England.
Scandinavians had easy access to trade goods and coins in the towns through trade as well as through raids. With the loot they got from the raids in Charlemagne’s kingdom, the Scandinavians were able to build many villages not only in Scandinavia, but also throughout Europe.
But later, the population began to grow too much around the area, causing overpopulation. They also began to know that the growing season was too cold and that they needed to find different lands with better climate. Sometimes they would settle wherever they raided, and because of their ships, they were able to travel many places. One of the first places they settled in was Iceland. They mostly raided Scotland, England, and Normandy in the beginning.
The Vikings were In need of more land to hold the large population so they sailed to wherever that held large farm lands so they could harvest food as well as hold the population. Also they had heard from a fisherman in Iceland while Leif Erikkson was there that there were vinlands which where lands which had grape vines. That motivated them to sail on to the Americas and colonize there, but be advised, the did not last long
Vikings were known by others to be very aggressive and dangerous, probably due to all the violence they cause while raiding. Vikings grew a lot just by simply raiding and settling in many different locations all over Europe, creating a population of Vikings so big that it became an era for them.
Life as a Viking
Vikings grew their own crops, went hunting, and farmed animals. The typical day on the farm, a family would eat at least two meals a day. Some vegetables harvested by the Vikings were cabbage, onions, garlic, leeks, turnips, peas, and beans. Flatbread was the daily bread of the Vikings. The way they made flatbread was fairly simple, it was made from ground oats or barley and added water to the dough before flattening it out on a griddle and baking it over a fire.
The Vikings didn’t only eat vegetables; they ate a lot of other foods such as meat. The meat the Vikings would eat would be beef, oxen, goats, pork, mutton, ducks, chicken, and sometimes horse meat.
Vikings drank a lot of water, but they enjoyed drinking alcoholic drinks such as ale and mead, a strong wine made by fermented honey.
As for clothes, the Norse wore clothes made from wool, linen and animal skins. Vikings made their own clothes and were skillful weavers. Women finely made the wool into yarn (with the help of kids) and used natural dyes from plants to give it color. Other Norse carpenters, wood carvers, and jewellers crafted beautiful pieces from wood and metal.
Vikings are also called Scandinavians, who all believed in Norse mythology. Vikings believe in multiple gods, such as Odin the father and ruler of all the gods, Thor the god of thunder, Loki the god of mischief, Freyja the goddess of love, etc. The Vikings believed that if they died bravely in battle, they would go to Valhalla, an enormous and majestic hall ruled by Odin. But the Vikings believed that the most common place to go when they died was Hel.
The Norsemen (Vikings) believed in a world tree called Yggdrasill which consisted of nine different homeworlds: Asgard, Vanaheim, Alfheim, Midgardh, Jotunheim, Nidavellier, Svartalfheim, Niflheim, and Hel, which explained how everything was created. In Viking funerals, Norsemen would put the dead body in a boat with food and drinks (because they believed that they would take the food and drinks to the spiritual world with them) and shot burning arrows at the boat o leit burn down while it sailed away.
Armour, Weapons and Supplements
One of the Viking’s big traits was their strength and skill in battle. Vikings had an arsenal of swords, axes, and spears as their main weapons but some Vikings used daggers and bows. Vikings were well armored with shields, helmets, chainmail and leather tunics. A common myth is that Vikings used to wear horned helmets in battle. But if Vikings did, the enemies could use them as an advantage, such as using one of the horns to pull down a Viking and slay them. For short, Vikings never wore horned helmets. Instead, they wore strong iron helmets mostly with simple cup shapes and a strip of metal to protect the nose. Others, however, wore better helmets that had goggle-shaped masks that protected both the eyes and the nose, and flaps protecting the neck area.
The greatest Viking weapon was the sword, it was strong and served as a status symbol: The stronger the Viking, the greater the sword. Vikings thought of swords so highly that they even named them. A very deadly weapon used by the Vikings would be the battleaxe. It is heavy and it can easily go through armor, still leaving a mortal wound. Since Vikings also used it for multiple purposes, the battleaxe became quite an affordable weapon.
But the most popular weapon used by the Vikings was the spear. It was very deadly, and still not as expensive as a sword. They were very dangerous thrusting weapons and not to mention, it could also be thrown.
Vikings commonly used shields to protect themselves from shoulder to thigh. The shields were mostly wooden and round, and occasionally covered in leather with the rim strengthened by an iron band. The Vikings usually had their shields painted in a brighter tone. Arguably the greatest achievement of the Vikings was their boat and shipbuilding. The Vikings were not the first people to build ships but they did build the best ships anyone had made up to that time. The Vikings set sail in the morning when the wind and tide was right. All day they sailed along the coast. At nightfall they landed at some beach, put up tents, had a cooked meal and went to sleep.
Leif and Erik
In the 10th century, a man named Erik Thorvaldsson (Erik the Red) was banished from Norway for manslaughter. He was forced to sail away, choosing to sail to the west. When he hit Iceland, he decided to settle there and had a farm. In 982 AD, he was again banished for three years from Iceland for some killings. From there, he sailed west and discovered Greenland. During the three years of his banishment from Iceland, Erik explored Greenland.
After the three years, Erik returned to Iceland telling people about the new land he had discovered. Many people joined him to form colonies in Iceland. One of the settlements flourished, growing up to 5,000 people. Many people from Iceland joined the colony due to the overpopulation in Iceland. However, a group of colonists brought a plague that killed many of the settlers, including Erik in 1003.
One of Erik’s sons, Leif Erikson, was born in Iceland but sailed with his father when he was banished. Many people believe that Christopher Columbus was the first European to set foot on America, but it has been confirmed as a myth. The first European to reach America was actually Leaf Erikson himself.
Fifteen years after settling in Greenland, Leif wanted to visit Norway because he had never seen it before. When Leif arrived in Norway, it was very cold and he spent the winter in the court of King Olaf. There, he converted to Christianity and was given the mission to spread Christianity to Greenland.
In the return voyage, his ships were blown out of course by a thunderstorm. After many days sailing, Leif found a new land where there were many grapes. Leif called the land Vinland due to all the vines and grapes.
After staying in Vinland for a while, Leif returned to Greenland and sent a party of Vikings to attempt to settle in Vinland. Unfortunately, Leif never got to see Vinland again and died in Greenland in 1020. The reason for his death remains unknown.
End of the Viking Age
Near the end of the Viking age, Norsemen discovered Helluland, Markland, and Vinland (Baffin Island, Labrador and Newfoundland). In the year 1015 in Vinland, the settlements were abandoned due to attacks from first nations. The Vikings returned to Greenland after multiple attacks from the first nations, and the crops suffered through the harsh cold weather of the Atlantic Coast.
After decades of trade and settlement, Christianity was introduced into Scandinavia by the 11th century, and the process of Christianization was mostly completed during the Middle Ages. However, elements of the old faith and secret blóts remained until the 19th century. The influence of the Norse, seeing themselves then as part of wider European civilization as well as the technical advances in warfare, made the Viking raids less desirable and less profitable, and eventually the political structures based on them were replaced by structures based more on continental feudalism.
Since Christianity had become a new lifestyle for Scandinavians, the Norse religion became a mythology, bits of where the Vikings lived became kingdoms, and since Norse religion was a major part of the Viking era, the Viking era eventually began to fade away leading to the end of the Vikings in the year 1066 AD.
The Vikings have had a huge impact on the Western World. Obviously their culture and language is stamped indelibly into their native Scandinavia, but also somewhat in places that they colonised. The United Kingdom has many words and place-names of Viking origin, and they ruled large parts of it at various times, including the Scottish Isles, England and Normandy (at the time part of the Kingdom).
The consequences of many events in history can be interpreted in a good and bad way. The Viking invasion has some sort of benefits for the good of Europe. In trade centres, precious metals were used in the circulation. So the Vikings plundering damaged this circulation for their benefits. Money changed hands in this occasion. But, there were some precious metals as much which cannot be ignored, used in churches for ornaments. This attracted Vikings to plunder the churches, as non-Christians they saw no objections to do that. Although, priests and monks must have found it terrible when their treasures were stolen, from an economic point of view it meant that the precious metals that long been hoarded were brought back in circulation again as means of payment for long distance trade. Acquiring the capital, Vikings improved the trade with east and opened the region to the intercontinental trading system.
The Vikings were great seafarers, and are purported to have journeyed to North America long before Christopher Columbus, being possibly the first westerners there. They colonised Greenland and Iceland, burned Paris and founded the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, and worked as mercenaries in the employ of the Byzantine Empire in Africa and the Middle East. They were a trading civilization too, with links as far as Baghdad. A map can be seen in the links section. Their mythology lives on in the days of our week, with Odin/Woden giving ‘Woden’sday’, Thor giving ‘Thor’sday’, Frigg giving ‘Frigg’sday’ etc.
Overall, the Vikings have had a great impact in history have affected the world we live in today.
Fun Facts (Conclusion)
-Vikings were known for their excellent hygiene.
-Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets.
-Viking gentlemen preferred blond hair.
-Vikings were never part of a unified group.
-Vikings went skiing for fun.
-Viking men spent most of their time farming.
-Vikings put dead Vikings into boats during their funeral.
-Vikings were active in in slave trade.
1. What lands did Leif and Erik find?
2. How did Christianity help end the Viking age?
3. What years did the Viking age start and end?
Try and think about how the Vikings became so large and feared, and their nine worlds in Yggdrasil.
FUN LINKS TO CHECK OUT!
Games – http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive/games/viking_quest/index_embed.shtml (Viking Quest)
http://www.onlinequizcreator.com/vikings/quiz-47087 (Viking Quiz, made by Me)
“What Did the Vikings Drink?” Answers. Answers Corporation, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2014.
“What Is the Viking Religion?” Answers. Answers Corporation, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2014.
Larrington. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 1999. Web. 01 Nov. 2014.
Davidson, H. R. Ellis. Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1988. 171. Print.
“What Did the Vikings Wear?” What Did the Vikings Wear? N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2014.
“Viking Weapons and Armor.” Viking Weapons and Armor. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2014.
“Teacher’s Guide: VIKINGS: The North American Saga – Smithsonian – National Museum of Natural History.” Teacher’s Guide: VIKINGS: The North American Saga – Smithsonian – National Museum of Natural History. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014
Cohen, Jennie. “10 Things You May Not Know About the Vikings.”History.com. A&E Television Networks, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.
BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.
Cruises, Viking. “Leif Eriksson – The First European in North America.”YouTube. YouTube, 17 Jan. 2014. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.
Dwyer, Helen. The Middle Ages, 600 to 1492. Redding, CT: Brown Bear, 2009. Print.
Freitas, Pedro. “Vikings.” Vikings. N.p., 3 Nov. 2014. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.
“Hearty Ham Casserole.” Allrecipes.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.
Koopmans, Carol. L’Anse Aux Meadows. Calgary: Weigl Educational, 2008. Print.
Simon, Charnan. Leif Eriksson and the Vikings. Chicago: Childrens, 1991. Print.
“Viking Age.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
“Viking Gods.” Viking Gods. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.
“What Did Vikings Eat?” From Ancient Times to the 20th Century. History on the Net, Nov. 2000. Web. 31 Oct. 2014.
“The World Book Encyclopedia.” Barnes & Noble. World Book, Inc., 2011. Web. 31 Oct. 2014.