The Viking Age
The Viking Age covers the period from approximately AD 800 to AD 1050.
The start of this era is often associated with the first recorded Viking attack in AD 793 on the monastery of Lindisfarne, an island off the northeast coast of England. The end of the era is defined by a significant reduction in Viking raids, and in Norway by the Christianisation and unification of the country.
Viking seafaring is the characteristic hallmark of the period. The voyages of the Scandinavians involved different activities, from pillaging and actual warfare to trade and settlement. The Viking ship was one of the main prerequisites for the Viking expeditions. These journeys were made over huge distances – to Newfoundland and Greenland, over large stretches of Europe and as far as the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
Our knowledge of the Viking Age is derived particularly from archaeological sources, but written sources exist as well as sources originating from historical linguistics such as place names. More than 6,000 grave finds from the Viking Age have been identified in Norway alone. Well-preserved graves such as the ship burials of Oseberg and Gokstad provide detailed insight into the everyday life of the time and the concepts of death.
Although Viking society was based on agriculture, the first towns – such as Kaupang in Skiringssal – were established in Scandinavia early in the Viking Age. Important cultural and social changes took place during this era with the transition from paganism to Christianity and with the unification of a number of small chiefdoms into the Kingdom of Norway.