The Viking age has long been associated with unbridled piracy,
when freebooters swarmed out of the northlands in their longships to
burn and pillage their way across civilized Europe. Modern scholarship
provides evidence this is a gross simplification, and that during this
period much progress was achieved in terms of Scandinavian art and
craftsmanship, marine technology, exploration, and the development of
commerce. It seems the Vikings did as much trading as they did
raiding.

The title "Viking" encompasses a wide designation of Nordic
people; Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians, who lived during a period of
brisk Scandinavian expansion in the middle ages, from approximately

800 to 1100 AD. This name may be derived from the old Norse vik(bay or
creek). These people came from what is now Denmark, Sweden, and

Norway, and had a self-sustaining, agricultural society, where farming
and cattle breeding were supplemented by hunting, fishing, the
extraction of iron and the quarrying of rock to make whetstones and
cooking utensils; some goods, however, had to be traded; salt, for
instance, which is a necessity for man and cattle alike, is an
everyday item and thus would not have been imported from a greater
distance than necessary, while luxury items could be brought in from
farther south in Europe. Their chief export products were, iron,
whetstones, and soapstone cooking pots, these were an essential
contribution to a trade growth in the Viking age.

The contemporary references we have about the Vikings stem
mainly from sources in western Europe who had bitter experiences with
the invaders, so we're most likely presented with the worst side of
the Vikings. Archaeological excavations have shown evidence of
homesteads, farms, and marketplaces, where discarded or lost articles
tell of a common everyday life. As the Viking period progressed,
society changed; leading Chieftain families accumulated sufficient
land and power to form the basis for kingdoms, and the first towns
were founded.

These market places and towns were based on craftsmanship and
trade. Even though the town dwelling Vikings kept cattle, farmed, and
fished to meet their household needs, the towns probably depended on
agricultural supplies from outlying areas. They also unfortunately did
not pay as much attention to renovation and waste disposal as they did
to town planning, as evidenced by the thick layers of waste around
settlements. In contemporary times the stench must have been
nauseating.

Trade, however, was still plentiful, even in periods when

Viking raids abounded, trade was conducted between Western Europe and
the Viking homeland; an example of this being the North Norwegian
chieftain, Ottar, and King Alfred of Wessex. Ottar visited King Alfred
as a peaceful trader at the same time as Alfred was waging war with
other Viking chieftains. The expansion of the Vikings was probably
triggered by a population growth out stepping the capacities of
domestic resources. Archaeological evidence shows that new farms were
cleared in sparsely populated forests at the time of their expansion.

The abundance of iron in their region and their ability to forge it
into weapons and arm everyone setting off on raids helped give the

Vikings the upper hand in most battles.

The first recorded Viking raid occurred in 793 AD, the holy
island of the Lindisfarne monastery just off the Northeast shoulder
of England was pillaged, around the same time, there are recorded
reports of raids elsewhere in Europe. There are narratives of raids in
the Mediterranean, and as far as the Caspian Sea. Norsemen from Kiev
even attempted an attack on Constantinople, the capital of the

Byzantine Empire. Unfortunately, in the picture handed down to us in
written accounts, the Vikings are portrayed as terrible robbers and
bandits, this is strictly a single sided view; and, while the above
statement is probably true, they had other traits as well. Some of
their leaders were very skillful organizers, as evidenced by the fact
that they were able to establish kingdoms in already-conquered
territories. Some of these, such as the ones established in Dublin
and York did not survive the Viking period; Iceland, however, is still
a thriving nation. The Viking Kingdom in Kiev formed the basis of the

Russian Empire.

The remains of fortresses dated to the end of the Viking
period, have been found in Denmark; the fortresses are circular and
are divided into quadrants, with square buildings in each of the four
sections. The precision with which these castles were placed indicates
an advanced sense of order, and a knowledge of surveying techniques
and geometry in the Danish Kingdom. The farthest westward drive
occurred around 1000 AD, when people from Iceland or Greenland
attempted to plant roots in the North coast of Newfoundland in North

America, however, conflicts arose between these colonists and the
indigenous Indians or the Eskimos, and the