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Vikings

Viking raiders return to their homeland, bringing plundered goods—and slaves.The Vikings, also known as Norsemen (or Northmen), were seafaring peoples from Scandinavia (modern-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden). Their English name came from the old Norse word vikingr, meaning "someone who goes on an overseas expedition" or “pirate”. From the 790s to the mid-11th century, the Vikings were a constant menace, raiding and looting coastal towns and villages all over Europe. But the Vikings were also peaceful farmers, craftworkers and traders. They travelled all over Europe and beyond, even as far away as North America, in their quest for trade and for new lands to settle.


Pommel (part of the hilt) of a Viking sword

Raiders

The Vikings began raiding and pillaging coastal settlements of the British Isles, France and elsewhere in northern Europe in the 8th century. They frequently made surprise attacks on churches and monasteries, stealing valuables and farm animals. Their victims were shown little mercy. The first recorded Viking attack was in AD 793 on a monastery on the island of Lindisfarne, off the northeast coast of England.
 

Reconstruction of the carved figurehead, in the shape of a dragon's head, at the prow of a Viking longship

Warships

The Vikings used their fastest ships, longships, for raids. These ships were long and slender, and had flat bottoms. Their shape allowed them to be navigated up narrow inlets or be landed on beaches—good for surprise attacks and quick getaways. The ships were fitted with sails but could also be rowed. The warriors' brightly painted shields were slotted into racks that ran the length of the ship on either side.
A map showing the expansion of Viking lands 8th–11th centuries

The althing (general assembly) of Iceland is one of the oldest parliaments in the world. It was first held in 930 at Þingvellir, the "assembly fields", near Reykjavík, the modern-day capital of Iceland.

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