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Vikings

When people speak of Vikings, they are typically referring to the Germanic people who sailed, raided and founded settlements for three centuries along coasts and rivers. These locations included mainland Europe, Ireland, Great Britain, Normandy, Orkney, Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland¹.

The Vikings reached as far south as North Africa and as far east as Russia and Constantinople as looters, traders and mercenaries. The Vikings who operated under the famous Leif Ericson reached North America with expeditions to present-day Canadian Labrador, Maine and Massachusetts¹.

Before the Viking Age began, Scandinavians lived in small, feudal communities. By the time the Viking Age had started, Scandinavians had spent centuries becoming the best shipbuilders in the world. Rapid population growth and significant decreases in available farming land are the two large factors in pushing the Vikings out of Scandinavia.

Vikings had some of the most sophisticated naval technology and skill sets to be found in the world in the Middle Ages. They generally rode two classes of ships depending on the purpose of their voyage. They had quick and nimble longships for exploration and warfare and the large knarrs to transport cargo.

Viking voyages decreased and eventually ended with the anarchic conditions of that led to introduction of Christianity to Scandinavia in late 10th and 11th centuries and the emergence of the three great Scandinavian kingdoms¹. Much of Europe started catching up to the vikings in metal work and maritime technology towards the end of the Viking age. This increased their defenses and contributed to the decline of Vikings.

 

1. Vikings. The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Vikings.aspx#2