In recent decades, a real resurgence of interest in the Vikings is noticeable. Whether it is the Vikings series or the recent exhibition at the castle of the Dukes of Brittany in Nantes, popular success is on the cards. The latest issue of archeology records 391 offers a successful historical and archaeological synthesis on these famous men of the North who fascinate as much as they frightened.
The emergence of a society
Pierre Bauduin, professor of medieval history at the University of Normandy, offers an introductory and synthetic article on the history of the Viking phenomenon of raids on national formations. This introduction helps to understand the rise and diversity of the Viking phenomenon. The development of trade from the 8th century onwards went hand in hand with urban growth. John Ljungkvist shows this development in his contribution entitled “Gamla Uppsala, the Pre-Vikings Capital of the North”. According to Anne Nissen, cultural characteristics specific to the Vikings can be detected as early as the 8th century, but there are some of the oldest dating from late Antiquity. In another contribution, she describes the Scandinavian society on its territory and shows the economic development and the strong hierarchy of this one.
The term Viking does not refer to a people but to an enrichment activity far from home by bellicose or peaceful means. Jens Christian Moesgaard shows in his contribution titled "Vikings and Money" that trade expeditions need to be re-evaluated for their scale and for the sums they provided for the Vikings. There are also archaeological traces of this trade in the town of Ribe as shown by Sarah Croix. Archaeological research has made it possible to reassess and better understand “Ports and commercial practices in Northern Europe” by Lucie Malbos. The rise of the Vikings would not have been possible without their ships. Éric Rieth discusses their design and construction in his contribution.
The warrior and aristocratic elites are behind the Viking raids. They assert themselves in a context of accumulations of wealth and enter into rivalry to strengthen their power. The reinforcement of certain aristocrats pushes some to venture to accumulate loot, wealth and potentially regain power. Banquets were a major political institution within this group. Sumptuous meals allowed these elites to show their power, as Alban Gautier relates. These moments were also the site of negotiations for future expeditions.
The Viking expansion
Many articles deal with settlements but also with the integration of the Vikings in the different territories they reached (Normandy, British Isles and Greenland). More or less solid principalities are established, men more or less retain their customs according to local contexts. The territories of origin are also affected and transformed by these raids. In Scandinavia, the power of kings is growing as demonstrated by Anne Pedersen's article on Jelling and its 10th century royal complex in Denmark and culminates in the formation of national monarchies in Scandinavia as Sverre Bagge explains. These political transformations were possible thanks to the contacts that the Vikings maintained and the discovery of states with other administrative practices but also with the progressive Christianization of populations (see the contribution of Stéphane Lebecq).
This file is a successful synthesis on the Vikings. The rich iconography, always of very good quality, embellishes and enriches the reading. The end of the Dossiers d'Archéologie is, as usual, devoted to various news. An article deals with the recent book Une histoire des civilizations. How archeology turns our knowledge upside down with an interview with one of the publication's three directors, Jean-Paul Demoule. The Refuge 44 project which offers a virtual tour of an archaeological site (a Norman refuge quarry) is presented. Finally, the last contribution is devoted to the exhibition at the departmental museum of ancient Arles entitled "The army of Rome, power and glory". A good synthetic and accessible number of the Dossiers d'Archéologie.
Archeology files n ° 391: The Vikings. In newsstands and by subscription.