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Origins of the Vikings

written by: Karen Curley • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 1/5/2012

Most people imagine the Vikings as barbaric pilferers who traveled by sea in their longboats looting and killing as they went. Although Viking warriors did raid and pilfer, these Norsemen also brought their families with them to settle in other countries between 700 AD and 1100 AD.

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    Where Did the Vikings Come from?

    The Vikings came from the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Denmark and Sweden. They made their living as farmers, fishermen, and trappers depending upon which area of Scandinavia they lived and environmental conditions. The time between 800 AD and 1050 AD is known as the Age of the Vikings. DuriViking Expansion ng this time, the Vikings lived in similar houses and used the same types of tools to survive. The Vikings lived a self-sufficient lifestyle, growing their own food and taking advantage of what nature provided.

    Eventually, many Vikings left their Scandinavian homeland to settle in England, Scotland, Ireland and other parts of the world where they continued their Scandinavian lifestyle.

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    Vikings Raid Britain

    Viking Longship The Vikings originally traveled to Britain in 787 AD in three longships and landed in the southern part of the country. This raid was the start of a long dispute between the Vikings and the English. The English considered the Vikings to be barbaric invaders and referred to them as "Danes". The Vikings attacked the Lindisfarne Monastery in 793 AD in Britain's Northumbria. Attacking the monastery was an easy task for the Vikings because the Christian monks were unarmed. Monasteries and Christian churches were treasure troves of gold, artifacts, lavish manuscripts, Bibles, precious gems and jewelry, livestock, food, farming tools, and clothing. Since the Vikings worshipped pagan gods, they did not hesitate to attack the Christians.

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    British Viking Settlements

    The Vikings brought their families to Scotland and England for 500 years to become farmers because the weather conditions and soil was much better in Europe than in Scandinavia. Most Vikings settled and ruled in the north of Scotland and in the eastern parts of England. The Vikings also established the city of Dublin in Ireland, ruled the Shetland and Orkney Isles, The Isle of Man, Wales, and the Hebrides Islands. The Viking settlements in northern England were known as the Danelaw. The Danish king, Cnut, along with his sons ruled England from 1016 to 1042.

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    Other Viking Settlements

    The Vikings also sailed to North America around 1000 AD. They established a settlement in Canada but did not stay long.

    The VikinViking Greenland Settlements g settlement in France became known as Normandy or "Land of the Northmen". The Vikings continued to travel to southern Spain and the Mediterranean Sea to Russia. They traded as far as Turkey.

    The Vikings also established colonies in Greenland and Iceland. They soon abandoned Greenland due to the harsh climate and environment and the settlers also faced many hardships in Iceland.

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    References

    BBC: Who Were the Vikings www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/vikings

    Jorvik Viking Center: Where Did They Come From www.jorvik-viking-centre.co.uk/the-vikings/32-/

    Image References:

    Max Naylor: Viking Expansion creativecommons.org

    Johan Berg/Innovation Norway: creativecommons.org

    Greenland Settlements http://www.archaeology.org/image.php?page=online/features/greenland/jpegs/map.jpeg