Introduction To The World of the Vikings

The World of the Vikings project team has harnessed the latest multimedia technology to convey the enormous richness and variety of the Viking world – sites, landscapes and artefacts in their thousands. A truly international project, the team has enjoyed tremendous support and cooperation from museums and private collections across the northern hemisphere. With over two years of meticulous academic research, this CD-ROM is the definitive resource and reference work on the Vikings.

For nearly three centuries, from around AD 800 to 1100, the Vikings dominated the European scene. From their homelands in Scandinavia they struck westwards, their superb ships carrying them to Britain and Ireland, to the northern and western coasts of mainland Europe, and on across the Atlantic to Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland; reaching America five hundred years before Columbus. Other Vikings journeyed eastwards, down the great rivers of the Russian interior to launch their ships on the Caspian sea and the Black sea. Even the mighty walls of Constantinople looked down on a Viking fleet.

Blonde, burly and brutal, hungry for loot and land: that is the stereotypical image of the Viking. Violent the Vikings certainly were, but in a turbulent age whose values were not ours. Modern scholarship, however, has revealed much more. Towns, villages and farms have been uncovered by the archaeologist’s trowel, illuminating every aspect of Viking life – from the clothes they wore to the food they ate.

From these exciting discoveries it is clear that to talk about Vikings at all is an over-simplification. The streetscapes of York and Kiev, to great ‘Viking’ cities, were wholly different as were the clothes their inhabitants wore and the languages they spoke; the ‘Vikings’ of Iceland and of Ireland were different again. The ‘Vikings’ also changed over time. They gave up paganism, adopted Christianity, and assimilated into the local cultures which they encountered.

The World of the Vikings was, then, complex and ever changing. On this CD-ROM, through thousands of images, we have tried to capture this diversity in a way that no printed book can match. Drawing on material from eighteen countries across the Viking world, from Newfoundland to Constantinople, we are telling not only the Viking story, but a modern story of exploration, the exploration of the Viking past based on the meticulous work of over fifty museums and research institutions.