One usuable indicator of the value of a Viking sword. How many weapons you could buy today for that price?

Viking warrior with sword and shield standing near Drakkar on the seashore. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

What was the price of a Viking sword at the time? How about expressing a price then in some unit of measure we can grasp today? I have looked on the ol’ net but haven’t found any good guesses. Previous post discussed one indicator that I couldn’t process.

Hurstwic website describes one sword that had a reported value.   Chapter 13 of Laxdæla saga says a sword given to Höskuldur by King Hákon was worth a half mark of gold.

Hurstwic says that is equal to 16 milk cows.

Continue reading “One usuable indicator of the value of a Viking sword. How many weapons you could buy today for that price?”

Can’t make sense of one indicator of price of sword during Viking Age

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

I’ve been wondering about the price of a sword during the Viking Era. Tripped across two indicators on the same day. One was useful, the following was a dead end. I’m not able to make sense of it.

Price of a sword and scabbard was set at 7 solidi according to the Lex Rubuaria codification of law, as reported by Wikipedia. This was during the reign of Charlemagne.

I previously mentioned this data point but did not take the next step of converting it into some indicator for current dollars:  Cost of weapons in Northern Europe in mid- 7th century.

Charlemagne became king of the Franks in 768 A.D. and expanded his rule until he died in 814, according to Wikipedia. That puts the price in the timeframe of late 700s or very early 800s. This is in contrast to the Lex Rubuaia having first been written in around 630.

I tried to convert that 7 solidi into something we can relate to.

Continue reading “Can’t make sense of one indicator of price of sword during Viking Age”

Overview of silver and coin usage in Viking Era

Viking silver hoard. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Short overview of the evolution of the means of exchange during Viking Era can be found in Viking Currency, an article by Dani Trynoski at Medievalists.net.

A basic economic concept to remember: part of the definition of money is a means of exchange and store of value. A silver armband, brooch, or coin can be both a store of value and means of exchange. Standard size silver coins are easier to work with on both criteria than jewelry.

A few pounds of silver is far easier to carry and use to buy stuff later than several dozen (?) furs, a dozen or two cows, or a few shiploads of grain.

Some fun highlights from the article:

Continue reading “Overview of silver and coin usage in Viking Era”

Recap of payments made to Viking raiders, called Danegeld.

Viking Coin Hoard. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Some day I plan to collate all the comments I’ve read on the amount of Danegeld and other money accumulated by various Viking raids.

In The Vikings, Else Roesdahl provides details on payments to Viking raiders:

France:

  • 44,250 pounds gold and silver during 9th century – from context I think this is from the Frankish rulers – doesn’t include ransom collected, food plundered, or side raids

England:

  • 991 – 10,000 pounds silver- Olaf Tryggvason.
  • 994 – 16,000 lb. – Olaf again, with Svien Forkbeard and 94 ships loaded with their buddies.

Continue reading “Recap of payments made to Viking raiders, called Danegeld.”

Coining money in Viking Age and more details on found hoards

Viking coin replica based on archaeological findings. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

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.

Continue reading “Coining money in Viking Age and more details on found hoards”

Ship construction, living conditions, and winding down of the Viking Age

Reproduction of drakkar. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

A few short tidbits from the two previous books discussed in this series.

Ships

Anders Winroth, writing in The Age of the Vikings provides a number of fun details about ships.

Author says oak was the best wood for building ships. In the north where there were no oaks, pine was the best choice.

Load capacities are impressive for the times. The Skuldelev 1 ship is estimated to carry a 24 ton load. It was built sometime around 1030.

Constructing a full size model of the Skuldelev 2 ship took 27,000 man-hours.

That time estimate is for the woodworking only. An additional amount of time would be needed to cut down the trees and gather them at the construction site.

Continue reading “Ship construction, living conditions, and winding down of the Viking Age”

What was learned by studying Vorbasse Village?

An abandoned vikings village. Sod rooftops, turf rooftops. Village located at the bottom of a high mountain. Around the farm a wooden fence. Dry grass all around. Traditional Scandinavian architecture

Extensive digging has been done at a small village of Vorbasse in central Jutland in Denmark. Else Roesdahl describes what was learned in The Vikings.

The village had 7 separate farms, one of which was much larger than the others.

The 6 smaller houses were large enough that they had stalls for between 20 and 30 animals. The houses were about 90 feet long.

The largest house had stall space for around 100 animals. Obviously that Dane was wealthy.

Continue reading “What was learned by studying Vorbasse Village?”

Economic and political development in the Viking Era

Swedish stamps, circa 1990. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

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.

Continue reading “Economic and political development in the Viking Era”

Researchers don’t really know much about the Viking Era but have increased knowledge with new techniques.

Viking ships on the water under the sunlight and dark storm. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

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 Vikings Else 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.”

Continue reading “Researchers don’t really know much about the Viking Era but have increased knowledge with new techniques.”

More ideas on how to interpret those horrible, brutal, vicious Vikings who were worse than those other horrible, brutal, and vicious people.

Illustration courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth provides lots of enjoyable information on the Viking Age.

The author suggests that much of what we think we know about the Vikings is “skewed, exaggerated, or simply misunderstood. “ He wants to challenge some of the over-the-top stories we hear.

One factor he suggests we keep in mind is the Medieval ages were incredibly violent. He suggests the Vikings were no more violent than other leaders of the time, specifically Charlemagne.

The reports of their raids, normally written by the victims, suggest they were unusually ruthless, unusually successful, unusually destructive.

In contrast to common lore, the author suggests they were just as destructive and just as brutal as all the other people groups of the time.

Continue reading “More ideas on how to interpret those horrible, brutal, vicious Vikings who were worse than those other horrible, brutal, and vicious people.”