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Beginnings of the Viking peoples: The Scandinavian peoples and tribes from the Vendel Period to the Viking Age

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By Periklis Deligiannis

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Dragonhead on the prow of a Viking longship.

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The historical districts of Scandinavia. The following probable tribal districts are noted among others:  Uppland (political center of the Svears) including Vendel site, Ostergotland, Vastergotland, Smaland (small territories of other Gott/Gotar tribes), Gotland Isle (land of the Vagoth or Gutar), Oland isle (land of the Vagoth?), Hordaland (land of the Aerothi?), Ringerike (land of the Ragnaricii), Rogaland (land of the Rugii), Vestfold and Viken (main lands of the Raumarike/Raumaricii), Bohuslan (land of the Wulfings?), Halland (land of the Hallin), Blekinge (land of the Bergio?), Skane and Sjaelland (core territories of the Danes), Angel (cradle of the Angles), Jylland (land of the Jutes), Rugen island (probably colonised by the Rugii),  Nordfrisien (North Frisia).

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The Vendel Culture period of the history of eastern and southern Scandinavia (including Jutland and the Danish isles) is the era before the classic Viking Age. The Viking Age lasted from AD 793 to the early 11th century, while the Vendel Era lasted from the mid-6th century AD to the end of the 8th century and is characterized by princely burials of warlords and warriors with impressive weapons. The later historical period and the homonym cultural conglomerate (Vendel Culture) took their name from the site Vendel at the historical district Uppland in eastern Sweden, north of Old Uppsala, the ancient centre of the Svear kings. The most characteristic cemeteries were found there. It seems that Uppland – where later the important cities of the Viking age Uppsala and Sigtuna were developed – was very important politically during the Vendel period. The area was rather the political center of the tribe of the Svears (Latin: Suiri and Suirones and according to Jordanes: Suehans, Nordic: Svear, Anglo-Saxon: Sweonas, modern Swedes) who expanded to it earlier coming from Svealand, their core territory in the south. Uppland means the upper land, the land in the north.

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1,200 YEARS-OLD VIKING SWORD

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Republication from the Local

sword(Courtesy: Hordaland County, Norway)

The sword, found at Haukeli in central southern Norway will be sent for conservation at the The University Museum of Bergen.
Jostein Aksdal, an archaeologist with Hordaland County said the sword was in such good condition that if it was given a new grip and a polish, it could be used today.
“The sword was found in very good condition. It is very special to get into a sword that is merely lacking its grip,” he said.

Ηow and where the Viking age began

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Republication from Science Nordic

Viking dragon3Dragon heads in the prows of Viking longships.

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By Charlotte Price Persson

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The story of the Vikings begins in the year 793 AD, after Norwegian Vikings landed in England on the first official Viking raid. To this day, these fierce raids are the most famous of Viking stories.

Now, a new study suggests a more peaceful start to Viking seafaring — and it all began in Denmark.

Three archaeologists from the University of Aarhus (Denmark) and the University of York (UK) have shown that maritime voyages from Norway to Ribe, the oldest commercial centre in Denmark, occurred long before the Viking age officially began.

The study shows that early Vikings travelled to Ribe in South Denmark as early as 725 AD.

The researchers discovered deer antlers in the oldest archaeological deposits of Ribe’s old marketplace and they turned out to be the remains of Norwegian reindeer.

“This is the first time we have proof that seafaring culture, which was the basis for the Viking era, has a history in Ribe. It’s fascinating,” says Professor Søren Sindbæk, one of the authors of the new study, which has just been published in the European Journal of Archaeology.

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New research on the causes of the Viking Age

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University of York

Vikings

The Viking hit-and-run raids on monastic communities such as Lindisfarne and Iona were the most infamous result of burgeoning Scandinavian maritime prowess in the closing years of the Eighth Century.

These skirmishes led to more expansive military campaigns, settlement, and ultimately conquest of large swathes of the British Isles.  But Dr Steve Ashby, of the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, wanted to explore the social justifications for this spike in aggressive activity.

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The last Viking and his magical sword?

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Republication from Heritage Daily and University of Oslo

A deadly weapon and symbol of power – jewellery for a man, with magical properties. The sword gave power to the warrior, but the warrior’s strength could also be transferred to the sword. That is how they were bound together: man and weapon, warrior and sword.

This sword was found in Langeid in Bygland in Setesdal in 2011. It is a truly unique sword from the late Viking Age, embellished with gold, inscriptions and other ornamentation. The discovery of the sword has not been published until now, when it is being displayed for the first time in the exhibition TAKE IT PERSONALLY at the Historical Museum in Oslo.

The sword must have belonged to a wealthy man in the late Viking Age. But who was he and what magic inscriptions are set into the decoration – in gold? Was the owner of the sword in the Danish King Canute’s army when it attacked England in 1014-15?

In the summer of 2011, archaeologists from the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo discovered a Viking burial ground in Langeid in Setesdal in southern Norway. In one of the graves they made a startling discovery.

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A million Vikings still live among the British people

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 One in 33 men can claim to be direct descendants from the Norse warriors

  • Around 930,000 people can claim to be of direct Viking descent
  • A study compared Y chromosome markers to estimated Viking DNA patterns
  • The Viking DNA patterns are rarely found outside Scandinavia

Almost one million Britons alive today are of Viking descent, which means one in 33 men can claim to be direct descendants of the Vikings.

Around 930,000 descendents of warrior race exist today – despite the Norse warriors’ British rule ending more than 900 years ago.

A genetic study carried out by BritainsDNA compared the Y chromosome markers – DNA inherited from father to son – of more than 3,500 men to six DNA patterns that are rarely found outside of Scandinavia and are associated with the Norse Vikings.

Amateur Vikings process around their longboat during the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

Amateur Vikings process around their longboat during the annual Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

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MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part III)

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Side view detail of the helmet found at Vendel , grave I, 7th century.

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A reproduction of the Vendel helmet of the burial XIV (see below) and a Vendel sword and shield by the historical association Wulfheodenas (I suppose).
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By Periklis Deligiannis

MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part II)

The numerous tribes of the Vendel age gradually began to join in larger tribal unions or confederations, usually by force, while most Jutes, Angles and Northern Saxons of modern Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein had already migrated to Britain at the beginning of this period (starting at the early 5th century AD, of the pre-Vendel era). The Svear and the peoples of Scandinavia possibly related to the continental Goths – that is to say the Heruli (Heruls) and the Gotar (Gott Gutar and/or Geats) and their branches of modern Gotaland and the Oland & Gotland Islands (in modern southern Sweden) – went on living side by side during the Vendel period (550-793 AD) and the Viking age (793– early 11th century AD). Finally after several confrontations, around the 12th century they joined in a single kingdom, after all not being significantly different in language, origins and culture. Thereby they were both assimilated in the Swedish nation.

In the Viking age, the Danes seem to have absorbed the Fervir, the Bergio, the Jutes and the part of the Heruli tribe that used to live in part of the Sjaelland Isle. It also seems that the total tribe of the Angles had already migrated to Britain, leaving their almost vacant homeland to the Dane newcomers.
Concerning again the Vendel-type helmets, sometimes they are referred as ‘Viking helmets’. In fact, they were mostly helmets of the early Leidang armies, i.e. Nordic armies that were operating inside the Scandinavian homeland. But several post-Vendel types and some Vendel proper helmets survived up to the Viking age (some of them perhaps as family heritage or heirloom) being used by Viking combatants, i.e. warriors of raiding groups or armies that were operating overseas, mostly away from Scandinavia. On the other hand, the Vendel types did spread out of Scandinavia, mainly in Britain and the South Frisian lands (the coasts of modern NW Germany and the Netherlands) by the Anglo-Saxon invaders and through military and commercial interaction with the southern Frisians who were sharing many common cultural elements with the Nordic peoples (some historians – including the author of this article – consider them as almost Nordics).
In the 20th century some researchers used to believe that there is a connection of the place name ‘Vendel’ with the Vandals, the East Germanic tribe who finally conquered Roman Africa and sacked Rome itself, but nowadays this theory doesn’t seem to have many followers.

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MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part II)

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13 Helmet from Valsgärde Cemetery
Helmet from the Valsgärde Cemetery

14 Helmet reconstruct. Valsgärde
Reconstruction of a helmet from the Valsgärde burials (RoyalOakArmoury.com).
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part I)

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According to the literary sources and the chronicles (Jordanes, Beowulf epic and others) in that period the largest tribes of eastern and southern Scandinavia (i.e. modern Sweden and Denmark) were the Svears (Suiri, Suehans, the Swedes), the Gotar (Geats, Gott) and their probable branches – the Gauthigoth, Ostrogothae, Vagoth, Gutar, Theustes – the Jutes (maybe a tribal offshoot of the Gotar/Geats), the Heruli (the major part of the tribe played an important role in the Age of Migrations in the continent), the Screrefennae (the Finns, the sole non-Germanic people in the region), the Bergio, the Fervir, the Wulfingas, the Hallin, the Danes, the North Frisians, and in modern western Schleswig-Holstein the metropolitan Saxons (the core tribe of the Saxon confederacy). Western Scandinavia (modern Norway) was inhabited by even smaller tribes and clans, such as the Ragnaricii, Raumaricii, Otingis, Rugii (possibly the core tribe of the continental Rugii who settled in Pannonia and Italy), Adogit, Arothi and others.
The Vendel graves are rich, and very similar to the ones excavated in Britain, namely at Sutton Hoo in the principality of East Anglia. After all, taking into account literary, linguistic and other evidence, it is possible that the dynasty of East Anglia was of Geat/Gotar origins (possibly a branch of the Wulfings). In my point of view, there is also a strong connection of the names of the Angles (forebears of the national name of the English) and the Ynglings (Ynglingas, Scylfings). After all, they seem to have been both bearers of the Vendel cultural elements. Taking into account that the Angles were a small tribe (less numerous than the Saxons and the Jutes: possibly a few clans) I would hypothesize that they were a tribal offshoot or close relatives of the Ynglings. It is possible that the Angles originating from modern Sweden were at first established in southern Jutland and modern Schleswig-Holstein and then invaded Britain becoming royal dynasties in East Anglia, Bernicia, Deira, Mercia and possibly elsewhere.

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MAGNIFICENT VENDEL and VALSGäRDE HELMETS (part I)

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01 Helmet from Vendel Cemetery,burial XIV

Helmet from Vendel Cemetery, burial XIV. Observe the nose-protector in the shape of the beak of a raven (a very important bird in the Scandinavian cosmology).

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Vendel helmet reconstruction by Ivor Lawton (copyright).
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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The Vendel period of the history of Sweden and essentially of the whole area of eastern and southern Scandinavia (of course including modern Denmark) is the era before the Viking Age (793 – early 11th century AD). It lasted from the mid-6th century AD to the end of the 8th century and is characterized by princely burials of warlords and powerful warriors with impressive weapons. This historical period and the homonym cultural conglomerate (Vendel culture) took their name from the site Vendel at the historical district Uppland in eastern Sweden, north of Old Uppsala, the ancient centre of the Svear kings. The most characteristic cemeteries were found there. It seems that Uppland (where later the important cities of the Viking age Uppsala and Sigtuna were developed) was very important politically during the Vendel period. The area was rather the political center of the tribe of the Svears (Latin Suiri and Suirones and according to Jordanes: Suehans, Nordic: Svear, Anglo-Saxon: Sweonas, modern Swedes) who had extended to it earlier coming from Svealand, their core territory in the south. Uppland means the upper land, the land in the north.
Another very important archaeological site of the Vendel period is Valsgärde, a place about three kilometres north of Old Uppsala. The tombs excavated at Valsgärde gave findings of the same type as those of the Vendel archaeological site. Ulltuna is another important site of this period. The influence of the Vendel culture does not seem to have been strong in western Scandinavia, i.e. modern Norway (Iceland and the Faeroe Isles were not yet inhabited by Scandinavians).

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TWILIGHT OF THE VIKING LONGSHIP

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oseberg viking ship

 hansa cog

Τop: The famous Oseberg Viking ship.
Below: A German cog. These  ships
– real floating  fortresses – were the  Nemesis of the Viking longships. Note the high towers on the prow and stern, heavily manned with archers. The marines used to take posistions on the deck of the ship.
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by  P.  Deligiannis

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The Proto-Scandinavian boats, the progenitors of the Viking longships, first appear in cave paintings of Norway around 1500 BC. Millennia of evolution led to the superb Viking longships. Around 600-700 AD these progenitor ships were exclusively oared light, flexible and fragile structures that could not withstand the weight and pressure of the mast and sail. Soon afterwards the Scandinavian shipbuilders imitated the ships of the Mediterranean, adding a long beam (the keel) along the bottom of the ship. The keel made ​​them strong enough to hold the mast and sail. The addition of the keel around AD 700 marked the beginnings of the classic Viking ship and since then it was no longer propelled only by oars. The Scandinavians soon adopted the square sail of the Mediterranean, which allowed them to sail in the seas far away from their homeland.

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