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Contradicting what many people think, the Viking’s way of life wasn’t all about war, killing and other barbaric practices. While this was still a large part of the Viking period, they also had many other practices and trades, farming being a very big thing during the age. Most Vikings were farmers, growing things such as oats, barley, rye and vegetables that could withstand the cold weather. They also raised cattle, goats, chicken, sheep, pigs and horses. Fishermen were also key, catching both freshwater and saltwater fish as well as whales and other sea creatures. The people found within villages around Scandinavia lived in houses most commonly made of timber, though in some places where wood was scarce, they used turf or stone.
Houses were long and rectangular, with roofs made of straw or thatch. Often there was no chimney, minus the blacksmiths forge, using only an opening above the hearth for smoke to escape. There were usually no windows found within a common Viking house, with the interiors being gloomily lit by candles or oil lamps. People kept themselves busy though, with daily tasks and chores such as cooking, drying, salting, smoking and pickling food. Doing these things were common, as in winter food could be very scarce, and these methods helped to preserve food. For these reasons, salt was very important and bought by travelling merchants as they passed by. People would also tan leather, blacksmith, scour clothes, meaning to rub clothes or other fabrics hard together to wash them, and dye them. Viking clothes were simple and practical for their days of hard work. They were usually made from fabrics such as wool and linen, and used animal skins in the winter to keep themselves warm. Common clothing for men would be a pair of trousers, along with a long sleeved shirt or tunic, and for women, a loose fitting dress, usually with an apron tied around front. In cold weather, men, women and children would wear warm cloaks fastened with brooches. The most common and easiest shoes to make were shoes made of leather, and were sturdy and could survive through tough conditions. Towns throughout Viking land were not very common as most people were farmers and owned a lot of land, so for this reason there were not really many towns within Scandinavia. Where there were towns or villages, harbours were one of the most vital parts, as this is where boats would come to load and unload goods and animals. The docks was a busy and bustling place, and was the perfect place for Viking men, women and children to trade and buy each other’s goods and wares, so there was money to be made on the docks. Potters, boat builders, leather workers, carpenters and a large assorted variety of trade people and craftsmen could be found all throughout towns, trading was very popular throughout the age.
The system of writing in the Viking age is very different to anything we have now. The sixteen letter alphabet known as Futhark had letters called runes, and in Old Norse, meant ‘secret knowledge and wisdom’. Runes were typically carved into stone if Vikings wanted something to last, as it was the most durable. At Viking graves, family members would carve runes into stone so that it would last too. Though they had a writing system, it was not commonly used. Instead of writing, they would pass messages on orally, whether through a messenger or by themselves. This was also the for Viking legends, poems and stories known as ‘Sagas’, they would instead of writing them down, pass on these tales to family members and others, because of this, it makes it a lot harder to find more information on Vikings.
At the top of a Viking society, there was a king. The king oversaw everything, though being a king surely was not everything it’s cracked up to be. Being a king was very expensive. Making sure your kingdom was safe, keeping the loyalty of your people and trying best to keep a stable economy was hard work for the king. Below the king were the wealthy people, known as Jarls. Jarls were rich land owners and traders, and mostly lived well until their demise. Below the Jarls were the Karls. Karls did the jobs such as carpentry or boat making, farming and things such as this. Most Karls were not poor, though they certainly were not wealthy compared to Karls. At the bottom societal ranking there all the slaves, better known as Thralls. The Thralls were forced to do the hardest and dirtiest jobs of them all. If they tried to run, they would be executed. The treatment of a Thrall would depend on the owner, though slaves during this period were fairly obedient. Though they had hard lives, a Thrall could potentially buy their freedom if they saved enough money. Slaves were a huge part all throughout history.
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