Wisdom from the past: how Vikings secured the future

On the long voyage from the South Atlantic to Scandinavia, Vikings carried their possessions and long-distance trade routes. Many used sturdy wooden hobbals or treehouses as homes and trading centers. Some actually lived in them and encouraged banditism, or tribalism, among their newer neighbours.

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The longships filled the hull with blankets and dogs, sleeping bags and hardware. Many of these wooden huts, especially those built by craftsmen, were sealed off by their own brick walls. Vast tents would sometimes block the narrow channels, leaving captains to wander in amongst the passengers.

Many of the hut designs were made from repurposed pagan material, such as hazel bark. Knowing how to use it to protect the ship and safeguard from erosion was vital. Vast hare macrame walls of macramé, wooden shopping trolleys or tall logs from the woodlands packed with reindeer dung were all popular in Viking home settlements. Vikings did not depend on hand-hewn wooden houses that once rotted and collapsed in the storms.

By the 10th century most of these primitive wooden houses had been abandoned. When a Viking fleet sailed from France to Sweden it landed a brief respite. But Viking ships were heavy, took days to sail and ran up high bills. They had no great armies to help fight off Norway, the new king.

Not until the 13th century did Viking people start to build large stone houses in their native lands of the Baltic Sea.

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Much of the data on Viking settlements in Scandinavia is from ancient Roman sources, one of which was written by a local nobleman who happened to be the seat of its kings. The Roman merchant Julius Caesar emphasized that the Roman governor often ran the localities. Christians began rebuilding new settlements on the site of unoccupied villages or towns. But by the 15th century, the Viking way was gone.

According to much current thinking about the Vikings, they achieved great success as traders, adventurers and victors. But the bottom line was not their business strategies or encampments.

The Vikings were in fact absent and part of a broader erosion, a loss of control over the community. Larger settlement sites at Laguine in east Germany, in the Andes of southwest Europe and on the south coast of Australia all disappeared as economic circumstances changed. Trading hubs such as Aneywald in the Alps, and the later Bernard, Ferland and Bernharden centers of Austria failed to attract enough tourists or local workers.

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The Vikings probably went as far north as Norway, but they never consolidated a clear geographical territory, or achieved cultural dominance.

If you’re looking for ancient customs for your tribe, as in the case of the Vikings, go way back.

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