Viking Age Life

Viking Life

At home in Scandinavia, the Vikings lived in small settlements of farmers and traders. Most were farmers that grew crops, raised farm animals, fished, and hunted. The main crops farmed were barley, rye, oats, peas, beans, and cabbage. They also had cattle, pigs, sheep, geese, chickens, and goats which were used for meat, milk, eggs, wool, and leather. Every part of them was used, with no waste. A large number of animals were slaughtered before winter and the meat preserved by salting or smoking. This was to prevent them from eating valuable stored food during the winter months.

The landscape of Scandinavia is rather varied. Norway is more mountainous, while Sweden is flatter with farmland and forests, and Denmark is doted with hundreds of small islands.

Most Vikings lived in longhouses. These large, one roomed houses were made of wood and had an earth floor. They were rectangular in shape, with the length being much longer than the width. A large example would be 50 meters long by 5 meters wide. Members of the immediate family and often other relatives would live here. The living quarters of the house had a hearth in the middle to provide heat, light, and cooking facilities. There was no chimney and the smoke escaped through a hole in the roof. The walls would be lined with broad benches that doubled as beds, and there would also be a table and a few stools and chests.
Longhouse from Norstead Viking Farm

Viking Longhouse pictures from Glomesdal Viking Age Reenactment Group

Women were very important in Viking life. Since the men were often gone for long periods of time the women ran the home. The wife would raise the children, look after the farm, conduct family business affairs, and tend domestic chores.

For entertainment the Vikings liked to play games. They played a board game called hneftafl which was a form of checkers. During the summer months they played outdoor ball games, and also challenged each other to wrestling and swimming matches. Story telling was another favorite form of entertainment. Storytellers were called Skalds, and they would recount great tales of adventures, heros, and gods. Skalds were always in demand for feasts and at the courts of chieftains.

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