Abundance of food today compared with routine scarcity of food earlier than 150 years ago.

Abundance of refrigerated fresh meet at your conveniently available grocery store. Not an option for anyone on the planet 200 years ago, to say nothing of the 10,000 years prior. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

For most of history, one of the main challenges was getting enough food to eat. Keeping your family alive through the winter until you can harvest the first crop in the spring has been a worry for thousands of years.

That point is important when considering ancient finances back in the days of the Roman legions or Viking raiders. The following discussion, which is cross-posted from my other blog Outrun Change, provides some context on food scarcity.

 

Johan Norberg describes the tremendous progress in the last several hundred years in so many areas, such as life expectancy, health, sanitation, liberty, education, and equality in his book Progress: 10 Reasons to Look Forward to the Future. Here are a few more tidbits I found fascinating.

Consider the scarcity of food in the past and the drop in cost to feed a family in the last 150 years.

Food

Look at just a few of the statistics on availability of food, or rather the long running issue of scarcity of food:

Continue reading “Abundance of food today compared with routine scarcity of food earlier than 150 years ago.”

More details on the Skuldelev ships

Model of a knarr in the Hedeby Viking Museum in Germany. “Modell Knorr” by Europabild (no link to author provided) is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Chapter 8 of The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings, discusses Ships and Seamanship, by Jan Bill. Chapter has a to-scale sketch of Skuldelev 1, 2, 3, and 5 on page 189. If I find that sketch in a publicly available media I will post it.

By the way, if you wondered (as I did), what happened to Skuldelev 4, I’ve since learned that what was labeled as #4 was actually parts of #2. Skuldelev 2 had deteriorated enough that parts of it looked like a different ship which was called #4. When the archaeologists realized they were the same ship, the #4 designation was dropped.

Chapter has lots of details on different ships that have been recovered. I’ll mention a few of the details.

Skuldelev 1 is a knarr, or cargo ship. Continue reading “More details on the Skuldelev ships”

Most of the improvement in life expectancy in the last 10,000 years has taken place in the last 100 years.

Johan Norberg describes the tremendous progress in the last several hundred years in so many areas: life expectancy, health, sanitation, liberty, education, and equality. He discusses these wonderfully delightful trends in his book Progress: 10 Reasons to Look Forward to the Future. I will highlight merely a few of the many things I found fascinating in the book.

Life expectancy

This discussion is cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change, because  the information from ancient times is useful on this blog.

In particular, notice the major trend that there was no change in life expectancy from prehistoric times through the early 1800s.

People in the Reformation era lived roughly as long as during the Viking Age, who lived about as long as during the Roman era and New Testament times, who in turn lived about as long as during the time of Alexander the Great and stories in the Old Testament after the book of Genesis.

Book provides the following estimates of life expectancy, which I graph above:

Continue reading “Most of the improvement in life expectancy in the last 10,000 years has taken place in the last 100 years.”

Thoughts on the legacy of the Vikings and economic development

A group of armed Vikings, standing on river shore. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

This blog focuses on the finances of ancient times, with minimal focus on the overall society and culture.

Perspectives of the Vikings have varied over time, ranging from them being vicious brutes pillaging everything they could find (according to the Christian monks suffering at the hands of the Vikings) to brave explorers and traders.

For just this post, I’ll touch on those issues. Actually, the following comments all affect the economic world of the Viking Age.

Chapter 3 of The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings points out the occasional tendency to romanticize the Vikings. Some focus on their brave exploration and merchant trading abilities. There’s even a school of thought that considers them to be misunderstood victims of hostile PR reports from Christian monks. Another school of thought emphasizes there were merely one part of the typically brutal medieval age.

In The Viking Legacy, the closing chapter of The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings, Peter Sawyer explores the political, cultural, and economic changes during the Viking Age.

Continue reading “Thoughts on the legacy of the Vikings and economic development”

More data points on payments to Vikings

Viking Coin Hoard. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

For some specific data points on hostage payments, tributes, and bribes paid to the Vikings, check out Janet Nelson’s chapter 2, The Frankish Empire of The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings, edited by Peter Sawyer.

On page 37, she lists some specific tributes and ransoms paid out of the Frankish Empire during the 9th century:

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Gross World Product over last 27,000 years

Gross World Product, according to Wikipedia is

the combined gross national product of all the countries in the world. Because imports and exports balance exactly when considering the whole world, this also equals the total global gross domestic product (GDP).

I got curious about the world-wide GDP after thinking about two previous posts:

What would happen if you multiplied the drastic increase in  population with the radical increase in per capita income? I made a feeble effort to multiple the two data sets and quickly realized that wouldn’t work. Poked around a bit on the ol’ internet thingie and found the answer at Wikipedia – gross world product is what I was looking for.

This discussion is cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change, because the ancient data is relevant to this blog.

27,000 year time horizon – Check out the graph at top of this post for the estimated gross world product on a very long time horizon, specifically from estimates back in 25,000 B.C. through 2014 A.D.

Copyright notice:  Graphs in this post are based on data in an article titled “Gross world product” by Wikipedia, which is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.  As a result the following tables which are derived from this information are licensed for use by anyone under the same CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Any use of these graphs must in turn be distributed under the same license.

I will show the raw data at the end of this post.

With that 27,000 year time horizon, there is a radical turn in the 1900s, at which point the graph appears to goes from horizontal to straight up vertical.

That is too long of a time horizon to understand, so I broke it out into smaller blocks.

Last 2,000 years – To remove the many earlier millenniums of slow growth, time horizon was revised to 1 AD through now. Notice there is still a radical change in the 1900s. With the dramatic changes in the last 200 years, the line from earlier looks like it is flat, but it isn’t.

Continue reading “Gross World Product over last 27,000 years”

Growth in world population

Our World in Data, the web site of Max Roser, visualizes data in amazing ways. Check out this graph of world population:

World Population over the last 12,000 years and UN projection until 2100” by Our World in Data is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.  The graphs which follow are derived from this information and are licensed for use by others under the same CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Very cool. The dramatic expansion in the number of people is amazing.

This discussion is cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change, because it provides context for past and future discussions of ancient finances.

The graph includes projections through 2100. I pulled out the projections and developed the following graph:

Continue reading “Growth in world population”

Fragments of information on the count of ships in Viking raiding parties

A decent size Viking raid – I count ten ships in sight. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Some fragmented counts on the size of Viking raids are provided on page 39 of The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings, edited by Peter Sawyer. The number of ships reported and recorded for some raids between 789 and 896 are listed. That would be essentially the 9th century.

This will be first in a series of posts on tidbits of information I found particularly interesting in the book.

Author points out we need to be careful in relying on the reported number of ships. In addition, it is not possible to calculate the size of particular raiding parties (assuming the reported number of ships is actually correct) since ships varied dramatically in size. Text says they could carry anywhere from 10 to 60 warriors.

Author points out that exaggeration is possible in all the reported data. I’ve also learned that ancient data is often rounded. Thus the report of “100” ships could be 60 or 80. Or maybe it was 120 or 140 ships. Or maybe nobody even tried to count but to give an idea that it was a really large raid the symbolic number of ‘100’ was recorded.

To get a wild guess on the size of raiding parties, I’ll extend out the ship count in the text.

Author estimates the range of warriors per ship ran from 10 to 60. The midpoint of those two amounts would be 35 warriors.

I’ll guess the range of warriors is between 20 and 60 per ship.

Following data lists the year, location, and reported ship count. Following that is the number of warriors at my low estimate of 20, my high estimate of 60 per ship, and a midpoint of the author’s range.

Continue reading “Fragments of information on the count of ships in Viking raiding parties”

Illustration of 16th century armament

All photos by James Ulvog taken at Cabrillo National Monument.

The Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego describes the expedition by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo to explore the west coast of what is now the U.S.  He arrived in San Diego harbor in October 1542.

In the museum, there are two models demonstrating replicas of 16th century arms.

The crossbowman above is wearing a metal helmet and hip length chain mail.

He is armed with a metal cross-bow and is preparing to load it. His foot is in the stirrup. The “goat’s foot” in his left hand will be used to pull the string back and latch it to the trigger catch.

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Construction time of one longhouse and perimeter of winter camp in Viking Era

Viking house in the city of Hobro, Denmark. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The estimated construction time of one longhouse and the protective moat and wall around a winter camp is provided by Kim Hjardar and Vegard Vike in their book Vikings at War.

At location 2671, the authors descibe a fort at Fyrkat, near Hobro, in the south of Denmark. The fort was about 390 feet across. It held 16 longhouses, laid out in quadrants.

Size of the longhouses was about 93’ long by 24’ wide by 25’ tall. (I don’t get the reason for a 7.5 meter height, but the photo above gives an idea). The main rooms were about 51’ long, with a smaller room at each end.

Of particular interest to me, the authors say that from 1982 through 1984, one of the longhouses was reconstructed using the types of materials, tools, and techniques that the Vikings would have used.

Continue reading “Construction time of one longhouse and perimeter of winter camp in Viking Era”