September 18, 2008

Vikings abroad in search of women

Viking Age Triggered by Shortage of Wives?:
Sept. 17, 2008 -- During the Viking Age from the late eighth to the mid-eleventh centuries, Scandinavians tore across Europe attacking, robbing and terrorizing locals. According to a new study, the young warriors were driven to seek their fortunes to better their chances of finding wives.

The odd twist to the story, said researcher James Barrett, is that it was the selective killing of female newborns that led to a shortage of Scandinavian women in the first place, resulting later in intense competition over eligible women.


Soren Sindbaek, assistant professor of medieval and Renaissance archaeology at Denmark's University of Aarhus, told Discovery News that the new paper "is very right in pointing out the inadequacy" of former explanations for the Viking Age.

"We need indeed to seek for an individual, social motivation behind the fact that a large number of young men chose to set out on extremely risky voyages in hopes of acquiring wealth and esteem in foreign lands," Sindbaek said.


Crimson Guard said...

Any relation to this story of a "A Viking women having roots in the Black Sea"?

Maju said...

Well, it's a hypothesis...

But: What's more, he points out, the sailing time from Norway to Ireland is quite short -- perhaps a week using vessels of the time -- so the Vikings were probably capable of raiding Ireland well before the official start of their reign of terror.

It must be mentioned that when we talk of Vikings we mostly speak of Danes in fact. Norwegians were very secondary in all the phenomenon and circunscribed to Scotland and Ireland. It seems true though that they massively captured Irish women (some men too) to settle Iceland. But for the most part the Viking phenomenon was a Danish affair.

terryt said...

"It seems true though that they massively captured Irish women (some men too) to settle Iceland". Some Irish men and women may already have been there. It seems accepted that Irish priests were there and, although Irish priests these days are celibate, I'm told that was not so before the Irish Church was swallowed up by the Roman version.

But anyway there's other evidence that the Vikings did pick up women as they moved around.

Unknown said...

This isn't very surprising. This is like a general rule in history: When large groups of males migrate or invade other territories, they tend to kidnap women for procreation purposes or to make them their wives. They will even do this if females accompany the men during the invasions. This is similar to the nearly universal occurrence of mass rapes during wars.

Although it doesn't say this, I now wonder if periods of migration are preceded by mass female infanticide, thereby decreasing the number of potential wives for the males. Perhaps something like this happened during the Turkic expansions and Mongol expansions, but this is just speculation. Hopefully this doesn't happen with

Anyway, its also said that the Viking era may have been triggered by overpopulation in Scandinavia. This overpopulation may have been due to a warming period in the 8th and 9th centuries which improved harvests and opened much of the previously ice covered arctic region to exploration and settlement. The infanticide of females may have been in response to overpopulation as well.

Njord said...

The Nordic Bronze Age was characterized by a warm climate that began with a climate change in circa 2700 BC (comparable to that of present-day Mediterranean). The warm climate permitted a relatively dense population and good farming, for example grapes were grown in Scandinavia at this time. However a small change in climate between 850 BC and 760 BC and a more radical one in circa 650 BC brought in a deteriorating, wetter and colder climate (sometimes believed to have given rise to the legend of the Fimbulwinter).
It seems likely that the climate pushed the Germanic tribes southwards into continental Europe. During this time there was Scandinavian influence in Eastern Europe (and a thousand years later, the numerous East Germanic tribes that claimed Scandinavian origins (e.g. Langobards, Burgundians, Goths and Heruls) rendered Scandinavia (Scandza) the name ''womb of nations'' in Jordanes' Getica).
In fact, the Scandinavian influence on Pomerania and northern Poland from period III and onwards was so considerable that this region is sometimes included in the Nordic Bronze Age culture (Dabrowski 1989:73).
Due to the climate change and the loss of population, the Nordic countries are generally described as going through a cultural recession at the end of the Bronze Age, lasting for a thousand years until the rise of another advanced civilization in the so-called Viking Age."

also, i dont agree with the argument that Norwegians did not raid ect... as we can see on this map:

Unknown said...

Female infanticide tends to be a hallmark of patrifocal societies. Scandinavia harbors some the Western world's most matrifocal cultures. I'm not sure female infanticide fits. See