The Vikings
Who were the Vikings?
•The word Viking means one who lurks in a “Vik” or bay, in effect, a pirate.
•the Viking age lasted for more than 300 years, from the late 8th century to the
late 11th century.
•The Vikings, or Norse, were a phenomenal race of Scandinavian warriors (from
Norway, Denmark & Sweden) who raided Northern Europe, Eastern Asia, and
Eastern North America.
Who Were the Vikings?
•By the end of the first millennium the Vikings reached North America five
hundred years before Columbus
Viking raids eventually led
to trade and colonization .
The Viking period
describes a whole new age
in Europe between about
the mid 700 to 1150 AD.
How do we know about the Vikings?
•Archaeology provides physical evidence of their conquests,
settlements, and daily life.
•Many popular ideas of Vikings are 19th century
misconceptions - such as having horns on helmets.
•Few historical records and contemporary written sources exist
•Most information about the Viking period is recorded by
monks in monasteries giving an account of attacks.
•The Vikings were considered heathens for their attacks on
monasteries and as a result were portrayed in the worst possible
An early Icelandic Manuscripts in Old
Norse- the Viking language.
The Sagas
•“Saga” is a Norse word meaning tales.
•Originally oral storytelling, when recorded they provide all the historical knowledge
of the Vikings.
•There are about forty sagas that include descriptions of historical events and
voyages across the North Atlantic from Norway, Greenland and Vinland
•The sagas also have records of family history such as Erik the Red who founded
Greenland, and his son Leif Erickson who discovered North America.
•The Sagas were compiled in the 13th and 14th century andbased on stories that
originated as early as 400 and 500 years before that.
•Archaeology has proven the facts of many sagas
The Eddas
•Norse oral religious traditions written as poems were
collectively named Eddas.
•Considered folktales of the Vikings.
•Eddas and Sagas were written on vellum-sheepskin or
calf skin.
•Called vellum it is more resistant to rot and preserves
much better than paper – this allowed historians to
refer to these primary sources.
Viking Runes
•Vikings used symbols called 'runes' instead of an
•Runes are made by mostly straight lines
•They carved the runes into wood or stone. It is
much easier to carve straight lines than curves!
Viking Runes
Can you spell out
your name using
Why did they invade Europe?
• Raids and loot were not the whole story of the Vikings.
•Coming from mountainous Scandinavia - land to farm was also a
commodity, they wanted more agricultural land
•They were interested in Europe because they saw it as technologically
and politically superior to their culture.
What were their goals?
•Unlike many other invaders in history, the vikings
weren’t trying to spread their religion –they were
•They had to find food, live off the land, and set up
•They drove people out and took any valuables they
•Vikings targeted the church and monasteries
because they were the major sources of wealth at
the time.
A depiction of what a Viking
looked like.
Viking Longships
•We know about how their ships were built because
Viking burials often included their valuables – some were
buried with their boats
• They had swift wooden long ships, powered by sails
and oars.
• The shallow drought of these ships meant they were
able to travel inland by river or stream to attack before
local forces could respond.
Figureheads on ships were
raised at stem and stern as
a sign of war.
Viking Longships
•Ships had overlapping planks, and measured between 17.5m and 36m in length.
•They were steered by a single oar mounted on the starboard side.
•Went as fast as 10 to 11 knots
•Crews of 25 to 60 were common, but larger ships could carry over a hundred
• Sea battles were rare. They fought close to shore.
•Ships were roped together in lines to face an enemy fleet.
Domestic Boats
• For fishing - Boats were small
shallow vessels used to catch fish in
rivers, lakes and fjords
• For trading - Heavy ships or knorrs
were trading vessels used for
carrying cargo to trade with other
Viking Homes
• The Vikings used local materials to build their houses
• They used stone, timber, wattle and daub for walls
• They used thatch and turf for roofs
Battles and Tactics
•Vikings did not have an official army or navy
•Weapons training began at youth in hunting,
sports, and raiding.
•The fought mostly on foot
•A line of young warriors would create a shield
wall for better protection.
•They would either capture or kill their enemies
Those captured would become slaves.
Offensive Weapons
•Primarily the spear, sword, and battle-axe.
• Weapons were for battle and also as a symbol of the
warrior’s wealth.
•Weapons were decorated with inlays, twisted wire
and other accessories in silver, copper, and bronze.
• The spear was the common weapon with an iron
blade 2m to 3m in length.
Offensive Weapons
•Swords were a sign of high status because they
were costly to make.
•The blades were usually double edged and up to
•Often warriors gave their swords names.
Protective Armor
Viking helmet
• There were circular shields up to one meter across that
were carried.
•The shield may have been leather covered.
•Around 1000, the kite shaped shield was introduced to the
Vikings to provide more protection for the legs.
•Helmets could be leather or metal- metal more likely for the Hollywood Helmet
•Thick padding absorbed the force of blows or arrow strikes
– they often used Reindeer hide
Protective Armor
•Vikings wore tunics of chain-mail armor
reaching below the waist.
•Very heavy, and not really effective
•They took a long time to make, so were
probably expensive and work by
•The first Viking raids were hit- and -run affairs. They sailed into a settlement, attacked and took what
they could carry.
•The British Isles and the Western portions of Europe were the main targets
•During later invasions, the Vikings developed settlements.
•They conquered much of Northern England in the 9th century, and established a kingdom in Ireland.
•In return for cash Vikings negotiated peaceful coexistence and conversion to whomever they attacked.
Some leaders paid ransom to Viking armies.
•In 911 AD Charles III of France gave Normandy (“French for territory of Norsemen”) to the Viking
leader Rollos who became a Christian.
• Vikings adopted the French language and organized a strong state in Normandy.
Viking Exploration
• The Vikings reached Iceland
– it become a settlement for
Norwegians and Danes.
• 982 Erik the Red founded
• Leif Erikson later landed on
North America.
• Vinland (Newfoundland)
reached about 1000 AD
What happened to the Vikings?
• Vikings became citizens of the places
they settled.
• As more became Christian, the Norse
religion and culture diminished.
• Kings instituted taxes and the economy
changed – Vikings changed from raiders
to traders.
• European kingdoms improved defense
and increased trade as a result of the
Viking experience
A Viking End
The Vikings’ Legacy
• Many styles of the Viking ships were adopted by other European powers.
• Brave navigators sailed west to explore Iceland and Greenland.
• Historians have also proved that the Vikings were the first settlers on the
American continent.
• The jury of English common law was a an outgrowth of Viking ideas about
community obligations and sworn investigations.
The Vikings’ Legacy
• Signs of Viking influence are found in languages, vocabulary, and place-names
of the areas they settled.
• They had an impact on medieval technology and trade, which was an
important part of Europe’s development.
789 -Vikings begin their attacks on England.800
840 -Viking settlers found the city of Dublin in Ireland.
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.
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.
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.
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.