Viking Design – Introduction

The Vikings is the general name given to the Scandinavians during 800-1100 A.D. that set out to sea to raid and trade. The Vikings had invented many new things that we still use in our lives today. One such example is their shipbuilding technology – they were among the first to use the sail and keel.

The purpose of this research assignment is to explore Viking symbolism and design through various artefacts. For this, I have chosen to focus on three aspects of Viking culture: written language, shipbuilding, and art style.

The Viking Age began with a series of hit-and-run pirate raids on coastal monasteries and other easy targets in Britain, Ireland and the Frankish empire at the end of the 8th century. The Vikings played an important role in European history, particularly in Britain, where they broke up existing power structures. This eventually led to the creation of the unified kingdoms of England and Scotland. The Viking Age lasted around 300 years, from A.D. 800 until about 1100.

Viking Expansion
Viking Expansion

According to historians, the first Viking raid happened on June 8th, 793 at an island monastery off the coast of northern England). The Vikings’ reign expanded across Europe and Asia and into the Americas. They became an unstoppable force capable of raiding and trading on four continents.

The majority of Scandinavians did not go out raiding. They stayed at home, where they farmed, built ships, and produced a variety of goods. They were believers of Norse mythology and incorporated the mythological symbolism in their crafts. Vikings wore jewellery with them at all times for various reasons: to show wealth and power, to ward off evil, and to trade.

Artefact 1: Futhatk (coming soon)

Artefact 2: Viking Ships (coming soon)

Artefact 3: Urnes Style (coming soon)

Despite the Viking Age being only 300 years, they played an important role in European history. Driven by the desire to trade and claim land, courageous men and women set out to sea. They broke up existing power structures that led to the creation of unified kingdoms. They encouraged trade between continents and taught the people their shipbuilding techniques.

The ambitious Vikings eventually had alternatives to war to increase their wealth and status, such as entering royal service or the Church. The Viking Age in effect simply faded away after that, but by that time, their presence has reached many places over the world.

Sources:

Haywood, John.   (2000).  Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age.  New York: Thames & Hudson Inc.

Berger, M. & Berger, G.  (2003).  The Real Vikings: Craftsmen, Traders, and Fearsome Raiders.  Belgium: National Geographic Society.

Williams, H. & Knirk, J.  (2012).  Futhark.  International Journal of Runic Studies.  Retrieved from http://www.futhark-journal.com/issues/

Curry, Andrew.  (2013).  The First Vikings.  Archaeology.  66, 24-29.

Barrett, James.  (2008).  What Caused the Viking Age?  Antiquity.  82, 671-685.

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