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 The Norsemen

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PostSubject: The Norsemen   Fri 02 May 2014, 15:27

The first recorded Norse  attack was at Portland in either 787 or 789, though his particular event appears to have been an opportunistic attack. The next two attacks, however, were deliberate. The targets, the monasteries at Lindisfarne (793) and Iona (794). It is my belief that the prime motivation for these two strikes was not monetary, though it certainly helped, but religious.
Wind back 12 years, and on the continent  Charlemagne's Frankish Empire was engaged in a war of conquest in North West Germany. In 782, Charlemagne's forces massacred 4,500 pagan (Wodenist) Saxons at Verden on the Aller River, as part of the enforce Christianisation of Germany. The campaign against Saxony, would bring the Frankish Empire to the border of Denmark, where the advance of militant Christianity must have bee viewed with increasing alarm by the pagan inhabitants. Taking on the Frankish Army on the flat plains of Germany or Jutland would have been suicidal for the Danes, who instead launched what we would now call commando raids against Christian Europe, hence the choice of Lindisfarne and Iona as the first two targets.
It may be no coincidence that the Lindisfarne raid occurred in the same year as the last pagan rebellion against Christianity in Frisia.

This is, I believe,is the initial cause of the Viking attacks on Christian Europe. Retaliation for the massacre of their co-religionists at Verden.

The Danewerk, a defensive earthwork constructed across the Jutland peninsula in the 8th century, to keep the Franks out.





Posted this in Civilisation and Community rather than Wars and Conflict as there is a lot more to the Viking Age that raids and battles.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Fri 02 May 2014, 16:02

The reconstructed Viking ship "Sea Stallion";

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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Fri 02 May 2014, 18:07

I was only the other day reading an article on new research into the vikings, and for the life of me can't find it now. Very annoying, but I shall keep looking because it was relevant to this thread Trike.

Whilst searching I came across these two other interesting articles though

Old Norse influence on English, the effect of the Viking invasion
http://www.medievalists.net/2014/04/12/old-norse-influence-modern-english-effect-viking-invasion/

And the National Museum of Ireland have released a series of videos based on their Viking Ireland Exhibit
http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/29998
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Sat 03 May 2014, 20:16

It could be argued that they invaded three times. First the Jutes led by Hengest; then the Vikings; and finally the Normans.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Sun 04 May 2014, 09:09

@Aelfwine wrote:
It could be argued that they invaded three times. First the Jutes led by Hengest; then the Vikings; and finally the Normans.

That's an interesting point, Aelfwine, and one that mirrors current Norwegian thinking about "Viking" history - namely is there much logic at all in singling out one aspect of Scandinavian history to the point of assigning a unique identity to the people of that short era if it is to be at the expense of appreciating or analysing their development up to that point or that era's actual historical place in the context of further developments?

One historian here recently asked a question in an interesting magazine article devoted to this very topic. "What if the Vikings had never attacked religious targets in Britain and Ireland?" This particular form of Viking aggression, he suggested, was something that actually lasted fifty to sixty years (one could say two generations) and typified Viking activity in one specific geographical area, whereas Viking activity outside of Scandinavia can be measured in terms of half a millennium and in many diverse combinations of aggression, exploration, migration and trade. However the "Viking identity" that has traditionally found its way into European history was largely formed by the original chroniclers, mainly people at the immediate receiving end of this specific policy of plundering ecclesiastical sources. His point was not to whitewash the Vikings in terms of aggression and ruthlessness but to ponder how history would have recorded them if this particular phase of their overseas activities had not occurred, or at least not occurred as a specific and sustained activity targeting those whose description of them would form the basis of subsequent analysis?

The problem with the traditional assessment, dominated as it is by these chroniclers' initial analysis near the end of the first millennium, is that it has deflected attention from two crucial aspects to the Scandinavian interface with the rest of European society - namely what was going on before the monastic raids (a specific policy that was not generally reproduced outside of the British Isles) and what was going on elsewhere? As an example of just how analysis is skewed by this over emphasis on one short phase of activity he mentioned the woeful lack of analysis applied to the Goths. By the time the Romans encountered them they were considered a German phenomenon. This was a natural assumption by the Romans given how they saw the world in geographical terms and the extent of their knowledge of history outside their borders. Yet there is no denying their Scandinavian origins (Gotland and Ostergotland are still modern Swedish political regions) and this emphatic migration of identity, if not actual large numbers of Scandinavian people, must be considered in the context of a pattern of such behaviour of which the Vikings monastic raids represent just one continuation, and not even a very important one at that in terms of demographics or political influence.

Basically he suggested to drop the term "Viking" as a general description of a diverse population and a collection of what were really diverse political policies. By doing this, while meantime keeping a focus of analysis on all that we know about the indigenous populations of Scandinavia, we can only end up in all probability with a more accurate understanding of their actual activities, motives and influence.

Trike, by the same token the Danish attitude to and relationship with Christianity becomes something way more complex than your original post seems to suggest. It can for example be demonstrated that Christianity was making cultural inroads into that population's sense of identity and purpose long before the rise of the Franks as a political threat. It might even have made some religious inroads too, complicating the simplistic "pagan" description applied to them by the Roman church who we know encountered extreme opposition to any attempt to gain control in their area, something which has also "skewed" our subsequent analysis of who they were, what they were up to and what motivated them. That is not to say that religion did not play a role in motivating the Danes in their opposition to Frankish attempts to control them. But it is something which also has to be assessed in a much wider - and probably infinitely more important - context of Danish identity and activity at the time. As Aelfwine pointed out Danish territory had already played a huge role in the altering of identity in British culture. We know too that it was playing a similar role within a Scandinavian context and that within that context it was actually importing cultural influences from Christian lands beyond those that even the Franks had encountered. It is a very complicated question that is not served well by concentrating on ecclesiastical and otherwise "Roman world" records, though the historical temptation to do so is great as it is those records we have largely inherited. The Danes, Norwegians and Swedes alas didn't produce such detailed contemporary records themselves (their historical sagas followed, but too late to offset an already established historical bias). Piecing together what actually went on is painstaking and largely reliant on archaeology. A good start would be to drop the term "Viking" (or even "Norsemen" if they are synonymous in your own culture) and attempt to analyse them more as an integral part of general European history predating the monastic raids by almost a millennium and with consequent influence better assessed by thinking way beyond that limited perspective too.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Sun 04 May 2014, 10:55

Just as an addendum, Trike, and in more direct response to your original post; it is important to remember that the initial monastic raids were a policy executed by an almost exclusively Norwegian territory-based people. Furthermore the particular individuals who engaged in this activity appear to have been affiliates in a small network of Norwegian settlements situated on the west coast in an area between modern day Stavanger and Trondheim - the actual extent or closeness of this affiliation is difficult to gauge now. Even by contemporary Norwegian demographics at the time this was a minority (the Østland and Sørland areas maintaining much larger populations), though a minority that eventually punched way above their weight in domestic power struggles thanks largely to the wealth and eventual overseas possessions they accrued through these means. Whatever might have been going on in Denmark (or even the rest of Norway) was largely none of their concern at all at the time, something in my opinion which massively decreases the likelihood that it was part of a tit-for-tat cycle of aggression targeting religious communities based on anything that the Franks might have started against Danish communities.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Sun 04 May 2014, 16:08

This post is much more mundane than those preceding it, but does anyone know if the History Channel's "Vikings" (not the Kirk Douglas/Tony Curtis film) is worth watching?  I believe it is the baby of Michael Hirst who has not always been one to let the facts stand in the way of a (to him) good story (e.g. "The Tudors").  But because he wrote one stinker it does not follow that other works he pens will be stinkers.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Sun 04 May 2014, 18:03

Here's what Hirst himself said;

“I especially had to take liberties with ‘Vikings’ because no one knows for sure what happened in the Dark Ages [my italics] " “We want people to watch it. A historical account of the Vikings would reach hundreds, occasionally thousands, of people. Here we’ve got to reach millions."

He has Vikings living in an autocracy (wrong), ignorant of the fact that the British Isles lay to their west (wrong), being crucified for apostasy by the church (wrong), wearing Germanic clothing (wrong), having a legal system which dishes out death penalties (wrong) and all speaking English (we'll let that one pass). Other than these discrepancies he has female warriors (nearly right) who travelled with men on longboats (wrong), monasteries hiring mercenaries to defend them (wrong, though they were defended eventually by local armies - sometimes even Viking armies - for which they surrendered their political autonomy), a stave church type building as their Uppsala capital (two wrongs there) and all of them, except for one poor unfortunate, with perfect teeth (the high protein meat-based diet in Scandinavia wasn't great for teeth). Apart from these and about a thousand other departures from reality it's a good yarn.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Mon 05 May 2014, 13:32

Worth a watch if one takes it as a "romp" rather than a docu-drama then.  I heard a play on the radio (nothing to do with Vikings - about William Marshall actually) many years ago where somebody said the cook was tucking into some of the pies.  When asked how he knew it was the cook, the character concerned responded that the cook was the only one who had any teeth left and there were teeth marks in the pies.  Maybe the library has the DVDs - though there are ways and means of checking a couple of episodes, though nice (or even nasty) OAPs would not download anything in such a connection from the internet.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Tue 06 May 2014, 11:41

Trike, you might be interested in these;

The first image is the "Jelling Stone" - the first actual depiction of Jesus in Viking art, to be found in Jelling in Denmark. It is part of a group of memorial stones presumedly all erected by Harald Bluetooth upon his official conversion of his Danish kingdom to Christianity. However this is by no means the first Christian symbol to enter Viking culture - the "Golgota", a stylised version of Calgary depicting a hill and three (sometimes two) crosses had already a two hundred year old pedigree of use in the culture. The cross alone was also popular, often with slight modifications in its ratios so that it doubled as Thor's hammer, a potent symbol in Norse religion especially during funerary rites. It is this symbol that makes the dating of early Christian influence difficult - the ambiguousness lends itself to competing theories. However most historians tend to agree that just as with Ireland and the St Patrick scenario, Viking lands were already experiencing encroachment of and conversions to Christianity predating official missionary expeditions.



The second image shows the Jelling Stone as it would have appeared when first carved and painted. We tend to overlook this aspect to early Christian statuary.

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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Tue 06 May 2014, 12:12

Would the Celtic looking surrounds on the Jelling stone be due to Irish influence, Nordmann?  I do however realise "Celts" originally came from much further East than they eventually ended up.

Putting this in an "Edit" rather than a new post - thanks to Nordmann for the clarification about the "Celtic" (allegedly) decoration.


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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Tue 06 May 2014, 12:25

That whole notion of squiggly designs being "Celtic" leads to far more confusion than is warranted. The interlacing patterns which are popularly deemed "typically Celtic" are better explained by tracing artistic conventions backwards to Europe's pre-Celtic millennia when such decoration can be seen to have evolved in several diverse locations around the same time - circa 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. In terms of stone decoration this probably coincides with a general improvement in stone carving ability as metals, alloys and the trade network to disperse the technology first arose.

If I had a penny for every time I have heard the ornately carved portal stone at Newgrange being described erroneously as "Celtic" I'd be - well, I'd probably be three pounds ten richer.

How much Scandinavian artistic conventions borrowed directly or indirectly from Irish, for example, is almost completely irrelevant and misleading in terms of antiquity anyway. It is probably safer to say that both cultures drew heavily from a rich and common tradition which could be traced back to before their respective Gaelic and Nordic post-neolithic populations occupied their areas.

And, as the Irish National Museum keeps screaming to anyone who will listen, though it is still largely ignored by visitors wondering what happened to the "Celtic Treasure" display - "Celtic" does not denote ethnicity, it at best describes only a group of languages.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Tue 06 May 2014, 14:47

Many thanks for all the posts.

"Danes" seems to be a generic term for anyone from Scandinavia at this time. The 3 ships from Herethaland (as per the Anglo Saxon Chronicle..possibly Hordaland,the area round Bergen) which attacked Portland would indeed suggest this first attack was Norwegian.

I still get the feeling that events in North Germany are linked to these early attacks, the dates tie up to well to be just coincidence.

Anyway,

The Oseberg Ship circa 800;

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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Tue 06 May 2014, 15:26

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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Tue 06 May 2014, 16:09

As a counterpoint, Trike, I like this by Guy Halsall, even though he admits he now has some reservations.
It seems to me to set the Norse raiding period in a more contextualised setting, as atrocities in an age of atrocities, but depicted as particularly heinous then, and still today, because they didn't 'play by the rules', and we have largely inherited those 'rules'.
http://600transformer.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/playing-by-whose-rules-further-look-at.html
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Tue 06 May 2014, 20:54

Thanks for the link, Trike. Even though the author appears to support the traditional view of the Vikings as a "bolt from the blue" when they suddenly "descended on" England she also actually unwittingly supports my previous point about interaction between Scandinavia and Britain preceding the implementation of monastic raids as a military strategy by western Norwegians in the late 8th century. In the extract from the ASC with which she chooses to illustrate her point regarding the apparent suddenness and unexpectedness of the 787 raid the ancient ASC author of the piece has actually betrayed a familiarity with these raiders' origins which belies this traditional take on events. They have not come from nowhere according to him, not even from Norway, but from a specific place called Hørthaland. This is modern Hordoland, an area which includes the Bergen Peninsula and in which several archaeological excavations have revealed small trading settlements predating the Viking era as understood today. The finds indicate extensive trading with equivalent British ports in this period (from the late Iron Age up to Viking times) - both pottery and cassiterite ore confirming this particular long-standing trading relationship. That their violent response when challenged by the reeve in 787 was unexpected as reported in the ASC seems a fact, but the surprise apparently resided more in the sudden change of tactic - from trading to violent pillage - rather than in their anonymity. The raiding might have come "out of the blue" but not the raiders.

I would also disagree with the notion that Norwegian and Dane were interchangeable terms, even to the most ignorant Saxon, and especially in those areas which traditionally had been included in the trading loop of which both these Viking peoples were also a part. In later centuries, after the primarily Danish tactic of land acquisition had begun to carve swathes out of Saxon territory and both the Norwegian and Danish based Vikings were competing for overlordship in these areas then "Dane" might well have become a catch-all term in England (viz. "Danelaw" and "Danegeld" even when both were controlled occasionally by Norwegian potentates). But this confusion of identity is rarely matched in other languages by people who also found themselves the unwilling target of Viking territorial expansionism, profiteering raids, slave trading, colonisation etc. Even in Ireland, whose experience at the hands of the Vikings closely mirrored the British in nature and timescale, there was a most definite distinction between the "Dubh-ghaill" and the "Fionn-ghaill", even where both parties exercised their respective activities in close quarters. One legacy of this in Dublin, for example, is the townland of Baldoyle (Baile Dubh Ghaill - the town of the dark-haired strangers) which lies in the general area of Fingal (Tír Fionn Ghaill - the land of the fair-haired strangers). Danes and Norwegians could be told apart from each other in general terms and duly were from the offset, this general distinction remaining and often cited throughout their long and frequently combative tenure of the area.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Wed 07 May 2014, 12:35

@ferval wrote:
As a counterpoint, Trike, I like this by Guy Halsall, even though he admits he now has some reservations.
It seems to me to set the Norse raiding period in a more contextualised setting, as atrocities in an age of atrocities, but depicted as particularly heinous then, and still today, because they didn't 'play by the rules', and we have largely inherited those 'rules'.
 
Ferv,

The Forces of Christendom ( supposedly the good guys  ) had no trouble committing massacres, as at Verden.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Wed 07 May 2014, 12:42

Nordmann,

I posted that particular link because it contains writings of Ibn Falid, who observed Vikings on the Volga.

Another Islamic observer, Ibn Rusta, has more positive things to say about the Vikings he observed;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Rusta
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Wed 07 May 2014, 12:57

@nordmann wrote:
They have not come from nowhere according to him, not even from Norway, but from a specific place called Hørthaland. This is modern Hordoland, an area which includes the Bergen Peninsula and in which several archaeological excavations have revealed small trading settlements predating the Viking era as understood today. The finds indicate extensive trading with equivalent British ports in this period (from the late Iron Age up to Viking times) - both pottery and cassiterite ore confirming this particular long-standing trading relationship. That their violent response when challenged by the reeve in 787 was unexpected as reported in the ASC seems a fact, but the surprise apparently resided more in the sudden change of tactic - from trading to violent pillage - rather than in their anonymity. The raiding might have come "out of the blue" but not the raiders.


Right. The Norse would already be familiar with the geography of the British Isles, and be possessed of ship building and navigation skills. That would explain their rapid appearance on the west coast.

......................................................................................

Pushing the limits of the known world. The Norse settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland;

http://www.lanseauxmeadowsnewfoundland.com/
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Wed 07 May 2014, 13:13

Sorry to rain on your parade, chaps, but I happen to know that Noggin the Nog went to the land of the Nooks in search of a bride.......
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jisqle37uWI
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Wed 07 May 2014, 13:16

@nordmann wrote:
Furthermore the particular individuals who engaged in this activity appear to have been affiliates in a small network of Norwegian settlements situated on the west coast in an area between modern day Stavanger and Trondheim - the actual extent or closeness of this affiliation is difficult to gauge now.
 

Some interesting finds in Rogaland from the pre-Viking period.

http://sciencenordic.com/pre-viking-hotspot-norwegian-coast
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Wed 07 May 2014, 13:36

@LadyinRetirement wrote:
Sorry to rain on your parade, chaps, but I happen to know that Noggin the Nog went to the land of the Nooks in search of a bride.......
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jisqle37uWI

The Noggin the Nog model corresponds closely to the Hirst model of Viking activity except of course in those areas in which it is closer to the truth.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Wed 07 May 2014, 13:47

@nordmann wrote:
@LadyinRetirement wrote:
Sorry to rain on your parade, chaps, but I happen to know that Noggin the Nog went to the land of the Nooks in search of a bride.......
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jisqle37uWI

The Noggin the Nog model corresponds closely to the Hirst model of Viking activity except of course in those areas in which it is closer to the truth.
You've got me all disappointed now, Nordmann.  What, no ice-dragons?

Sensible post next time I promise (fingers crossed).

Addendum on 08.05.'14 to avoid creating new post unnecessarily.  Bearing in mind what Nordmann said about so-called "celtic" patterns not relating to an ethnic group, I searched "Viking patterns" on YouTube and came across someone drawing a "viking" pattern freehand.  It was not unlike an Aran design in some respects.  I've heard that "Jersey" or "ganzie" (Guernsey) knitting patterns were designed to show where a seafarer came from if he were unfortunately drowned. But I seem to find out these days that so many things I have taken as fact were myth that I'm not sure anymore of the veracity of this statement. If it's true I wondered if anybody knew whether certain patterns were intended to show the wearer's origin in places other than the Channel Islands.


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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Wed 07 May 2014, 13:54

Trike wrote:
Right. The Norse would already be familiar with the geography of the British Isles, and be possessed of ship building and navigation skills. That would explain their rapid appearance on the west coast.

Not necessarily all "the Norse" would - and that is the crux of the historian Naess's point in my original post here. The inhabitants of the Norwegian western territories, for example, would have known the sea routes around northern Britain like the back of their hand, and probably round its southern extremes too if the archaeological evidence of trading suggests what it appears to suggest. The Danish settlements, even those involved in trading, appear to have had much less interaction, at least directly, with Britain despite their closer geographical proximity, even during the same time period - the exception being some close trading links with specific points in Kent, Essex and East Anglia.

This would suggest two distinct trade networks - one in which portions of Wessex and East Anglia participated as part of a "southern axis" set of trade routes more or less inherited from Roman occupation times and (as we now know) predating even Roman involvement. North of this area however, and in British/Irish terms incorporating pretty much every other trading settlement accessible by sea, was a huge alternative network in which western Norwegians were among the big players. In terms of comparative GNP it may have been less wealthy than its southern, Euro-centric counterpart, but in terms of geographical size and naval investment required to sustain it, it was immeasurably bigger. It was probably only a matter of time before the wealth and knowledge acquired by some of its participants would prompt them to branch out into more lucrative ventures. The monastic raids, in terms of their initial pattern, their timing and their yield-for-effort ratio, fit that model very well indeed and indicate that it just happened to be the Norwegian part of the network that broke commercial ranks first - probably because their culture and politics were less centrified than the rest of the participants (easier to raise a marauding army on a "keep what you get" profit incentive) and their seamanship at that stage second to none.

Whatever you might wish to call their new business model however, it certainly wasn't "viking" (trading from port to port) anymore. "Viking" was what they had been doing - now they were raiding and at a scale that was almost unstoppable.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Thu 08 May 2014, 10:17

It has been suggested that the Viking exploration and colonisation in the North Atlantic was linked to the Medieval Warm Period, the abandonment of the Greenland colony being the result of deteriorating weather conditions.

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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Thu 08 May 2014, 12:53

The gradual improvement in climate in the northern hemisphere leading up to this period is also cited as a possible reason for why the Vikings rather abruptly started seeking their fortune outside of their homelands. As crop yields improved in the limited arable areas of Norway and Sweden there is reckoned to have been a resultant population boom, improvement in life expectancy and a consequent pressure on a society that just wasn't geared to meet the demands of so many extra people expecting to live and make a living within the resources available. While a popular theory it is not conclusively verified by archaeology however so is generally listed only as one possibility by responsible historians. One does nevertheless hear it often quoted as fact.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Thu 08 May 2014, 13:12

LiR wrote:
I've heard that "Jersey" or "ganzie" (Guernsey) knitting patterns were designed to show where a seafarer came from if he were unfortunately drowned. But I seem to find out these days that so many things I have taken as fact were myth that I'm not sure anymore of the veracity of this statement. If it's true I wondered if anybody knew whether certain patterns were intended to show the wearer's origin in places other than the Channel Islands.

It is certainly true on the Aran Islands off the Irish west coast where individual patterns were associated with certain families and were often zealously guarded as family secrets by successive generations of the families' knitters. On Inis Mór one can visit a museum of Aran Sweater patterns outlining which belonged to which sect or family and can even see old newspaper reports verifying that they were indeed used as a means of identifying corpses fished out of the water.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Thu 08 May 2014, 16:09

The British Museum is holding a Viking exhibition at the moment;

http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/vikings.aspx
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Thu 08 May 2014, 23:21

@nordmann wrote:
The inhabitants of the Norwegian western territories, for example, would have known the sea routes around northern Britain like the back of their hand, and probably round its southern extremes too if the archaeological evidence of trading suggests what it appears to suggest.

Yes - this is something which is quite often overlooked. The distance between Bergen and Oslo as the crow flies is 200 miles. That's as the crow flies. The mountainous terrain, however, meant such a journey (until the arrival of the railways) would have nearly always been taken by sea. That entails a long voyage around the southern tip of Norway of about 450 miles. In other words it would have been quicker for a Norwegian viking in Bergen to sail to Aberdeen (only 350 miles away) than it would have been to sail from Bergen to Oslo.

Quote :
The Danish settlements, even those involved in trading, appear to have had much less interaction, at least directly, with Britain despite their closer geographical proximity, even during the same time period - the exception being some close trading links with specific points in Kent, Essex and East Anglia.

Interestingly - back in 2007 Oxford University published Faces of Britain, a study which attempted to draw a genetic map of the country. There was also an accompanying Channel 4 television series. In it geneticist Walter Bodmer and presenter Neil Oliver suggested that there was a clear genetic distinction between the Norwegians and the Danes but that 'the Danish vikings were genetically identical to the Anglo-Saxons'.

From what I remember the program itself contained quite a few cliched and melodramatic interpretations of history based on sparse scientific evidence. The raw data, however, was nonetheless food for thought.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Fri 09 May 2014, 04:23

New DNA research on the skeletons of two mice found in sand dunes as far south as Madeira suggest that the Vikings were there before the Portuguese. Radiocarbon tests revealed that the mice lived from 903 -1036AD and DNA tests have shown that the mice have genetic similarities to house mice in Scandanavia and northern Germany, but no similarities to those in Portugal. 

http://www.medievalists.net/2014/05/07/vikings-reach-madeira/
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Fri 09 May 2014, 13:16

@Islanddawn wrote:
New DNA research on the skeletons of two mice found in sand dunes as far south as Madeira suggest that the Vikings were there before the Portuguese. Radiocarbon tests revealed that the mice lived from 903 -1036AD and DNA tests have shown that the mice have genetic similarities to house mice in Scandanavia and northern Germany, but no similarities to those in Portugal. 

http://www.medievalists.net/2014/05/07/vikings-reach-madeira/

 Excellent, ID. First time I've heard of the Vikings in Madiera.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Fri 09 May 2014, 13:22

Sir Charles Oman's Art of War in the Middle Ages which prompted the OP.

https://archive.org/stream/historyofartofwa00omanuoft#page/88/mode/2up


(1898 edition so may be a bit out of date)
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Fri 09 May 2014, 14:05

When you see Beowulf's brother featuring as a real player in the very first sentence of a "history" of animosity between Germans and Danes then you know you're in the middle of an out-of-date theory  Smile 
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Sun 18 May 2014, 13:54

Not sure if this should go in the Pong thread or here, but as this one came up first and I'm feeling lazy today... Smile 

Anyone want to smell like a Norseman? Well now you can

Mead, gore, sweat, animal meat, seawater and smoke were the typical odours of a 10th century warrior.
And now you can smell just like that, thanks to Norse Power – a deodorant for men launched by Visit York today.

And here’s what you get when you inhale Norse Power…

  • Mead (imbibed generously by Viking warriors after a hard day’s raiding)
  • Blood and gore (spilled on the battlefields as the marauding Vikings conquered all in their path)
  • Smoke (from the settlements razed by Vikings during raids)
  • Seawater (From the journey by longship to British shores)
  • Mud (Vikings often travelled by foot over the sodden terrain)
  • Human sweat (which would have been deep soaked into a warrior’s clothes after a hard day’s raiding)
  • Animal meat, fruits and nuts (the essential ingredients of a hearty Viking feast)
  • Fresh pine (from traversing the many forests of Britain in search of places to conquer)


Mmmmm, lovely.

http://www.yorkmix.com/business/want-to-smell-like-a-viking-visit-york-release-norse-deodorant/
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Mon 19 May 2014, 07:57

Recreating authentic smells is a great way of evoking the reality of historical milieux in exhibitions like the one in York though it would be a shame if this deoderant gimmick is a symptom of the Jorvik administrators being derailed from their excellent work since 2010 in returning the exhibition to a proper emphasis on the archaeological aspects to what they are inviting the public to experience. Its previous incarnation had begun to lean a little too far in the direction of "dumbed down" info and special effects.

This promo was made in 2009 and shows the roots of the Jorvik exhibition in the Coppergate dig of 1984.



Mention of Coppergate always makes me infinitely sad - in Dublin at exactly the same time a much larger and archaeologically richer equivalent at Wood Quay was in the process of being bulldozed into oblivion to make way for (irony of ironies) Dublin Corporation's new headquarters.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Thu 22 May 2014, 04:35

Comparing monastic accounts of Viking raids in Europe and Britain with modern archaeological evidence (or lack of), this article looks at how destructive the Vikings were. It appears that what was sometimes said to have happened and what actually occurred can differ enormously.

Overall, activity appears to be more violent, extreme, and shocking to the annalists. Viking raiders were aiming for shock value, intimidation, and fright. Annalists were from monastic communities, isolated, and undefended. The response to these raids was, understandably, hysteria in the face of a hostile new invasion.

http://www.medievalists.net/2014/05/21/destructive-vikings/
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Thu 22 May 2014, 10:20

This is a very valid point and to me represents simply one huge caveat when analysing "Viking" behaviour during this period corresponding to their first concerted raids up to a more systematic and organised "protection racket" policy adopted by later invaders. The evolution in tactics and strategies "Vikings" exhibited says much to me of quite disparate motives on the part of the raiders which in turn calls into question the whole notion of these communities being given the generic label "Viking" at all.

I have said earlier that it is important to distinguish between those early raids largely undertaken by isolated western Norwegian communities and those undertaken by Danish Scandinavians shortly afterwards. While nominally similar and generally lumped together as identical by the monastic annalists who recorded them at the time or slightly later there is also ample data from both the sagas and archaeology to alert the modern researcher to the fact that these two "Viking" homelands had evolved into quite different entities with different military capabilities, societies, power structures and - one must assume - motives for unleashing havoc on their European neighbours. Swedish "Vikings" are almost a whole other set again than the other two - as is evidenced not only by their completely different geographical field of interest but in how they expanded into that territory and what they actually did both militarily and politically en route.

We are hamstrung by our relative ignorance of what was actually happening in the Scandinavian lands at the time of this great expansion - the sagas being unreliable and written much later. However the same sagas still provide a valuable clue to how the monastic annalists might be shown to be equally unreliable in their assessment of how generic these invaders actually were, and indeed how important these raids were to the local communities from which the raiders themselves had set out. In the sagas there is much about dynastic and other power struggles, very much about territorial and cultural clashes between various Scandinavian communities, and until the systematic foreign invasion approach devised and executed largely by a well organised Danish power base, surprisingly little or nothing about the "infamous" surprise raids on monasteries in Frisia, France, Britain, Ireland and elsewhere that wreaked such apparent havoc.

It is a question of context, I think, and until a proper context can be established there is a huge danger that it can never be, at least as long as we adopt a simplistic interpretation of these people as having been so generically uniform they can all be labelled "Vikings". Later centuries were to see the Danes and Western Norwegians eventually become part of a single dynastic struggle for overall power. The Swedes were to remain largely aloof from this struggle. And between all three there were several areas where interests and cultures overlapped. But a consolidation of interests, methods and motives, largely limited to western Scandinavia, was not to take place until long after territories such as France, Britain and Ireland had already been subjected to what might be called a "second phase" of invasion involving colonisation and land acquisition by force. To understand the transition to this phase it actually helps to drop the notion of "Viking" altogether and start one's analysis with the assumption that it was the disparity rather than the similarity between these diverse communities which ultimately gave rise to this very important event in historical terms.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Sat 31 May 2014, 10:50

A skeleton discovered on an archaeological dig in East Lothian, southeast Scotland may be that of Olaf Guthfrithsson – an Irish Viking who was the King of Dublin and Northumbria from 934 to 941 – or a member of his entourage.
The hypothesis – which will be published next year by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in a book funded by Historic Scotland. The remains, which were excavated by AOC Archaeology Group at Auldhame in East Lothian in 2005, are those of a young adult male who was buried with a number of items indicating his high rank. These include a belt similar to others from Viking Age Ireland.

Remains of a skull thought to be that of King Olaf Guthfrithsson. Image: Historic Scotland
10th century dynasty
This artefact signals that the body was that of a man who may have spent time in the household of the kings of the Uí Ímar dynasty which dominated both sides of the Irish Sea from about 917 until at least the middle of the 10th century.
Olaf Guthfrithsson sacked Auldhame and nearby Tyninghame – both part of a complex of East Lothian churches dedicated to the eighth-century Saint Balthere – shortly before his death in 941, and the proximity of the burial to the site of the conflict along with the high-status items found with the body, and the age of the skeleton, has led archaeologists and historians to speculate that it may be that of the young Irish king or one of his followers.
In the absence of known living descendants, DNA analysis cannot be carried out to confirm the identity of the body, leaving archaeologists and historians to rely on circumstantial evidence to reach their hypothesis.
Olaf Guthfrithsson was a member of the Uí Ímar dynasty. In 937 he defeated his Norse rivals in Limerick, and pursued his family claim to the throne of York. He married the daughter of King Constantine II of Scotland and allied himself with Owen I of Strathclyde.

http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2014/skeleton-may-be-10th-century-viking-king-olaf-guthfrithsson
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Sun 01 Jun 2014, 11:43

Olaf Guthfrithsson is one of those classic examples from the period of the conundrum "when was a Viking not a Viking?" discussed above. From an English perspective, and remember that it was in England that the generic term "Viking" was first applied and became a standard, he was of course just that. His participation in Brunanburh (where he was defeated by Æthelstan) and his subsequent seizure of York where he was declared a king cements him into that perspective and definition in English eyes.

However in Ireland, and by extension Scotland, his perceived ethnicity is by no means so simple, and neither was it at the time either. As king in Dublin earlier he had adopted a political stance established by his immediate predecessors of consolidating that position with an almost absolute reference to the Gaelic culture into which the Scandinavians had insinuated their considerable presence. As such he became Amhlaibh Mac Gofraidh and the style of his reign - including patronisation of the Gaelic church in his jurisdiction (the glib term "pagan" applied to these Hiberno-Scandinavians is a very difficult one to prosecute historically) - was quite intentionally gauged to enhance his credibility and stature as a Gaelic Rí (king) and even one with aspirations to Ard Rí (high king) if this possibility ever arose. He even worked to this end by opposing and ultimately defeating the Limerick-based Norse who were also well into a programme of Gaelicisation themselves and who he knew therefore probably posed the biggest threat to this ambition.

His alliance through marriage with the Gaelic Scottish and his immersion in the territorial ambitions associated with that base of power was itself one that had been repeated so often in the past by Irish Gaelic would-be potentates and it should be remembered that his "sacking" of the East Lothian district was directly associated with these Gaelic expansionist aims, even if the ecclesiastical annalists still predictably referred to the event as a "Viking" raid.

This is not to say that Olaf/Amhlaibh saw himself as a "Gaelic" chieftain to the extent that he did not acknowledge his Norse roots or those political ambitions within the islands that were being controlled and orchestrated from within Danish and Norwegian territory by individuals whose own definition of wealth and power resided very much in how much of each could be established within that territory, British and Irish acquisitions being primarily of secondary role in that overall pursuit of dominion. It would be these with whom Olav/Amhlaibh would have ultimately had to compete and defeat if he should establish himself as a true "Norse" regent. If he had ambitions in that direction his early demise was to leave that question historically for ever open, but the coins minted in York when he was king, their legend in Old Norse rather than Latin (Latin by then being favoured by his immediate predecessors there), indicate a man with one eye on his political ambitions in that quarter too. However this almost dual-identity, adopted or at least vigorously encouraged by Olaf/Amhlaibh, does serve to illustrate how woefully inadequate the simplistic term "Viking" is when analysing the events of the period, the motives of these people and ultimately how they were regarded by people who did not necessarily subscribe to the church propaganda which became the most comprehensive historical record of the time.

When Olaf/Amhlaibh died he was succeeded as king of Northumbra by Amhlaibh Cuarán (aka Olaf Sigtrygsson), the vernacular use of his Gaelic name as well as his Norse (a usage which would have had little import in a Northumbrian context) indicating a man who, like his predecessor, had one eye on the Gaelic centre of power and its potential for advancing his own ambitions, if not even that both men also saw themselves as "partly Gaelic", if only in the sense that the roots of their power lay in that milieu, a fact it would be wise to acknowledge and promote if and when their grander ambitions ever should come a cropper.

A similar blurring of ethnicity occurred in Normandy. In English history the traditional records however showed no qualms about ascribing the hybrid ethnicity of "Norman" to these ex-"Vikings" - thanks largely to the fact that those doing the recording were forced to reflect their conquerors' own view of themselves. However before such compunction occurred, and when the church set the tone and content of the annals, this nicety was almost completely ignored in favour of the use of "Viking" or "Norse" to describe people long established in and assimilated with broader cultures with which they had essentially fused. As such their political careers and aims inevitably matched at least partly those of the local potentates who they had supplanted or with whom they had become inextricably interwoven. It is in discussing these people and the events they precipitated that the term "Viking" just doesn't really cut it.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Fri 14 Nov 2014, 15:01

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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Tue 29 Sep 2015, 14:36

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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Mon 04 Apr 2016, 09:59

This will feature in a BBC programme tonight;

Point Rosee
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Mon 04 Apr 2016, 10:25

I read the script already.

The BBC thingy is a Snow job, not history. Dan the History Man again, breathlessly delivering supposition as fact and apparently unaware of the Goddard Site (well, the coin was found in 1957, which to Dan is already ancient history itself). The Baffin Island rope, brass and glass conjecture from 1999 also disappears from his commentary.

From the extremity of Baffin to that of Labrador is a distance of 1600km and slight corroboratory data has been retrieved from points along that trajectory. The sagas infer that Vinland was discovered and evaluated over two generations (and ultimately abandoned as a feasible project). Whatever new research will reveal by way of Norse presence in the region it will not be evidence of even a partial colonisation, but more likely that of fact-finding, 12th century style, as the sagas also describe.

Dan's invitation to compare the "Vikings" arriving in Newfoundland with their "obviously" berserk behaviour at Lindisfarne etc makes for yet another wasted opportunity to actually evaluate the possibilities hinted at by archaeological research thus far when Snow is given any job by his BBC employers.
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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Mon 04 Apr 2016, 11:07

Dan Snow - I can't watch anything with him so I had already decided that this was one to miss.

What's with all the breathless delivery from so many presenters? Alice Roberts is another, she had a decent programme about Irish treasures last week where in conversation she spoke quite normally but as soon as she went into voice-over mode, the awed tones and portentous delivery reappeared.

it's on youtube at the minute but I expect it will soon be taken down.

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PostSubject: Re: The Norsemen   Wed 03 Aug 2016, 14:34

Boat burial(s) on an Estonian island dated to between 700 and 750AD.

Salme I & II
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