About the Viking Age
The Viking Age began in 793AD when a band of Scandinavians sacked the monastery at Lindisfarne. And it ended with the death of Harold Hardrada in 1066 at the battle of Stamford Bridge. This was an age of heroic journeys and great battles.
Many think of horned helmets, raping and pillaging when they hear Viking. Horned helmets are a creation of much more modern times. And though the Vikings did some raping and pillaging it should not define them. When studying the Viking Age Scandinavia it's very important to remember that most of the history was written down by their enemies. They did have the runes for writing, but they did not write down any of their history in books. Christian monks wrote much of what we know, and they would not have had a very positive view of them. The sagas were written down long after the Viking Age.
There is also an incredibly rich history of Scandinavia before the Viking Age even began. The migration period helped define the Vikings that would come. Many of the well-known Viking heroes were actually from this time before the Viking Age. Heroes such as Beowulf, Sigfried, Hrolf Kraki, and King Hadding of Denmark were all from the Migration period.
Life in the Viking Times
At home in Scandinavia, the Vikings lived in small settlements of farmers and traders. Most were farmers that grew crops, raised farm animals, fished, and hunted. The main crops farmed were barley, rye, oats, peas, beans, and cabbage. They also had cattle, pigs, sheep, geese, chickens, and goats which were used for meat, milk, eggs, wool, and leather. Every part of them was used, with no waste. A large number of animals were slaughtered before winter and the meat preserved by salting or smoking. This was to prevent them from eating valuable stored food during the winter months.
The landscape of Scandinavia is rather varied. Norway is more mountainous, while Sweden is flatter with farmland and forests, and Denmark is dotted with hundreds of small islands.
Most Vikings lived in longhouses. These were large, one roomed houses that were made of wood and had an earth floor. They were rectangular in shape, with the length being much longer than the width. A large example would be 50 meters long by 5 meters wide. Members of the immediate family and often other relatives would live here. The living quarters of the house had a hearth in the middle to provide heat, light, and cooking facilities. There was no chimney and the smoke escaped through a hole in the roof. The walls would be lined with broad benches that doubled as beds, and there would also be a table and a few stools and chests.