Consider there was no secure way to store wealth in the time of the Vikings. There were no banks, no marketable securities, no way to establish reliable title to land. In essence, there was no store of value other than bullion or coins.
So, if you had a huge amount of wealth beyond your livestock and weapons, it would be in the form of bullion or coins. To keep it safe from theft, you would have to hide it in the ground.
Wealthy people who were killed, captured, never came back from another raid or trading expedition, or merely forgot where they buried their wealth abandoned all of their underground accumulation to be found some later time.
In The Age of the Vikings, Anders Winroth says children on a school outing found one hoard of 1,452 silver coins from the Viking age. Almost the entire hoard was Arabic dirham coins.
Author says there have been over 700 hoards found in Gotland. There was so much silver buried that another find is usually discovered each year.
With a shield held in front of you, the most valuable and most exposed area to be protected is your head. Helmets were in used during the entire Roman Era, as well as routinely used by their predecessors and opponents.
Researchers have identified five major types of helmets, with large number of subtypes for each.
Common thread of all the helmets is the basic design was obtained from some other people group, adopted, then refined. That fits with a broader pattern I have observed that the Romans were aggressive in adopting good ideas used by enemies which they found helpful.
Galea – plural galeae
Wikipedia provides an introductory overview of galea.
Earliest helmets were simple, with a round shape and small neck guard. These would have been easy to produce and cheaper than the later designs. They were made out of bronze.
The basic design was developed from Celtic helmets.
They apparently had cheek guards as well, since they typically have holes in the sides of the helmet. Reportedly, most of the Montefortino helmets discovered do not have a cheek guard, leading to speculation the cheek guards were made of leather instead of metal.
In The Vikings, Else Roesdahl provides a great description of how economic growth took place during the Viking era and how political development was both possible as a result and was simultaneously required for the growth to continue.
Early on men in an area would gather in “things”, local assemblies to resolve conflicts. Local yarls (rulers or strongmen, vaguely similar to a small city mayor) struggled, schemed, and fought to gain influence over larger areas.
Without a modest level of security and property rights, one dare not risk scarce capital in building a foundry or gather lots of goods for trading.
As regional yarls, or petty kings, gain influence, more stability developed.
The opening comments in all the books I read on the Viking Age explore the limits on our knowledge of the Viking era. Seems to me most of the reliable information has been developed in the last century or so.
Like my discussion of other books on the Vikings and Romans, this series of posts will describe some things I find particularly interesting. My hope is this will be interesting to others as well.
With the series on this book I will start bringing in other things I have learned from previous reading.
Researchers don’t really know that much of the Viking Era
Like other authors, in The VikingsElse Roesdahl points out most of what we know of the Vikings is from contemporary victims of the Vikings or from reports written long after the Viking era ended.
As a result, as the author says, it is difficult, if not impossible
“to distinguish pure fiction from an embellished version of an event…”
and to separate
“improvements and additions to make the story more coherent, from what was once objective reality.”