vikings A new perspective
West a nd ire
Using booty to acquire land
What did they dowith all that silver? The answer is not the obvious and expected one. David Griffiths, in his newly published book, Vikings of the Irish Sea, offers a serious challenge to the notion of Vikings as pillagers and nothing else, by examining the evidence for the time when pillaging turned to settlement. His research suggests that while earlier Viking warriors might have returned home laden with booty to be displayed as evidence of heroic deeds, the 10th century saw a shift towards using wealth to secure power in new lands, sometimes by outright conquest, but equally often by threat, treaty, agreement or purchase.
The Viking ‘land-grab’ phase in Britain can be traced historically to the winter of AD 850-851, when, for the first time, Viking armies gathered to establish a winter camp on the Isle of Thanet, in Kent. From that time on, instead of returning home, Vikings negotiated peace terms with a reluctant host in whose territory they established a winter camp. Excavations at Repton, the winter camp of AD 873-874, and the nearby Viking barrow cemetery of Heath Wood, Ingleby, suggest that the winter pauses in fighting were used as opportunities to bury the dead, in a variety of ways suggesting a mixture of pagan and Christian
Above This reconstruction of Chester from the South-West in the 10th century is based on recent excavation work, which suggests that occupation in the Anglo-Saxon and Viking period took place amidst swathes of derelict Roman masonry.
right Along the Wirral peninsula, many placenames end in ‘by’, derived from the Old Norse (ON) word býr, for farmstead or settlement: Kirby, for example, from ON kirkjubýr, means a settlement with a church.
current archaeology | www.archaeology.co.uk traditions. In 876, the Vikings established themselves as a permanent presence in York. Five years later, in 878-879, Cirencester witnessed the last of the winter camps. That spring, the Chronicle says, the ‘great heathen army’ dispersed, with some heading for Normandy, and some for the kingdoms of Northumbria and East Anglia,
August 2010 |