This is one of numerous written sources referring to slavery in the Viking world, which include historical chronicles produced within northern European monasteries—often by people who were the victim of Viking attacks. Over time, slaving become arguably the main element of the trade that developed during the Viking Age along the eastern rivers of European Russia and what is now Ukraine. Slaves generally worked alongside the hired workers on the farm, but probably were assigned the harder and less desirable work. Whatever motivated the Vikings to start taking slaves, evidence suggests they were often brutal with those who had the misfortune to be captured. Many slaves were captured in raids but some people could be born as a slave. Slaves, or “thralls” as they were called, were present in most Norse communities, with many being taken in Viking raids across Europe. In fact, the desire for slaves might have been one of the main reasons Vikings began raiding in the first place. Slaves were put to death when they were no longer capable of working, due to old age, disease, or injury. Textile working in Scandinavia, for example, is strongly associated with women.”. Slaves could also marry. The inscription honors the king’s estate manager and is a rare example of people erecting a stone to themselves while alive: Read these runes! Among their names were Bastard, Sluggard, Stumpy, Stinker, and … [citation needed] The slave trade was one of the pillars of the Norse economy during the 6th through 11th centuries. Viking were buried with possessions that reflected their lives: tools of their profession, jewelry that showed their status, and could also be used as emergency currency (the Vikings often chipped pieces off their precious metal jewelry to act as currency), and warriors with weapons. Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images. They were properly ordered cut by Tolir, the bryti in Roden, appointed by the king. Give a Gift. Ultimately, there may be limits to how much we’ll ever know about forced labor in the Viking Age, beyond the evidence gleaned from written sources and archaeological digs. Twice a week we compile our most fascinating features and deliver them straight to you. Even with these few rights, slaves were still considered to the Vikings as unreliable cowards who were stupid and foul. Privacy Statement They could also be given the ultimate rough assignment when important Vikings died. Viking slaves could be sacrificed to the gods or be used to … Among their names were Bastard, Sluggard, Stumpy, Stinker, and Lout. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. At the bottom of the classes was the thrall, also known as þræll in Old Norse. It was … The Gokstad ship was 78 feet long and made of overlapping oak planks in a style called clinker-built. One intermediate state of servitude, for instance, was voluntary up to a point, albeit entered into under considerable economic compulsion, such as a means of clearing debts. They're really hard to identify in the archaeological record.”. The word Viking means ‘a … Viking, also called Norseman or Northman, ... and thralls, who were either slaves or bondsmen, the latter having to work for other men until they could pay their debts. Developments in the built environments of the estates, an increase in smaller structures (perhaps thralls’ quarters? Many Irish slaves were used in expeditions for the colonization of Iceland. In the story, the god Heimdall, using the name Ríg, visits three households in turn. Among their names were Bastard, Sluggard, Stumpy, Stinker, and Lout. At the most basic level, iron shackles have been found in the urban centers of Birka and Hedeby, as well as a handful of other sites connected with commerce. In time, the children and grandchildren of freed thralls would gain the full rights of the freeborn. In Scandinavia, it does get very cold, and these things are of course not enough, as anyone that has lived in these parts of the world would tell you. Vote Now! These slaves were always welcomed in the slave markets of Constantinople and Baghdad. Some of them arguably could have been used to restrain animals but were more likely designed to be placed around a human neck, wrist or ankle. Though it’s been suggested the objects could have been used for restraining animals, rather than humans, Raffield argues that their presence in these urban centers (rather than rural areas), as well as their concentration near the harbors tends to support their use on slaves. Most of the archaeological material is harder to read, in that it only indirectly reflects the presence of the enslaved. Available from Basic Books. Viking traders traded slaves in the markets but this was stopped in England in … Names of viking ships? All clearly pejoratives, several of the monikers imply ill health and a lack of hygiene, and one clearly refers to sexual servitude. The majority entered the wider network of trafficking and were transported to markets and points of sale in settlements across the Viking world and beyond, even reaching the emporia of western Europe. Thralls usually provided unskilled labor in the Viking Age, performing the heaviest and nastiest labor, building walls, spreading manure, pig and goat herding, and peat digging. These thralls probably held multiple roles, serving their masters in many ways in Viking society a thousand years ago. A vengance of Satan. One reason some black people were in Scandinavia during the Viking age is … In the early Viking Age, for example, who serviced the rapid expansion of the labor-intensive tar production industry, along with the parallel rise in the exploitation of the outlands? They captured, used, and sold slaves. Continue In fact, it is estimated that 90% of the society in Scandinavia were farmers in the … They could accumulate property and save enough money to buy their freedom. Scandinavia was made up of five modern day European countries: Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden. He has been researching, teaching, and writing on the Vikings for nearly 35 years and is the author of several books on the history of the Viking Age. Slaves did have some time to create goods to sell. Let it therefore be clearly stated: The Vikings were slavers, and the kidnapping, sale and forced exploitation of human beings was always a central pillar of their culture. They could also be manumitted, or released from slavery, at any time. Viking slaves were treated terrible often punished for little things. They would have needed housing and feeding, and their work must have been not only integrated into the economy but perhaps also a main driver of it. Slaves—who could also be traded at international markets—may have represented another type of resource for the Vikings, too. All freed(wo)men remained obligated to their former owners and were expected to support them, and they were never regarded as fully the equal of freeborn folk. If you walked up to somebody at that time and told him or her that he or she was a viking they'd have no idea what you were talking about and probably tell you that somebody in their family or among their friends had gone off on a raid an… Vikings took slaves in their raids and after battles. The status of slave (þræll, þēow) contrasts with that of the freeman (karl, ceorl) and the nobleman (jarl, eorl). This was called the Atlantic slave trade. What were the countries the Vikings traded with in the east? In other cultures, parallel accounts of enslaved individuals rising to positions of sometimes considerable power blur the lines of what their status actually meant. what were Viking slave called. What where Viking slaves called? They could also obtain Viking slaves at home, as crimes like murder and thievery were punished with slavery. “They look strikingly similar to all kinds of restraints that have been used on humans throughout history, from antiquity to the early modern period,” he says. “These sources provide very clear indications that Viking raiding groups are engaging in slaving activity,” says Ben Raffield, an archaeologist at Sweden’s Uppsala University who is conducting research on the Viking slave trade as part of the Viking Phenomenon project. There are also a few records of … “They strangely look quite similar to what you see in the United States in the antebellum period.”. Many of these slaves came from the British Isles and Eastern Europe. The lands they came from were rocky and sandy and offered little in the way of good farm land.Any fertile land that was to be found was jealously controlled by Jarls (owners of lands and men, ‘Earls’ in English) and self proclaimed kings. They lived in the darkest corner of the longhouse with the cattle. Other sources emerged from the Arab world, including the account of the 10th-century geographer Ibn Hawqual, who in A.D. 977 wrote of a Viking slave trade that extended across the Mediterranean from Spain to Egypt. While the warriors spent most of their time fighting or drinking, it was up to slaves to do a great deal of the work around the village. A thrall (Old Norse/Icelandic: þræll, Faroese: trælur, Norwegian: trell, Danish: træl, Swedish: träl) was a slave or serf in Scandinavian lands during the Viking Age. “The few that have been excavated seem to have been used for crafting activities, things like textile making,” Raffield says. They acquired slaves primarily on their expeditions to Eastern Europe and the British Isles. The Vikings have always been discussed throughout history as vicious people. Most farms kept slaves, a practice that was widespread throughout the Viking lands on both large and small farms. Keep up-to-date on: © 2021 Smithsonian Magazine. At the bottom of the social order existed those who were unfree: these were termed þræll or "thrall", which means literally, "an unfree servant." 25 of 33 While Viking military activity is most associated with northern Europe, they also invaded Spain, Italy, and areas across northern Africa. Former thralls also had lower rights to compensation in legal codes. But for many, this was an unattainable hope. The Vikings were slave traders. They therefore took what they needed from others, from lands … Beneath the social network, any other distinction of status, class, opportunity and wealth pales beside the most basic fact of liberty and the consequent potential for choice. Cookie Policy This means that they followed many gods. The era of Viking raids resulting in the capture of slaves slowly ended in the 11th century. Certain crimes were also punishable by serving as a thrall for a fixed period of time. thralls. None of them acknowledge individual identity or personality. And the medieval freemen were among the few who, over time, could move among classes, at least among the lower ones. What were Viking slaves? Ingólfr believed the Hjörleifr's bad luck was due to his failure to consult the gods before choosing a place to settle. Women: When a girl was about 15 or 16, whatever her … The Vikings in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland had slaves, or thralls. History does not report the names of Viking … The answer might have been a need for foreign slave labor to help build their enormous fleets of ships and produce the textiles for their sails. The stone raised by Tóki indicates his profession—a handy, useful occupation—but whether this was something new or a legacy of his former tasks as a thrall is unclear. The Norse system of thralldom was not always complete chattel slavery, but most of the enslaved had little agency. Berserker’s were known for their fierceness and boldness, Black shamans who went into altered states before going into battle. This was one of the primary objectives of Viking raids and military campaigns—and the result was a massive increase in the numbers of enslaved people in Scandinavia. Vikings were literally sea rovers or pirates. © 2021 A&E Television Networks, LLC. A 14th-century poem—the original probably dates from the end of the Viking era—gives an idea of how Vikings saw their slaves. Raffield stresses the need to more fully excavate Viking sites where slaves are believed to have lived. What were … “The thing about studying slavery and captivity is that these groups are often described in the archaeological literature as invisible, or unseen,” Raffield cautions. Why were Vikings called Rus. The daughters are dubbed Stumpina (a feminine form of the male equivalent, with the sense of a demeaning joke), Dumpy, Bulgingcalves, Bellowsnose, Shouty, Bondwoman, Greatgossip, Raggedyhips and Craneshanks. These were the bondsmen and the slaves captured during raids. Many of these slaves came from the British Isles and Eastern Europe. In the Viking age, slaves were seen as advanced domestic animals. The ancestors of the Vikings, called the Scandinavian people, traded with the Romans. Why did the Vikings spare some lives? One is humble and impoverished, while the second is modest but well-kept and the third wealthy and proud. Very wealthy Vikings might be buried in a ship that they could use in the afterlife, or stone … Now, archaeologists are attempting to piece together a clearer picture of one of the darker aspects of the Viking world: slavery. In addition, hired men and servants worked at the farm, in exchange for wages and room and board. You Can Now Explore the CIA's 'Entire' Collection of UFO Documents Online, Monument to Coretta Scott and MLK Is Coming to Boston, City Where They Met, The Real Story of the "Football" That Follows the President Everywhere, 2,000-Year-Old Grave of Child and Puppy Found in France, For the First Time in 200 Years, a New Blue Pigment Is Up for Sale, What Scientists Are Learning About Covid-19 Using the Nation's Blood Supply, How Arlington National Cemetery Came to Be, The 'Last' Female Swinhoe's Softshell Turtle Died in 2019. “We wonder whether you would need a new labor force to produce the materials you need to do that.”. Slavery or ánauð is a term encountered occasionally, especially in reference to persons enslaved as a consequence of warfare or raids. As raiding for enslaved people escalated, these individuals’ work became essential for building, equipping and maintaining the fleets used in such assaults, and so on in a self-reinforcing system. All Rights Reserved. Based on these parameters, some scholars have argued that the number of actual enslaved people in Viking Age society was relatively low. If you were a slave you had very few rights; however, you could save up and buy your freedom. Their bare feet are covered with soil. A 14th-century poem—the original likely dates from the end of the Viking era—gives an idea of how Vikings saw their slaves. In one historical account of Viking-era slavery, an early-medieval Irish chronicle known as The Annals of Ulster, described a Viking raid near Dublin in A.D. 821, in which “they carried off a great number of women into captivity.” This is one of numerous written sources referring to slavery in the Viking world, which include historical ch… Constantinople, Russia, Byzantine empire, Baghdad. Some followed their masters into the grave. It's a Scandinavian word describing the seafaring raiders from Scandinavia, but has come to mean all Scandinavians in the viking age between 800 and 1050 AD. The poem also outlines the tasks performed by the enslaved: Thræll carries heavy bundles of kindling and plaits materials for basket making, while his family “fixed fences, dunged fields, worked at the pigs, watched over the goats, dug the peat.” Their bodies are marked by manual labor, with wrinkled skin burnt by the sun, scabbed nails, gnarled knuckles and dull eyes. A freed thrall existed in the ambiguous space between enslavement and complete liberty. In some cases, the slaves were buried alongside their masters, suggesting they may have ended up as human sacrifices, and included with grave goods to accompany powerful Vikings into the afterlife. There were three broad social classes: the nobles or jarls, the middle class or karls and the slaves or thralls. Some Swedish archaeologists now believe this could have been a Viking plantation with slaves as the labour force. Other sources about the Vikings? “Fleets of hundreds of ships [were] sailing out of Scandinavia in the 9th century,” he says. While thralls and freedmen did not have much economic or political power in Scandinavia, they were still given a wergeld, or a man's price: there was a monetary penalty for unlawfully killing a slave. Africans were a relatively easy source of slaves as European traders did not have to capture them, but relied on Arabs and … In one study, research Anna Kjellström of Stockholm University examined the skeletal remains of presumed Viking-era slaves found in graves in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and found that they showed signs of abuse and decapitation. Icelanders had Danish slaves, the Norse kept Swedes, the Swedes captured Finns. The corresponding term in Old English was þēow. Did viking slaves sleep inside the owner's long house? There are also indications that Vikings practiced polygamy, which in their highly stratified society would have meant that poorer unmarried men might have had limited access to women, and would have targeted female slaves as concubines (or even wives). Adapted from Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price. A judicious combination of archaeological and textual sources can produce a relatively comprehensive picture of Viking slaveholding. They have been known by many names – Foreigners, Heathens, Varangians, Rus, Majūs, Wiccingi, Danes, Northmen, and now Vikings. Though an enslaved individual might pass through many hands in a journey lasting months or years, the experience almost always began with a violent kidnapping. The Viking Age lasted from the late eighth to eleventh centuries. A small number of Vikings had black—or brown—skin, according to reliable historical evidence. The Viking Age was very much a time of borders—between cultures and ways of life, between different views of reality, and between individuals, including at the level of liberty itself. Slaves did the dirtiest jobs in a Vikings family. Tolir and Gylla had them cut, husband and wife to their own memory ... Hákon did the carving. Viking social structure was highly stratified, with three ranks or classes which were written directly into Scandinavian mythology, as enslaved people (called thrall in Old Norse), farmers or peasants (karl), and the aristocracy (jarl or earl). The Vikings were Norse people who came from an area called Scandinavia. Slaves were also purchased by traders and sold in the marketplace. If the slaves misbehaved or did not behave like the way their master expected, they would get beaten. Meeting and talking was one way to forge a relationship. The poem includes a list of names appropriate to these characters’ stations in life: The “first couple” of the enslaved class are called Thræll and Thír, the latter name effectively meaning “thrall-woman.” Their sons’ names translate as Noisy, Byreboy, Stout, Sticky, Bedmate, Badbreath, Stumpy, Fatty, Sluggish, Grizzled, Stooper and Longlegs. But, if slaves saved enough money, they could buy their way out of slavery. You might know it better as Norway, Sweden and Denmark. In the early Viking Age, no national kings existed. Shackles from the Viking-Age town of Birka, Sweden (top left), Neu Nieköhr, Germany (bottom left), and Trelleborg, Slagelse, Denmark (right). Viking women were able to own property and divorce their husbands, and they often ran their family's finances and farms in their husbands' absence. Among their names were Bastard, Sluggard, Stumpy, Stinker, and Lout. One of the most enduring components of the Viking image is the notion of freedom—the adventure of a far horizon and all that went with it. However, slaves had a few rights. Some thralls were born into slavery because both of their parents were enslaved, or a freeborn man who had impregnated their enslaved mother declined to acknowledge the child. Viking warriors were known as Berserkers. The reverse was true for the male population, suggesting that many Nordic men in Iceland had children with women who were likely taken in raids from the British Isles. DNA mapping of the modern Icelandic population found that up to two-thirds of Iceland’s female founding population had Gaelic origins (either Ireland or Scotland) while only one-third had Nordic roots. Did Viking women fight? Copyright © 2020 by Neil Price. Viking slaves primarily came from raids on Slavic, Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon tribes and were called Thralls. For example, at a Swedish site called Sanda, researchers in the 1990s found a great hall surrounded by small houses. The Vikings were polytheists. Slaves and thralls in the Viking Age Slaves or thralls were amongst the most important commodities traded by the Vikings. In the Viking Age, this picture changed dramatically because, for the first time, Scandinavians began to make the active acquisition of human chattel a key part of their economy. They needed people to help them. “What you are likely to have is slave-driven production of textiles,” said Price. 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