Despite their fierce reputation. Vikings may not have always been the plunderers and pillagers popular culture imagines them to be. In fact, they got their start trading in northern European markets, researchers suggest.
Combs carved from animal antlers, as well as comb manufacturing waste and raw antler material has turned up at three archaeological sites in Denmark, including a medieval marketplace in the city of Ribe. A team of researchers from Denmark and the U.K. hoped to identify the species of animal to which the antlers once belonged by analysing collagen proteins in the samples and comparing them across the animal kingdom, Laura Geggel reports for LiveScience. Somewhat surprisingly, molecular analysis of the artefacts revealed that some combs and other material had been carved from reindeer antlers…. Given that reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) don’t live in Denmark, the researchers posit that it arrived on Viking ships from Norway. Antler craftsmanship, in the form of decorative combs, was part of Viking culture. Such combs served as symbols of good health, Geggel writes. The fact that the animals shed their antlers also made them easy to collect from the large herds that inhabited Norway.
Since the artefacts were found in marketplace areas at each site it’s more likely that the Norsemen came to trade rather than pillage. Most of the artefacts also date to the 780s, but some are as old as 725. That predates the beginning of Viking raids on Great Britain by about 70 years. (Traditionally, the so-called “Viking Age” began with these raids in 793 and ended with the Norman conquest of Great Britain in 1066.) Archaeologists had suspected that the Vikings had experience with long maritime voyages [that] might have preceded their raiding days. Beyond Norway, these combs would have been a popular industry in Scandinavia as well. It’s possible that the antler combs represent a larger trade network, where the Norsemen supplied raw material to craftsmen in Denmark and elsewhere.
The primary purpose of the passage is:
- to explain the presence of reindeer antler combs in Denmark
- to contradict the widely-accepted beginning date for the Viking Age in Britain, and propose an alternate one
- to challenge the popular perception of Vikings as raiders by using evidence that suggests their early trade relations with Europe
- to argue that besides being violent pillagers, Vikings were also skilled craftsmen and efficient traders.
The evidence – “Most of the artefacts also date to the 780s, but some are as old as 725” – has been used in the passage to argue that:
- the beginning date of the Viking Age should be changed from 793 to 725
- the Viking raids started as early as 725
- some of the antler artefacts found in Denmark and Great Britain could have come from Scandinavia
- the Vikings’ trade relations with Europe pre-dates the Viking raids.
All of the following hold true for Vikings EXCEPT
- Vikings brought reindeer from Norway to Denmark for trade purposes
- Before becoming the raiders of northern Europe, Vikings had trade relations with European nations
- Antler combs, regarded by the Vikings as a symbol of good health, were part of the Viking culture
- Vikings, once upon a. time, had trade relations with Denmark and Scandinavia.
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