The Vikings were warriors who terrorized Europe between 700 and 1000. They also explored the coast of Europe and the North Atlantic and even reached America.
The Vikings lived in Scandinavia, the northern part of Europe. They conquered and raided parts of England, France and Germany, and even got as far south as Spain and Italy.
Viking ships explored Iceland and Greenland and at about 1000 the Vikings founded a town in North America, but it didn't last very long.
The Viking Age began at a time when the population of Scandinavia started to grow. Historians believe that, because there was not enough farmland to live on, many Vikings looked for places to settle outside Scandinavia. They also made faster ships with which they could travel to farther places.
The Vikings lived on farms or in villages. There were three groups of people:
- The nobles were the kings or chiefs of each village. They also included people who were very rich.
- The freemen were farmers or merchants .
- The third group were the slaves , who were captured when the Vikings fought against other people.
Most of the Vikings were farmers. They grew fruits and vegetables as well as barley and oats . They also raised cattle , goats, pigs and sheep. Some Vikings were fishermen and others were good at building ships. In bigger villages Vikings lived as merchants . They sailed a lot and traded furs , gold, silver and other things.
Most Viking men wore trousers that reached to the knee and a long - sleeved pullover or shirt. Women wore dresses made of linen or wool. All Vikings wore leather shoes.
Viking houses were one-story buildings with slanted roofs. Some houses only had one room. The walls were made of wood or stone. The roof was covered with shingles or straw. In every house there was a hearth that gave Vikings heat and a place to cook.
Religion played an important role in the life of Vikings. They worshipped many gods. The chief god was called Odin. When Vikings died they were buried in boats. Rich people were even put into big ships.
Because the Vikings lived near the sea, they travelled a lot by boat. They were the best shipbuilders of their time. Viking ships could sail better than others because they laid a long piece of wood at the bottom of the ship, which became known as the keel . It made the ship stable in stormy weather and it also increased the speed .
Viking navigators used the sun and the stars to find out where they were. They also relied on landmarks , like islands. On cloudy days they found directions with the help of birds or whales.
Vikings liked fighting. They were very brave and liked adventures, but they could also be very brutal. Many Europeans feared them.
When Vikings invaded a new territory they usually came with a few hundred ships and thousands of warriors . Sometimes they landed with only a few ships, raided villages and quickly disappeared .
Vikings were famous for their surprise attacks. They could row their light boats into shallow rivers and overran their victims so fast that they had no chance of defending themselves.
Vikings fought with axes , bows and arrows. They used both hands to swing their broad axe at an enemy, chopping off their hands or their heads. Most warriors carried round wooden shields to protect themselves. They also wore helmets made of leather.
Eric the Red and Leif Ericson
Eric the Red was a famous Viking explorer who lived at about 950 A.D. He got this name because of his red hair. When his father had to leave Norway because he had killed somebody, Eric went with him. The family settled in Iceland.
Eric decided to explore the island and when he sailed west he discovered Greenland.
In 985 he persuaded some friends and relatives to go to Greenland with him. Two towns were founded there with a total of about 400 people.
Eric became the leader of these two towns. Some settlers were farmers and raised cattle pigs and sheep. Others hunted bears and other animals.
When Eric died his son Leif Ericson became the leader of the towns in Greenland. He also continued the voyages of his father and led the first Viking expedition to the coast of North America.
In 1002 Ericson sailed west from Greenland. With a crew of 35 men, he landed on a shore where he met natives who grew grapes. The men made wine from the grapes and Ericson named the place Vinland.
Nobody knows where Ericson exactly landed, because there were no maps at that time. Many historians think that the landing place was an island near today’s coast of Newfoundland. Archaeologists found the ruins of an old Viking settlement there. Others think that Ericson may have travelled as far south as Massachusetts.
Over the following twenty years the Vikings founded many settlements in the new world but they didn’t last very long.
Downloadable PDF Text- and Worksheets
- A.D = after the birth of Christ
- archaeologist = a person who studies what is left of old buildings
- axe =a tool with a heavy metal blade; it has a long handle and you use it to cut wood
- barley =a plant that you use to make food and alcohol
- bow =a curved object that you use for shooting arrows ; it has a string connected to a thin piece of curved wood
- brave =not afraid in dangerous situations
- broad = wide
- bury = to put a dead person into a grave
- capture = to catch somebody and keep him as a prisoner
- chief = leader of a group of people
- conquer = to get control of a country by fighting
- crew = all the people who work on a ship
- defend = to protect yourself from being attacked
- direction =the way something comes from or moves
- disappear =to be gone again
- discover = to find something that you didn’t know before
- explore = to travel around a place and find out something about it
- explorer = a person who travels around and tries to find out something about new places
- fear = to be afraid of
- found = to make a town or city
- fur = the thick soft hair of an animal
- hearth = the place around a fireplace in a house
- historian = a person who studies history
- include =also consist of
- increase = to make bigger
- invade = to enter a country and take control of it
- keel =a bar along the bottom of a boat that keeps it steady in the water
- laid = put
- landmark = something that you can easily see and that helps know where you are
- linen = cloth made from the flax plant
- long-sleeved =a piece of clothing that covers your whole arm
- map = a piece of paper that shows countries, towns, rivers, cities etc..
- merchant = a person who buys and sells things
- natives = people who have lived there all the time
- navigator = a person on a ship who says which way to go
- oats =a grain from which flour is made; it is used for cooking and to feed animals
- one-story = a building with only one floor
- persuade =to make someone do something by giving them reasons for doing it
- population = all the people in a country
- raid = a short attack on a place
- raise cattle = to feed cows so that they can be used for getting meat or milk
- rely = to trust on someone or depend on them
- row =to make a boat move across the water with wooden sticks
- ruins = the part of a building or a small town that hasn’t been destroyed
- settle = to start living in a place where not many people have lived before
- settlement = a small new town or village
- shallow = not deep
- shield =a large piece of metal that soldiers use to protect their bodies when they fight
- shingles = a small thin piece of wood on the wall or the roof of a house
- shore = coast
- slant =not horizontal but tilted
- slave = a person who is owned by somebody else and works for him but doesn’t get any money
- speed =how fast something is
- stable = balanced
- trade = to buy and sell
- victim =a person you attack
- voyage = trip by boat
- warrior = a soldier who is very brave
- worship = to pray to God