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Amanda Staebler Archeology 15 November 2010

Paper Choice 3- What benefits did the Vikings bring to Irish society?

Vikings Influence In Ireland


The Vikings have a bad reputation for being brutal raiders and pillagers. The Vikings did raid, but they also brought many new advances to Ireland. They were able to bring their own ways from Scandinavia and successfully integrate them into Irish life over time to improve some of Irelands own ways of living. Ireland was able to build better ships, establish towns, have a better military, a better economy, use coins, got the Irish to start building stone churches, brought the idea of home ownership and just gain many new ways to live from the Vikings that were beneficial to them. The Vikings arrived at the end of the 8th century and mainly did waves of attacks and left. They were least successful in Ireland than anywhere else they had tried invading. In 795 the Vikings came to a little island at the top of Ireland and went around the coast for forty years of small scale raids which let them get to know the Ireland and what they were dealing with. In the 830s they started moving inland and began to stay longer. They set up temporary camps called longphoirts. In 841 the Vikings set up a longphoirt in Dublin which became the most important Viking settlement in Ireland. In the late 9th century the Irish fought back and expelled the Vikings out of Dublin. However, the Vikings came back in 917 and

stayed permanently. They continued raiding but were defeated by the king of Tara in 980. After that they integrated with Irish society. There have been two Irish king with Vikings names which just shows how much integration there really was with the two cultures. The Vikings were great ship builders and when they came to Ireland, the Irish were able to learn the ways of the Vikings. The Vikings could build ships to travel far distances because they had come from Scandinavia. They built ships from the bottom up, which was different from how other boats are normally built. The Irish replicated these ways of building the ships because they saw how the Vikings succeeded in their long travels and they made better boats because of it. The Vikings established towns when they got to Ireland, which was not how it had been before. In Ireland, it was much more rural before the Vikings arrived. However, the Vikings set up communities and the Irish eventually lived together with them. The towns were places of economics, not worship. They were separated according to trade. An example of this would be like today High Street in Dublin would have been for metal work and another area could have been for some other trade and so on. There was usually a stream running through the towns for washing clothes. The Vikings also brought the idea of home ownership to Ireland, which is almost what you would see today. The houses would have a shed for a pig or for a toilet and would also have a back garden and sometimes a well for a wealthy person. They would last about 30 years until they would rot and have to be rebuilt. They had wickerwork walls and thatched roofs. Some houses were even sunken below

ground to keep away from bad weather and to keep it warmer inside. They were usually quite narrowly built and had 1 room. The floor of the room would be wickerwork, rushes, or dirt. The doors were very low and very small and the windows were very small. This was to keep the heat in the house. The hearth would be located in the middle of the floor. There would be very little furniture in the house and they would use their beds as seats during the day. They would spread a layer of rotting vegetables on the floor as insulation to keep warm because this layer would soak up the heat from the hearth. In a normal day a poor Viking would eat meat broth, wild leeks porridge barley bread and beer. A rich Viking would eat as much red meat as they wanted, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, wheaten bread, wine, and beer. They also ate pigs, cows, and goats for meat. There was very little obesity in the Viking community because there was no refined sugar. The average life expectancy was 25-55 years old. They had a limited medical knowledge and believed in charms and herbal remedies. The Vikings also believed in an afterlife. They were happy to die in battle because they wanted glorious deaths. If a Viking was to die in bed it was called a straw death, which was not honorable. The Vikings hated cowards and believed in fighting to the death. There were many battles between families and also many house burnings. The Vikings were very self-sufficient. They mad their own houses, furniture, wagons, iron tools, clothes, butter, cheese, beer, and many other things. They sewed a lot as well. Everyone wore leather boot and used blubber on the outside of them to waterproof them. Women wore loose dress of wool or linen with a shorter dress

over it. They also wore a shawl fastened with bone or bronze pins. They wore jewelry. Jewelry was glass, amber beads, bracelets, rings, and broaches. Women had many hair combs, which were highly decorated. Women carried whatever they needed for daily tasks around their neck on a chain. Married women covered their hair with a scarf. Men wore trousers and a cloak. They wore lots of gold rings and arm bands which were worth money. Every man carried a knife, and sometimes a sword or dagger. The Vikings also liked to play games. They had two different types of chess. They also had bone dice with numbers one through seven on them. They also had little bone whistles to play with. The Vikings had a thingmote in which all public meetings were held. The thingmote is a flat-topped mound. Court cases could last several days. Laws were also passed at the thingmote but only men were allowed to vote. To show approval for something the men would strike their shield or rattle their sword. Everything at the thingmote was passed on by word of mouth and nothing was ever written down. Family was very important to the Vikings. Marriages were arranged in the families and at the weddings there was a bridal ale was drank and that sealed the vows. The man would pay a bride price and the woman would pay a dowry. Divorces were easy and common for people to get and if they were followed through the woman was able to get her dowry back but the man didnt get the bride price back. Vikings were very hospitable people, whether they were very rich or poor. Feasts were held after battles for 5-6 days.

As the Vikings stayed in Ireland they started to convert to Christianity. When the Vikings fist came to Ireland, they were pagan. They had pagan burials with grave goods such as jewelry, swords, and sewing items. They were usually buried in a grave the shape of a boat or if wealthy in a real boat because they believed in the journey to the afterlife. Once they started converting to Christianity they got buried in different places. They were usually buried next to Christian sites. Sometimes they were even integrated into them. There are 5 Viking cemeteries in Dublin. The most important of these are Islandbridge and Kilmainham. The Vikings are thought to have converted to Christianity possibly because when baptized they were given a new set of clothes. They may have done this several times to keep getting the new clothes. One part of Christianity they had a hard time converting to was love thy enemy because they hated cowards and believed in fighting to the death. The Vikings had a political impact on Ireland because they forced the Irish to improve their military. The Irish kings were made to improve their weaponry and tactics when the Vikings kept invading. Before that they were able to be a bit lazier and not have as good a military defense as they should have. The Vikings also caused the Irish to start building stone churches instead of wooden ones. These last much longer and look more impressive. The Irish were forced to do this because the Vikings kept burning down the wooden ones. If someone came into a town and saw a large stone church it looked quite impressive. Ireland had a barter economy before the Vikings arrived, and the Vikings brought coinage over. They were very thin coins and they didnt last long. The coins had designs on them as well. The less prestigious ones had human or animal heads

on them, while the more prestigious ones had ships in them. There were pewter coins and silver coins. The pewter coins were thought to have been used in pubs because it is a cheaper metal while the silver is more prestigious and would have been used for more expensive things and had by richer people. There was also a sign that they saved money because money boxes have been found. This led to a better economy overall in Ireland. The Vikings coming to Ireland may not have been a completely positive experience but it definitely led to many positive outcomes in Irish society. They were able to improve their military, build better ships, move into towns, gain an understanding of home ownership, get a better economy, build stone churches, and just live in harmony with another culture eventually. The Vikings brought about a lot of change and there are several reasons why they may have come to Ireland. The population boom in their own country, the great wealth in Ireland, or their great ship building skills. It was probably a combination of all three things that lead them to come to Ireland. Whatever it was that caused the Vikings to come the Ireland, it was probably a good thing they did because it caused great advances in so many ways to Irish society.