The Vikings – Medieval Thugs or Merchant Traders?

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The Vikings plundered their way into the annals of Scandinavian history. But archeology reveals there’s more to these raiders than meets the eye.

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At first glance the Viking legacy appears to be little more than an impressive catalogue of violence and piracy. Archeological finds have, however, shed light not only on the way the Vikings lived (everything from the food they ate to the clothing they wore) but also on their burial tradition.

Today, the Vikings are recognized for their skills as craftsmen, traders and, of course, sailors.

The Viking longship, essential for both raiding and trading, was also used to bury kings and chieftains. Superb examples can be seen at the Viking ship museums in Roskilde, Denmark, and Oslo, Norway, where textiles, household utensils and other artefacts excavated from the burial mounds around the Oslo Fjord, are also on display.

In Denmark, Funen’s Ladby Ship Museum houses a magnificent burial ship with a dragon’s head and tail.

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Sites and open-air museums such as those at Birka outside Stockholm, and Denmark’s Fyrkat and Trelleborg, offer a unique look into the daily lives of the Vikings.

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Other places of interest include the burial ground at Lindholm Høje, Jutland, and Jelling in Zealand, with its runes and burial mounds, often referred to as Denmark’s “birth certificate”.

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