Who Were the Vikings?

Viking battle reconstruction for Jorvik viking festival

Vikings were sea-borne Scandinavians.  Some carried out raids in the early years of the Viking age.  Later they undertook systematic campaigns of conquest with well-trained armies.

But for all their reputation as fearsome warriors, many more Vikings explored, traded and settled peacefully in other parts of Europe.  After the initial invasion there is little evidence of York being a warrior community - no warrior graves have been found in the city and very little weaponry.

Fishermen and farmers, vikings were a self-sufficient people who could take full advantage of what nature provided. Vikings fashioned intricate tools and were skilled craftsmen.

So why did the Vikings undertake hazardous sea journeys in longships to Britain and other parts of Europe? It may have been that a population increase allowed more men to leave their farms and travel further afield.  These expeditions coincided with rapid and significant improvements in boat building.

Another reason was to amass wealth. Many towns boasted impressive assets, from farming produce and raw materials to precious church possessions like lavishly-decorated manuscripts. That made them lucrative targets.

Later many Vikings chose to settle in these lands, rather than return home with their loot.  This is what happened in and around York.

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