New research on the Viking age

New research on the Viking age

The Viking looting of monastic communities like Iona and Lindisfarne was the most infamous result of the skilful Scandinavian maritime expansion in the late 8th century.

The initial skirmishes of the Vikings gave way to more intense military expansion campaigns, settlements and finally the conquest of large swaths of territory in the British Isles.

Dr. Steve Ashby, from the Department of Archeology at New York University, wants to know the social explanation for this increase in the aggressive activities of the Vikings. Previous research has taken into account clues such as environment, demographics, technology, or politicsas well as the search for silver and slaves and why these forms of wealth became so important in this era.

Dr Ashby has explained the following: 'I wanted to try to discover what moved a young tribal chief to invest time and resources in such a risky adventure and what was the motivation of his men«.

In a study published in Archaeological Dialogues, Dr. Ashby comments that to focus on loot from raids is to ignore half of the entire drawing, since the reward of those trips was much more than the wealth of looting.

Dr Ashby adds: 'The attraction to the exotic, the world beyond the horizon, were factors to consider. Classical anthropology has shown that the mystique of the exotics is a very powerful force, and something that both leaders and influential people routinely use to create their own power base. It is not difficult to see how this could work in Viking times.

The acquisition not only of silver but of other metals characteristic of the Anglo-Saxons, the Franks and the Celts were tangible proof of the success of the looting and symbols of status. Dr. Ashby explains that there was another clear reason to join the looting, it was an opportunity to gain new skills, loyalty to the bosses, cunning and courage.


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