The Viking Age is traditionally defined as beginning with the attack by scandinavian raiders on the Monastery of Lindisfarne on the north coast of England in (June) 793 (though there were other raids earlier) and ending with the failure of the Norse invasion of England and the death of King Harald Harðraði at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on September 25, 1066 just before the Battle of Hastings. Individual areas of study may use slightly different time periods.
The term "Vikings" is used to refer to the Scandinavians of the Viking Age (q.v.). Many scholars and students of the period object to the term for a number of reasons. Among these reasons are: that the term in Norse means pirates and while this activity took place in the Viking age it does not appear to be any more prevalent than in many other periods and cultures and considerably mischaracterizes the impetus of Norse activity of the period; the term appears to be of foreign origin appearing in, for instance, Anglo-Saxon before it apparently does in Common Scandinavian/Old Norse although available sources are too few to make this certain; and finally no one is certain precisely what it originally meant. The theories on the original meaning of the term include derivations from: (Old Norse) vík, meaning a small bay or inlet (a popular theory now discounted), (Lat.) vicus, meaning a camp or small fortified town (my personal favorite), (Old English) wîc armed camp, (Old Norse) víkja, referring to movement, especially swift movement. The term Norse is often used instead of Viking these days though this refers principally to Norwegians and does not define period. No completely appropriate term has yet been coined.
The term "Vikings" does not refer to all Germanic peoples nor to any other periods of history. The 5th Century invaders of England were not "Vikings".
The "Vikings" did not wear horned helmets. No reference to horned helmets is known, to the best of my knowledge, in period literature. Some illustrations in textiles and the like appear to indicate a possible use in certain religious contexts. The only other known horned helmets (outside of medieval crests) appear on old germanic religious figures, and early saxon and celtic helmets. None of these are strictly speaking horns, that is cattle horns, however. The misassociation of the "Vikings" with horned helmets is reputedly due to a 19th Century mistranslation of a phrase referring to horn helmets, or helmets utilizing plates of horn. I've never actually seen such a phrase however.
The religion referred to as Asatru is not the religion of the "Vikings". Asatru was founded during the 19th Century and was based on the understanding of the Norse Pagan religion then in existence.
Highly controversial runestones found in the Americas. There are many proponents for and against their authenticity. Many (perhaps all) runologists and philologists appear to be against.
The so-called Elder Futhark or Old Germanic Futhark was not used by the "Vikings". Use of the last form of the Elder Futhark ended in Scandinavia around 800 A.D. and therefore its lack of use and the use of the Younger or Later Futhark is considered one of the defining elements of the Viking Age.
This item purporting to show Vinland among other things was initially labelled a hoax. This was based on the level of titanium detected in samples. More recent tests appear to indicate that the levels of titanium are normal for the period.
This misconception can be traced to a mistranslation by one Magnús Óláfsson of Krákumál "drinking from skulls". Apparently the actual phrase refers to drinking from bowls.
Last updated 13/6/06.
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