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viking

The Viking period in Britain spanned around 250 years between the 9th and 11th centuries. From the early Viking raids on Lindisfarne at the end of the 8th and early 9th centuries, to the Norman Invasion of William the Conqueror in AD 1066, which was eventually to see the end of rule in Britain of both the Anglo Saxon and Viking dynasties.

 

In the 9th century Britain was divided into four kingdoms being Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia, and Northumbria. By AD 870 all of these areas, apart from Wessex, had been overrun by Viking invasion, and soon after, Danelaw begun. King of Anglo Saxon Wessex was Alfred, who in AD 876 fought the Danish Vikings and recaptured London. Alfred introduced new Anglo Saxon laws and reintroduced religious education which had stopped under the pagan Viking rule.

 

Alfred's grandson, King Athelstan who ruled from AD 924-939, also successfully battled with the Vikings and retook Cornwall, Wales, and very significantly and importantly, Viking York. By this time Athelstan had become the first King of Britain for 500 years. However by the late 10th century Viking raids saw the retaking of much of the Anglo Saxon territories in Britain. By now the past 200 years had seen much change in the control and power base between the Vikings and Anglo Saxons.

 

By the early 11th century the Christian Viking King Cnut had become King of England, Denmark and Norway. After this Harold was briefly King of England before being defeated by William of Normandy during the famous Battle of Hastings in AD 1066. This finally saw the end of both Anglo Saxon and Viking rule, and made way for the period of Norman rule in 11th century Britain.

 

As far as artefacts from this time are concerned, Viking finds still remain relatively rare. History tells us that many items of gold and silver were plundered by the Vikings and retuned to Scandinavia. In fact often more coins and artefacts are found there than in Britain. Under Danelaw, Danegeld payments were made, and again coins transported back to the Viking mainlands. Some precious metal items were even melted down and reformed into other items.

 

Like the Celts, Viking art is very stylised often depicting animal designs. Stirrup mounts made from bronze tend to be the most common find, followed by disc and trefoil brooches, buckles and strap ends, horse fittings, keys, and far less common, silver and gold jewellery. Brooches were both ornamental, and practical. As you would imagine, bronze, silver, or gold items would indicate the owners social status. Solid disc or trefoil brooches were usually worn by women at the neck, with the open ring and pin type worn by men to fasten a clock. Sometimes the Vikings would plate base metals with tin or silver to make it appear to be solid silver. They would also gild silver and bronze. The idea of this is thought to make the wearer appear to be in a higher social status than they actually were. Pewter was also used. Viking finds are usually very decorative, rare, and therefore highly collectable and sought after, keeping values high.

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