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The Vikings (Cultures)


Being warriors who first appeared in European affairs during the VIIIth century, the Vikings were located in modern Scandinavia. The word Viking, which means "Pirate" in Norse, is used to identify all the people who lived in Denmark, Norway and Sweden during the early Middle Ages.

They are most famous for the Viking raids of the Middle Ages and are often portrayed in the media as savage and bloodthirsty. Though many did have a life devoted to raiding and warfare, the vast majority of the Vikings lived from farming, fishing and other similar activities.

The Vikings were highly skilled crafters and woodworkers. With Scandinavian trees, they successfully built cargo ships and more importantly, the fearsome Drakars or Dragon Ship that allowed them to sail as far as Jerusalem and Eastern Asia.

Viking Life

Law

Vikings had a complex legal system. The word "law" itself is a Viking word. When a Viking was charged with a crime, he went to the 'ting', a court, where a jury of 12, 24 or 36 depending on the crime's gravity either convicted or declared him innocent.

A common way to solve disputes between two parties was with a duel. The first Viking's blood to touch the ground lost the case. The idea was that the gods were on the victor's side and they wouldn't let the innocent lose. This practice continued until Christianity was introduced in Scandinavia.

Clothing

Like in most of Europe, wool was widely used to make clothes. Wherever the Vikings settled, they brought sheep with them for this purpose. The Faeroe Islands mean "The Sheep Islands". The clothes were made by women who also dyed them with minerals or vegetables for different colors.

The men put on a long woolen shirt and long trousers which were held up by a drawstring. They could also put a long coat on top if the weather required it. Finally they would wear socks and either soft leather shoes or long leather boots. Additional clothing was available for the harsher winters. During battle, the Vikings used a shield, a helmet and a mail-chain to protect themselves.

Religion

At the beginning of the Viking Age, most Vikings were pagans and seriously disliked any other religion including Christianity. It took the Vikings until the 12th century to finally adopt Christianity, well after the Viking Age.

In general, the society of the Vikings was based on their religion. They believed in several gods and each provided them with benefits or punishment based on their actions. Vikings believed that their day of death was already established by the Gods and anything they did could not change this day. Read the list of the most important Vikings gods.

Other Facts

It is believed that the Vikings were very tall warriors, but in reality Vikings averaged 5'8. At the time, however, they were taller than most of their European counterparts which helps explain their descriptions.


 
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