Drawings of Anglo-Saxons

ANGLO-SAXON DISCOVERY

Drawings of objects

Meet the Vikings

How do we know about the Vikings?

Viking Icon
Types of Evidence

Documents

As you have already seen we know about Viking raids and attacks from written documents like the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

The Vikings themselves did not write documents like the Anglo-Saxons, but they did write in runes on stones, now know as rune-stones. (Both the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings used runes for writing)

However these sources only provide limited information. They do not tell us about the everyday life of the Vikings or their beliefs and customs. Archaeology can provide these types of information.

Find out more about archaeology

Archaeologist drawn by Jessica age 10
Trowel drawn by Grace age 8
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Cuerdale Hoard (AN1909.519-51)

Archaeological Finds

In Britian archaeologists occassionally find Viking artefacts, like this hoard of silver coins and bars from Cuerdale in Lancashire.

We know most about Viking life and death from objects found in Scandinavia. Scandinavian objects can be compared with Viking objects found in Britain.

In England the Vikings often lived amongst the Anglo-Saxons so it is sometimes difficult for archeaologists to distinguish settlements and artefacts that are Viking from those that are Anglo-Saxon.

Oval brooch of the type found across Viking age Scandinavia
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Place-Names

Place-names also provide information about where the Vikings lived. Many place-names in Britain contain Viking (Norse) words. Similarly many place-names contain Anglo-Saxon words (find out more about Anglo-Saxon place-names).

Here are a few examples of Norse words which can be found in modern place-names:

Viking/Norse Word
Meaning

Example of Modern
Place-name

beck
stream
Gosbeck
by
farm / village
Whitby
gate
road
Portgate
hus
house
Husthwaite
ings
marsh / meadow
Toast Ings
kirk
church
Kirkham
lin
flax
Linton
thorp
outlying farm/settlement
Ingoldsthorpe
toft
homestead
Wibtoft
wath
ford
Langwaithby
wray
remote place
Wray with Botton

These place-names have different meanings. Some of them also contain a mixture of Anglo-Saxon and Norse words. Here are a few examples:

  • Ingoldsthorpe (in Norfolk) means Ingjaldr's outlying farm
  • Gosbeck (in Suffolk) means goose stream (Gos is Old English for Goose)
  • Gateforth (in Yorkshire) means goat ford (Ford is Old English for river crossing)
  • Portgate (in Northumerland) means town gate (Port is Old English for town)
  • Toast Ings (in Lincolnshire) means Tosti's meadow

Look for place-names with these words in and this will tell you where the Vikings lived. Places in the north and east of England have more Viking place-names since this is where the Vikings settled. There are also Viking place-names in the north and west of Scotland, the Orkneys and the Shetland Isles.

Were there any Vikings living near you?

Find out more about the origins of place-names

Find out about place-names in your area

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Norse Sagas

We can also find out about the Vikings from their stories and myths. These are known as sagas. Many of them were written down during the medieval period in Iceland.

Find out more about Viking Sagas

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