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Copy of Viking Society
Transcript of Copy of Viking Society
Where they lived
Farms & Towns
Norse Religion & Mythology
The Viking Lands: SCANDINAVIA
Scandinavia is a region of north-western Europe. It consists of Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. In Scandinavia, winter is very long, dark and cold. The summer is mild and relatively brief. In the northern parts of Scandinavia, the land is mountainous and comprises dense forests. The southern parts of Scandinavia are flatter and more fertile, and the climate is mild - ideal for farming. Most people in medieval times lived on the southern coastal areas or near lakes, rivers and narrow inlets (known as fjords), where the soil was fertile.
Most Viking families lived on farms. Everyone in
the family was expected to help with the running of the farm. The seasons dictated the rhythm of farm life. Crops would be tended during the summer and then harvested in the autumn. Sheep, goats and cattle were taken to the rich mountain pastures in summer, where they grazed. At the end of autumn, the animals would be returned to the farm. The stronger, younger animals were kept inside the Vikings' houses during the winter while the weaker ones were slaughtered for their meat. Since the Vikings had no refrigeration, meat had to be preserved from rotting.
The meat was preserved by drying and salting, or smoking. The skins from slaughtered cattle and sheep were tanned into leather for clothing and other household goods.
While most Vikings lived in small farming communities, others, such as merchants and craftspeople, lived in towns. Artisans made all sorts of goods, including shoes, pottery, jewellery, weapons and leather.
Life on a Viking farm
A Viking Town
The most famous Viking towns were those of Hedeby, in Denmark and Birka in Sweden. York in England and Dublin in Ireland were also well-known Viking towns.
Viking merchants bought food, cloth, walrus ivory, furs, honey and pottery from outlying Viking farming communities to sell in the towns. Foreign merchants brought silk, cloth, jewels, glass, wine, pottery, spices and weapons from Arabia, China, India and other parts of Europe to sell in Viking towns. Slaves captured on Viking raids were also available for sale.
Viking Law & Politics
Current flag of Denmark
Current flag of Norway
Current flag of Sweden
In the early Viking Period, kings ruled small kingdoms. They were expected to perform religious rituals and protect their people against invaders. During the Viking Age, kings began attacking neighbouring kingdoms in an attempt to enlarge their own kingdoms and become more powerful.
Jarls, or chieftains, held large areas of land. They were wealthy and powerful and owned many slaves. They were expected to provide warriors to fight for the king.
Most Vikings were karls, or free men and women. Karls owned their own land and ran their own farms, with the help of one or two slaves. Some karls worked as artisans or merchants. Karls were expected to join jarls in rads or battles.
Thralls were at the lowest level of Viking society - they were slaves. They had no rights and were legally owned by other people, bought and sold at slave markets like cattle or other goods. A thrall's master had control over his or her life.
'The Thing' was a viking assembly of free men and (and later women) who met regularly in their local province or kingdom. At The Thing, disputes were resolved. Decisions were made democratically at The Thing and a 'lawspeaker' was elected from the families of the jarls to ensure decisions that were made were adhered to, even by the kings.
For crimes committed he or she stood trial at The Thing and those at The Thing democratically decided the fate of the accused if they were found guilty. A person found guilty, depending on the severity of the crime, could be fined, made into a slave or outlawed. An outlawed person had no protection under the law and could be killed by anyone without free of repercussions.
Things were also used to end family violence. Family honour was very important in Viking society, and family members were honour bound to avenge the death or injury of a relative. Even insults could lead to revenge acts. Family feuds could go on for generations unless the community intervened through The Thing.
Things around the world!
Meetings of The Things were held in special locations across Viking lands.
A Warrior Culture
Viking men believed that to be a warrior was the noblest of duties and that to die in battle the greatest honour.
The Thing was usually a summer
gathering and people all wore
their best clothes
The king of the gods was Odin (aka Oden or Woden). He had one eye, he sacrificed the other to gain knowledge and understanding. He rode a grey, eight-legged horse which could fly, and on his shoulders two ravens perched (Huginn or thought and Munnin or memory) and was married to the Goddess Frigg.
Frigg had the gift of prophecy (being able to see the future) but she did not often share what she knew. She is often shown in paintings to be spinning cloth.
Thor was a popular Norse god who many looked to for help. He was the god of thunder and storms and wielded a hammer called Mjollnir that only he could carry.
Freya was the goddess of love and death and was famous for her beauty. She is said to have haunted battlefields, assisting the dead on their journey to the afterlife.
How they lived
Compared to women in other societies at the time, Viking women enjoyed much more freedom and authority.
Vikings were often thought to be dirty, filthy, barbarian raiders. However this has proven to be a false!
Viking society was greatly varied and very different from others you have studied.
Vikings had farms where they milked cows, tended sheep, chickens and had crops.
The geography of the landscape helped shape Viking culture. The landscape was harsh with little land available for farming. Which allowed for the Vikings to thrive as seafarers and shipbuilders of very advanced skill.
Norway was very jagged, with a rocky coastline and many mountains. Off the coast was a network of many islands allowing for fishing communities to thrive.
Sweden's landscape was more varied than
Norway's. In the north it was heavily forested and farming was limited to small coastal strips. In the south there were many lakes with more fertile land with even more fertile islands off the coast.
Denmark was unlike the rest of Scandinavia. It was flat with poor, sandy soil. However there was still more land for farming there than in the rest of the Viking lands. Denmark also had many islands off its coast.
Looked after the home when men were away on raids or trading
Marriage - when a woman married she married as an equal
If a woman was not married before 15 she was then allowed to choose a husband
Viking women could also 'divorce' their husbands and own property
In fact, Vikings bathed at least once a week and enjoyed the hot springs of Scandinavia quite frequently.
Viking men and women also carried with them combs and other implements for cleaning their hands, nails and so forth.
What does this mean? Well, in short, the filthy barbarian raiders may have been the cleanest bunch of people during the Dark Ages!
Fishing was also an essential part of viking society, and accounted, in part, for their ship building skills.
Finally, while most Vikings lived in small farming communities, some lived in town. In these towns merchants would bring spices, honey, and other goods to trade.
A Viking Feast
They believed that those who died in battle were claimed by the valkyries who would take the warriors' souls to Valhalla. Valhalla was said to be a majestic, enormous hall located in Asgard, the home of the Gods.
It is estimated that 50% of Viking men died before the age of 30! Living a life of raiding was quite a chancy way to live!
Shield-maidens were Viking women who chose to fight as warriors. Not many women made this choice but there were some who featured in some fables and sagas. As well their presence in battle has been recorded by some historians.
Like many cultures before and after them, the Vikings strongly believed in life after death.
Viking kings and jarls would horde large amounts of gold and plunder for their afterlife. Thralls would also be chosen to 'guard' this treasure, meaning where they buried their treasure, a thrall was sure to buried as well.
Thralls: In death a thrall's body would be buried in a simple wooden box with a few personal items. Like a comb or tools.
Karls: When a karl died they were placed in large graves lined with wood. Their tools were buried with them, along with any silver coins the family could spare. Dogs and horses were often sacrificed and buried with their master.
Jarls and Kings were buried in a spectacular fashion. Their bodies and 'grave goods' were placed in a Viking longship that would transport them to the next world.
The longship was then either buried or burned. Kings and Jarls were often buried with jewellery, chests of coins, furniture, sleighs, carts, tools, horses, fine clothing and precious objects. Thralls were often sacrificed in order to accompany their masters into the next world.
By now you should have downloaded and printed out the question sheet. If not better do it now! You don't want to start the presentation without your question sheet, otherwise you'll just have to watch it twice...
Pay attention to the 'numbers': they correspond to
the section on your question sheet which you should
have already downloaded!
Answers to the questions on your sheet can be found on the portion of the presentation that matches the number on the sheet. Once you have filled in your sheet and completed the presentation, take your answers to your teacher!
Follow the order the presentation is given
in, this will help you answer finish faster!
Well done... now that you're finished the presentation you should have all the answers to the questions on your VIKING SOCIETY Worksheet.
So off you go, hand it in and have a good weekend! Or day... or whatever it is now :)
You should have already watched the video introduction on the previous page. If you haven't please go back in your browser and watch it now.
You can find the link to download the worksheet back on the page with the video introduction!