The Vikings: Foe or Friend? A Timewatch Guide


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The Vikings: Foe or Friend?

Alice Roberts shows how the Vikings' story has changed on TV since the 1960s, from being seen as brutal barbarians, to pioneering traders able to integrate into multiple cultures.


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HORN SOUNDS

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On 8th June 793AD, Europe changed forever.

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The hallowed monastery at Lindisfarne

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on the Northumbrian coast was suddenly attacked and looted

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by armed, seafaring Scandinavians.

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Striking at the very heart of Christian Britain,

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it also sent a shock wave rippling throughout the continent.

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A new order had begun.

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The age of the Vikings.

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Centuries later, and that image of the ruthless, marauding Viking

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still stalks our collective psyche.

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But just how truthful is it?

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Were they really sadistic raiders?

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Or enterprising traders?

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Using decades of BBC archive, I'll examine how historians,

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archaeologists and film-makers have re-evaluated the Vikings over time.

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I'll reveal how they've collaborated

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to crack the secrets of Viking technology.

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In terms of the Viking Age, it was a bit like going into outer space.

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How our changing values have changed how we interpret them.

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There is certainly an emphasis on the valorisation of bloody deeds.

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And I'll discover how the Vikings are still with us today.

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If you're angry, if you're happy, if you're ill.

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-Those words as well?

-All these words come from Norse.

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I want to investigate the legacy of this ancient Norse culture.

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Have the Vikings simply sailed off, disappearing into history?

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Or can we still detect their influence

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rippling through our modern world?

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This is the Timewatch guide to the Vikings.

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The Scandinavia of the 8th century was not as we know it today.

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With the countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden

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yet to be established,

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this was a land populated by scattered groups

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of fishermen, farmers and warriors.

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Descendants of Nordic tribes, they were not a unified people.

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Not one culture governed by a leader

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but, rather, disparate clans, often at war with each other.

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To become the people we now know as Vikings,

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they would have to leave their homeland.

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To be a Viking was to take action.

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In the old Norse language, it was practically an occupation -

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"to go a viking" was to sail off in search of treasure and adventure.

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They couldn't have done this without one of the greatest technological

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breakthroughs of Europe's Dark Ages, the Viking long ship.

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The one thing that unified and defined the Vikings

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was their advanced naval technology.

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In the years following the raid on Lindisfarne,

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their iconic dragon-headed vessels

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would be seen from the North Sea to the Black Sea.

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So, in his definitive 1980s series, Vikings,

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Magnus Magnusson put major emphasis on how central the long ship was

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to their extraordinary success.

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You know, to the Vikings,

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running a ship came as naturally as driving a car does to us.

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But with one extra dimension -

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the sheer physical exhilaration of it.

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To feel a boat like this, thrumming and strumming underneath you,

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is really one of the most thrilling experiences you can imagine.

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The genius of the longship's design

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was that its keel could glide just under the surface of the water,

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allowing some ships to reach top speeds of almost 30kph.

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The largest could measure up to 35 metres in length,

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light and narrow and, with up to 78 oarsmen,

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these flexible machines could power through the waves.

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The ship technology of the Vikings

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had been developing slowly but surely over many centuries.

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And, then, suddenly, it seems, they were there.

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At Lindisfarne, everywhere,

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swarming out of their fjords across the northern seas.

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And they were there because they had put it all together.

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They had learned to build the best, the most beautiful,

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the most seaworthy ships in the whole wide world.

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The classic Viking longship, as we imagine it,

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had a number of advantages.

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For one thing, it has a fairly shallow draught,

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which means it can navigate river systems,

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and it can beach wherever it really wants to.

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Secondly, the nature of the construction,

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the clinker-built construction, makes it extremely flexible.

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So it can move with the waves,

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and that gives it the technological advantage it needs

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to be a true ocean-going vessel.

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It's not just about the ability to travel across the sea,

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it's also about the ability to get away again, quickly.

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So, if you've got a ship that can move in fast, get away quickly,

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then that's an ideal, amphibious assault weapon.

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If it weren't for this technology,

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we would simply never have heard of the Vikings.

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These vessels were the engine that powered their rise.

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But, in the 1980s, details were still missing.

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There were many unanswered technical questions.

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How did the Vikings construct these ships

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and navigate such vast distances over 1,000 years ago?

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As their knowledge increased,

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archaeologists and historians wanted to delve deeper into the secrets

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of Viking naval technology.

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And one way of doing that was to perform experimental archaeology

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which also made for compelling television.

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By the 1990s,

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a new fashion in film-making had emerged as programme-makers and

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archaeologists began to work together to unlock the secrets

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of Viking technology.

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'Modern boats have radios, satellite navigation systems, radar.

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'The Vikings didn't even have compasses.

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'How was it possible?'

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In 1995, one of the greatest sailors of his generation,

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Robin Knox-Johnston, had a theory.

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It lay in an 11th century sun compass.

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He wanted to test out if this was the lost piece of Viking technology

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that would finally reveal to us how they navigated the world.

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The answer just may be a simple, little, wooden disc like this.

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Now, a third of one of these was found in a monastery in Greenland,

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and it was a long time before anyone noticed that it had got a curve

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traced on it. Eventually, a navigator looked at it and said,

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"Wait a minute, the curve shows

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"where the sun's shadow from this pin

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"has fallen during the course of the day."

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They suddenly realised, if I had a rough idea of time,

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I can tell where North is with this.

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Once I know North, I can work out all the other points of the compass.

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To sail from Norway in the east to Greenland in the west,

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a Viking longship would have to have travelled 2,500 kilometres.

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Knox Johnston wanted to test if he could sail along a chosen latitude,

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guided only by the Sun's shadow cast on this primitive compass.

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'The trick appears to be to sit for a day due east of your destination.

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'Keep the sundial in a fixed position and, from time to time,

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'mark where the shadow falls.

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'Next day, you set out,

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'which is how we came to be sitting in the English Channel

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'60 miles east of the Lizard.

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'No compass, and at dawn no shadow to steer by,

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'Viking navigation would have to work with only occasional sunshine.'

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If you look at the map of the North Atlantic,

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most of the places that the Vikings went to,

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from Norway across to Shetland,

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to the Faroe Islands, to Iceland, to Greenland,

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are roughly in an east-west direction.

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And you can use sightings on the Sun

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to keep yourself heading in the correct direction.

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And, so, using this sun compass,

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the gnomon that Robin Knox-Johnston was demonstrating,

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which was found in an excavation in Greenland,

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it is possible, with care and skill,

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to maintain a reasonably accurate heading,

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when you're heading west, or east.

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In other words, do that, effectively.

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If it's there, I've got to do that.

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Get that shadow on that line.

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We reckon that guessing the time to within half-an-hour

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would be good enough.

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Well, that's pretty fantastic, I must say.

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I didn't think we'd be that close.

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Nine cables out after 60 miles.

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About a land mile.

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That's fairly remarkable.

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We now know a simple bit of wood and a little pin in the middle,

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and a rough idea of time, cos that's all we had,

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you can steer a remarkably accurate course.

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That's one of the most amazing things about the Viking Age,

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is that this is a phenomenon where people are taking these incredible

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risks on the open ocean in ways that had never been attempted before.

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And, in the process, you have a people who are the first to reach

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four separate continents over the surface of the Earth.

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This has never been done before.

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The strength of mind and will to do that is absolutely mind-boggling.

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By 2008, the era of reality television had arrived,

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and Timewatch followed the reconstruction

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of a 30-metre longship,

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filled it with a crew of over 60, rigged it with cameras,

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and prepared to sail from Denmark to Ireland.

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The aim was to capture every second of what a Viking voyage entailed,

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as the crew had to live, eat and sleep on the cramped, open ship.

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'They're sailing 1,000 miles in the world's largest Viking longship.'

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'900 years on, the ship has been painstakingly built,

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'using authentic Viking tools and methods.

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'Their mission is to discover just how ships like these

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'made the Vikings the rulers of the sea.'

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So, this footage really gives you a sense of how dangerous,

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how uncomfortable, how frightening

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it would have been to be on a ship like this.

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Bear in mind that the people who are doing it as a reconstruction

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are doing it with life jackets and protective clothing

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and warm winter wear, and medical supplies,

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and a safety boat and all the rest of it.

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When this was happening for real in the 9th, 10th, 11th centuries,

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they had none of that.

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Woohoo!

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This unique partnership of programme-makers

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and experimental archaeologists

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could now give us a much closer look into the realities

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of the Viking experience.

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SHOUTING

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Lowering the sail prevents the wind from blowing the ship over.

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But it also makes the ship much less stable in the big waves.

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Never a good thing on this boat.

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On most other boats, it's for safety.

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Not on this boat.

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They're making the sail smaller as there's so much wind right now,

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we are trying to make it as... Yeah, I think it's the last rope,

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so, now we can't make it any smaller.

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Enduring a tortuous, seven-week experience at sea,

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the crew are left in no doubt of the determination of the Vikings.

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I think the Vikings were tough in a way that modern people just aren't.

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And they were prepared to accept they might not make it,

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in a way that modern people generally aren't.

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Going into the unknown, I think,

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was something which you just did at that time.

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Life, whether it's on land or at sea,

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entailed far more dangers and far more uncertainty

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than we think ours does today.

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It really helped, I think,

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to bring into focus the achievement of people 1,000 years ago,

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who were capable of doing that.

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'The ship has travelled 1,000 nautical miles

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'during 220 hours of sailing.

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'And, finally, they're nearing their destination.'

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Viking ships were certainly impressive.

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Their speed and size demonstrated technical and military prowess.

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But the decorative art which adorned them also held clues

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to the Vikings' deeply held, spiritual beliefs,

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and their mythologies.

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In his 2012 series, Vikings,

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Neil Oliver shifted our attention to this artistry

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which portrayed a realm of mysterious, mythical creatures

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and legends engraved within Viking culture.

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The ship itself is the work of many craftsmen.

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But, here, in this carving,

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is the imagination and the skill of just one artist.

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One person.

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It's this exciting, vivid depiction

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of a dragon or sea serpents twisted together,

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the scales and the skin are picked out

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with these carefully etched lines.

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While it's one thing to be handed an object

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that you can hold in your hand,

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and be told that this is 1,000 or 1,200 years old,

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it's of another order of magnitude

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to stand beneath something like this.

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This says that the Vikings were real people, with huge ambition.

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This is just one of hundreds or thousands of ships

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built during the Viking Age.

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This is what the Vikings were capable of.

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This particular ship was found within a burial mound.

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Not only would these ships ferry Vikings in life,

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but they would carry them on their journeys into the afterlife.

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This only happened to the few.

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And they would see all the valuables going in,

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then the animals being killed, and put alongside.

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It would have stayed with those spectators for a lifetime.

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And they, in turn, would have passed stories about what they had seen,

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down through the generations.

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So, whoever went into the next life aboard this ship

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would never be forgotten.

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When you look at a ship like the Oseberg ship,

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it can be quite hard to understand why something

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with such a high level of investment that has gone into it

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would be buried under a mound like this.

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But it is really

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making a statement about status, about wealth,

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about the ability of a community to dispose of something

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of incredible value and artistry.

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It was clearly a treasured possession,

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and the fact that it could be disposed of like this

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really tells you something about the people who were buried with it.

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The beautiful Oseberg ship revealed the spiritual beliefs

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and the rituals of the Vikings,

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but it also held two totally unexpected new discoveries

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about their society.

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As an archaeologist,

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I tend to spend a lot of my time talking about powerful men.

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But when the Oseberg ship was excavated,

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the big surprise was that it contained two women.

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And these are the remains of one of them.

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In fact, the older of the two.

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We tend to think of the Viking,

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it's a guy, almost certainly blond, tall,

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very Scandinavian-looking, a warrior.

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It's not that that's inaccurate,

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but that's only one element of Viking society.

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We know that women were present during the raids,

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they formed a very important component of Viking settlements.

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They were a very influential force in Viking Age society.

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And analysis of the second woman makes things even more complicated.

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While there is every reason to believe that the older woman

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was Scandinavian born and bred,

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analysis of DNA taken from the younger woman's skeleton

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at least allows for the possibility

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that she was from as far away as the Middle East.

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So that, by as early as the end of the 8th century,

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the Vikings were doing much more than just causing trouble

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for their neighbours, like the people in the British Isles.

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They had contacts into the east and Eastern Europe.

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These investigations were revealing new insights into women's position

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in Viking society, and how they navigated vast distances,

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and even the onboard experience of a Viking voyage.

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But the big question for historians still

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was what motivated them to make these treacherous journeys?

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Their raid on the monastery in Lindisfarne in 793

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heralded the beginning of a relentless campaign of attacks

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on the vulnerable coastline monasteries

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dotted around the British Isles

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and, by the end of the century, continental Europe.

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The Vikings' repeated raids on monasteries gained them a reputation

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for incredible savagery, and this echoes down the centuries.

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In the early days of television,

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this is often what the programme-makers chose to focus on.

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'In the 8th century,

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'the men of Norway, Denmark and Sweden built themselves fine ships,

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'and began to look about them with greedy eyes.

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'The Vikings worshipped Odin and Thor, and hated Christ.'

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Ha! Did the Vikings hate Christ?

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No, no, the Vikings didn't hate Christ.

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I just don't think they really cared all that much.

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You have to remember that what we know about Viking belief

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was that it embraced a whole pantheon of gods and spirits

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and other supernatural creatures.

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So, the idea that there was something particularly bizarre

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about Christ, it doesn't really make any sense.

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I'm sure he was recognised as just another god, like all the others.

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But they certainly didn't see anything special about Christianity,

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and there was nothing special about Christian holy places.

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The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recounts the Vikings as wild heathens

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on a mission to destroy the Church,

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while some monks even believed that these savage Norsemen,

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who'd suddenly appeared on the horizon,

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were God's punishment for wayward Christians.

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In reality, the Vikings simply viewed monasteries as easy targets.

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They were accessible, undefended, and filled with silver and gold.

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That 1965 broadcast was part of a time when we were almost

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still thinking in the backgrounds of our minds

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about the Second World War, about invasion,

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and about people coming across the sea to take things

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and to destroy, and we're sort of imposing that on the distant pass.

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By 1980, our views had changed.

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We'd previously taken the monks' version of events

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as the definitive accounts of Viking raids,

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but Magnus Magnusson pointed out

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that the Church was spinning history,

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attempting to paint the Vikings as the ultimate pagan barbarians.

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One of the more preposterous claims was that after a Viking host

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had sacked the great monastery of Clonmacnoise here,

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their chieftain placed his wife upon the high altar,

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where she chanted heathen spells and oracles.

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Now, this chieftain was a certain Turges or Turgesius, a Norwegian,

0:21:140:21:19

who it was claimed had assumed the sovereignty

0:21:190:21:22

of all the foreigners in Erin.

0:21:220:21:24

He's credited with the foundation of Dublin and other Viking towns,

0:21:240:21:28

but to his discredit it's said that he set himself up as some sort of

0:21:280:21:32

pagan abbot, or a high priest of Armagh, which he'd also pillaged,

0:21:320:21:36

and that he tried to convert the whole of Christian Ireland

0:21:360:21:40

to the worship of the Norse god Thor.

0:21:400:21:43

Now, this is patently absurd,

0:21:430:21:45

the Vikings were the most unfanatical of believers,

0:21:450:21:49

notable for their total lack of missionary zeal

0:21:490:21:53

and modern Irish historians now tend to think

0:21:530:21:55

that both Turges and his demonic wife

0:21:550:21:58

are nothing more than a fevered, monkish fiction.

0:21:580:22:01

I think there was a growing awareness

0:22:010:22:04

that the monastic chronicles,

0:22:040:22:06

although they reflected a true impression

0:22:060:22:08

of how the monks themselves were feeling at the time,

0:22:080:22:12

that that was only part of the story and a growing realisation

0:22:120:22:18

that we have to be quite critical of our historical sources,

0:22:180:22:21

that they might not... You can't just take them at face value.

0:22:210:22:25

The Vikings do seem to have had less of a taboo, if you like,

0:22:250:22:30

about attacking churches, smashing up shrines, killing church people,

0:22:300:22:36

men and women,

0:22:360:22:37

than their contemporaries in Irish or British society.

0:22:370:22:42

However, they were by no means the only ones who were indulging

0:22:420:22:46

in violence to get their own way.

0:22:460:22:47

That was very common across early medieval Europe.

0:22:470:22:51

We're not talking about the age of developed countries

0:22:510:22:55

with the rule of law, nation states. This was just starting.

0:22:550:22:58

They were in quite a mixed and fluid situation,

0:22:580:23:01

and they were using violence to get their own way,

0:23:010:23:05

but, really, everybody else was as well.

0:23:050:23:07

By the end of the 20th century,

0:23:070:23:09

historians had established that the Vikings' notoriety

0:23:090:23:13

was partly built on medieval Christian propaganda.

0:23:130:23:17

But archaeological finds showed us

0:23:170:23:19

that their fearsome reputation was still justified.

0:23:190:23:23

One dark, uncomfortable truth about Viking raids can't be denied.

0:23:230:23:29

They didn't just steal ecclesiastical silver,

0:23:290:23:31

they stole people.

0:23:310:23:33

The Vikings built much of their wealth on the slave trade.

0:23:330:23:37

In his 2001 series, Blood Of The Vikings,

0:23:380:23:42

Julian Richards found that the city of Dublin owes its very existence

0:23:420:23:46

to the Viking appetite for the buying and selling of human beings.

0:23:460:23:51

But what was it in Ireland that attracted so much Viking commerce?

0:23:510:23:56

The usual trade items that the Irish dealt with

0:23:580:24:02

throughout most archaeological periods

0:24:020:24:05

would have been animal hides and wool, for instance,

0:24:050:24:10

but there's also little doubt that a very significant proportion

0:24:100:24:14

of the trade was in the form of slaves.

0:24:140:24:17

There's a hint of the scale of this trade in the Annals of Ulster

0:24:180:24:22

from 871.

0:24:220:24:24

The chronicler writes about the Viking rulers of Dublin,

0:24:250:24:28

returning from an expedition to Scotland.

0:24:280:24:31

'Amlaib and Imar came back to Dublin from Scotland

0:24:350:24:38

'with 200 ships and they brought with them in captivity to Ireland

0:24:380:24:44

'a great prey of Anglos, Britons and Picts.'

0:24:440:24:48

Now, that must have been a very large haul of slaves

0:24:510:24:56

and they were being brought back to Dublin because

0:24:560:24:58

it must have been functioning as a sort of a slave emporium

0:24:580:25:02

within the western Viking world.

0:25:020:25:04

The Viking farmsteads are characterised by their huge size

0:25:040:25:08

and slave labour would have been needed to operate those

0:25:080:25:11

to their maximum efficiency.

0:25:110:25:13

The likelihood is that they were shipped on,

0:25:130:25:16

perhaps to Arabic Spain, but certainly over to Iceland,

0:25:160:25:19

to the Viking farmsteads in Scotland,

0:25:190:25:21

and probably back to Scandinavia itself.

0:25:210:25:24

And there are even objects that could have been used in this trade.

0:25:240:25:28

We have slave chains,

0:25:280:25:31

they are large collars which are big enough to go around a person's neck

0:25:310:25:35

and, attached to them, a long chain,

0:25:350:25:38

exactly similar to the sort of slave chains which are associated

0:25:380:25:42

with 18th century African slavery, for instance.

0:25:420:25:45

Men from all over Europe were being sold here for 12oz of silver,

0:25:480:25:53

and women for eight.

0:25:530:25:55

We know that slavery took place across Europe at the time

0:25:570:26:02

in most societies. So, they weren't that unusual,

0:26:020:26:07

they were probably particularly enterprising slave traders.

0:26:070:26:12

They may have been particularly brutal ones.

0:26:120:26:15

If you're dealing in human beings,

0:26:150:26:18

there is inevitably an element of violence

0:26:180:26:21

in your means of acquiring that commodity.

0:26:210:26:24

So you can conceivably have a scenario

0:26:240:26:27

where the very same individuals who are raiding a coastal community

0:26:270:26:30

on mainland Ireland, are taking monks,

0:26:300:26:33

they're taking women and children from their homes

0:26:330:26:37

and then selling them at the nearest market they come to.

0:26:370:26:40

That the Vikings were formidable raiders is undisputed,

0:26:400:26:44

but historians' continued questioning of sources

0:26:440:26:47

has revealed that their practices were little different

0:26:470:26:51

to those of their Dark Age contemporaries.

0:26:510:26:53

As the 1980s began,

0:26:530:26:55

the focus on the violent raider had shifted and an entirely different

0:26:550:26:59

version of the Viking was now being presented to us.

0:26:590:27:02

Accumulating wealth through plunder and conquest

0:27:020:27:06

is just part of the Viking story.

0:27:060:27:08

They built on that success to create a huge international trade network.

0:27:080:27:14

The '80s was an age of enterprise, deregulation and entrepreneurship

0:27:160:27:21

and our interpretation of the Vikings changed with the times.

0:27:210:27:25

Magnus Magnusson presented us with a Viking for the new decade,

0:27:250:27:30

not the grizzled slave owner, but an industrious,

0:27:300:27:34

aspirational, global trader.

0:27:340:27:37

Wealth, money, cash.

0:27:370:27:40

Coins and bullion from the rich silver mines of the East.

0:27:400:27:44

It all comes from one remarkable island in the middle

0:27:500:27:53

of the Baltic, called Gotland.

0:27:530:27:55

Gotland was the Midas island of the Viking Age.

0:27:550:27:59

Everything that Gotland has touched turned to gold or silver,

0:27:590:28:03

the sheer quantity is incredible.

0:28:030:28:05

You know, sometimes the most significant historical documents

0:28:060:28:10

turn out to be disarmingly insignificant,

0:28:100:28:13

like this little piece of whetstone, for instance,

0:28:130:28:15

which was found here on Gotland.

0:28:150:28:17

It's got a runic inscription on it,

0:28:170:28:20

not meant to some momentous message for prosperity.

0:28:200:28:23

Frankly, just a doodle done in an idle moment.

0:28:230:28:26

But how momentous it's turned out to be.

0:28:260:28:29

It says, "Ormiga, Ulfar,

0:28:290:28:32

"Greece, Jerusalem, Iceland, Serkland."

0:28:320:28:36

Which means, in effect,

0:28:360:28:38

"Me and my mate, Ulfar, we've been to Byzantium,

0:28:380:28:42

"to Palestine, to Iceland and to Arabia."

0:28:420:28:45

Just imagine it, a veritable Cook's tour of the Viking world

0:28:450:28:49

of that time.

0:28:490:28:50

And Ormiga wasn't even boasting about it,

0:28:500:28:52

I think he was just doing his expenses.

0:28:520:28:54

But the Gotlanders have always felt that they're

0:28:540:28:57

the centre of the world,

0:28:570:28:58

and, in Viking times, queening it over the trade routes

0:28:580:29:02

of the Baltic here, they really were.

0:29:020:29:04

And this little throwaway piece of stone actually proves it.

0:29:040:29:08

In the 1980s, we see the idea of the Vikings as being adventurers,

0:29:080:29:13

privateers, if you like.

0:29:130:29:15

They were out there grabbing what they could,

0:29:150:29:17

sailing past the customs men and not paying their dues,

0:29:170:29:23

getting away from the nanny state and doing these exciting things

0:29:230:29:26

on the open seas, in some cases quite brutally.

0:29:260:29:30

And I think that chimed with the times, really.

0:29:300:29:33

They're almost a Thatcherite Viking, if you like,

0:29:330:29:35

a sort of "greed is good" Viking,

0:29:350:29:38

which is very much in tune with the spirit of the age.

0:29:380:29:41

The Vikings began to establish themselves as the foremost traders

0:29:430:29:47

of their era, as they opened up new markets abroad.

0:29:470:29:50

Filling their ships with distinctive northern European goods -

0:29:520:29:56

amber, animal furs, honey and walrus tusks to barter with -

0:29:560:30:00

it was the exotic trading capitals of the East that the Swedish Vikings

0:30:000:30:04

would set their sights on.

0:30:040:30:06

But, in the 20th century, much of their activities in Russia

0:30:070:30:11

had been kept hidden from us behind the Iron Curtain.

0:30:110:30:14

One big thing, of course, about Eastern Europe and Russia

0:30:170:30:20

is the new knowledge and access we've had to it

0:30:200:30:24

since the end of the Soviet Union, in the period 1989 to '91.

0:30:240:30:30

Since then, it's been a lot easier to go to Russia

0:30:300:30:33

and find out this kind of information than it was at the time.

0:30:330:30:37

In the 1960s, we knew very little really, compared to today,

0:30:370:30:42

about what had happened in that area.

0:30:420:30:44

They used the sea as others used the land,

0:30:440:30:47

using waterways and sea lanes as trails and highways.

0:30:470:30:50

Even the word "Norway" does not mean a piece of land.

0:30:530:30:57

It means, "a sea road", "the way north."

0:30:570:31:00

Scandinavians travelled up rivers into Russia,

0:31:050:31:09

to the Black Sea and Byzantium.

0:31:090:31:11

And along the coasts of Europe, to France,

0:31:120:31:16

Spain and through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean.

0:31:160:31:20

When we started to have more of a global view of the Viking Age,

0:31:200:31:24

we realised that these long-distance trade networks

0:31:240:31:28

were being formed that stretched all the way from Ireland in the east,

0:31:280:31:32

all the way to Constantinople.

0:31:320:31:34

We began to see how interconnected the Viking world was.

0:31:340:31:37

By 2012, historians and television crews could go deep

0:31:380:31:42

into Russian territory to explore the true extent

0:31:420:31:45

of the Viking trading system,

0:31:450:31:47

something that would have been impossible during the darker days

0:31:470:31:50

of the Cold War.

0:31:500:31:52

Neil Oliver discovered the challenge facing the Swedish Vikings

0:31:520:31:56

as they began to move east through the waterways

0:31:560:32:00

and frozen terrains of Russia.

0:32:000:32:02

By navigating the Russian rivers and lugging their boats when necessary,

0:32:040:32:09

the Vikings could transport themselves all the way

0:32:090:32:12

from the Baltic to the Caspian and the Black seas.

0:32:120:32:15

It's time-consuming and it is laborious, but, you know,

0:32:190:32:22

there's enough men here to move a boat this size,

0:32:220:32:25

so the system does work.

0:32:250:32:27

Well, the thing that really sets the Vikings apart from anybody else

0:32:270:32:32

is their use of not just the sea, but also river systems.

0:32:320:32:36

The rivers are difficult to navigate, they're not continuous,

0:32:380:32:42

so you can't just go all the way in one boat.

0:32:420:32:45

There would have to be transhipment points, and at these points they

0:32:450:32:48

developed towns, places like Kiev, Novgorod.

0:32:480:32:52

It became a functioning society that was linked into trade and transport.

0:32:520:32:57

The arriving Vikings made such an impact

0:32:570:33:00

that their merchant peers gave them a special title.

0:33:000:33:04

They called them "the Rus,"

0:33:040:33:06

which means something like, "The men who row."

0:33:060:33:09

And it shows how influential they became, because, after all,

0:33:090:33:12

this land is now called Russia.

0:33:120:33:14

It's remarkable to think that one of the biggest nations in the world

0:33:220:33:27

gets its name from the Vikings, who navigated its waterways,

0:33:270:33:31

setting up trading posts and colonies as they went.

0:33:310:33:35

But for the Vikings to build a truly global trading network,

0:33:360:33:40

they had to come to the gateway to Asia.

0:33:400:33:43

Between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean

0:33:430:33:45

lay the greatest marketplace on Earth -

0:33:450:33:48

Constantinople, now known as Istanbul.

0:33:480:33:51

For a Viking, this would have been all but overwhelming,

0:34:050:34:08

because this is on a completely different scale from anything

0:34:080:34:12

he would have witnessed before.

0:34:120:34:13

Instead of hundreds of people, here it would have been thousands,

0:34:160:34:19

or even tens of thousands, and from all over the world.

0:34:190:34:22

And then there are all the exotic sights and sounds and smells.

0:34:250:34:30

It's all but an assault on the senses.

0:34:300:34:33

Nowhere captured the imagination of a Viking trader like Constantinople.

0:34:340:34:39

Filled with silks and gold,

0:34:390:34:41

this city had once been the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.

0:34:410:34:44

The trouble was that Constantinople was tightly controlled

0:34:470:34:51

with strict trade quotas, taxes and even immigration rules.

0:34:510:34:56

But by the early 900s, the Vikings had been granted access.

0:34:580:35:03

With a foothold in Constantinople, the Norsemen had now cemented

0:35:030:35:07

their reputation as arguably the world's greatest traders.

0:35:070:35:11

These long-distance trade networks were really sustained through the

0:35:110:35:15

export of things like furs and hides, amber, wax,

0:35:150:35:21

coming down from Scandinavia,

0:35:210:35:23

huge amounts of Arabic silver going back the other way,

0:35:230:35:26

along the Russian rivers.

0:35:260:35:28

And massive, massive quantities of Arabic silver is one of the

0:35:280:35:32

most distinctive features of the Viking Age.

0:35:320:35:34

So trying to account for how all that silver entered Scandinavia,

0:35:340:35:38

that's not through raiding, or at least not raiding alone,

0:35:380:35:41

that's because of the trading networks of the Vikings.

0:35:410:35:45

Any Viking who had spent three months or more in the city

0:35:460:35:49

was entitled to buy silk up to the value of two slaves,

0:35:490:35:54

and that silk was so valuable,

0:35:540:35:56

it made the perilous river journeys to get here more than worthwhile.

0:35:560:36:00

A merchant could earn, in just a year or two,

0:36:010:36:04

more wealth than a prosperous farmer

0:36:040:36:07

back home in Scandinavia could acquire in an entire lifetime.

0:36:070:36:11

From the wind-battered plains and fjords of Scandinavia,

0:36:110:36:15

through the twisted rivers of Russia,

0:36:150:36:17

the Vikings' entrepreneurial spirit had brought them

0:36:170:36:19

to the Byzantine Empire and the centre of power

0:36:190:36:22

in the medieval world.

0:36:220:36:24

At the Hagia Sophia mosque, Neil Oliver uncovered a piece of

0:36:250:36:28

evidence that hints that they'd now become elite members

0:36:280:36:32

of Byzantine society.

0:36:320:36:34

All around me are remnants of over 1,000 years of

0:36:340:36:38

Christian and Muslim worship.

0:36:380:36:39

But one tiny corner is Viking.

0:36:410:36:44

These dark lines etched into the marble are Viking runes,

0:36:460:36:50

ancient Viking writing.

0:36:500:36:52

They're almost indecipherable.

0:36:530:36:55

The only bit that's in any way clear is part of someone's name,

0:36:550:36:59

a man's name, Halfdan.

0:36:590:37:01

And the rest of it is assumed to read, "Was here."

0:37:010:37:04

So you've got, "Halfdan was here."

0:37:040:37:06

We'll never know for sure who Halfdan was,

0:37:060:37:09

but it's possible that he was a member of the

0:37:090:37:12

near-legendary elite bodyguard of the Byzantine Emperor,

0:37:120:37:17

the so-called Varangian Guard

0:37:170:37:19

who escorted the Emperor on special occasions

0:37:190:37:21

and for special ceremonies.

0:37:210:37:23

So we can allow ourselves to imagine that one day Halfdan was up here

0:37:230:37:27

on duty, during a long, boring religious ceremony.

0:37:270:37:31

And to pass the time,

0:37:310:37:32

he carved his name and some words into the stonework.

0:37:320:37:35

These few lines are such a moving, visceral reminder of just how far

0:37:400:37:45

the Swedish Vikings had come since they first set out

0:37:450:37:49

across the glassy Baltic Sea.

0:37:490:37:51

The territories the Vikings covered stretched from Dublin to Kiev

0:37:530:37:57

and from Greenland to Constantinople,

0:37:570:38:00

places full of vastly different customs, landscapes and goods.

0:38:000:38:05

They couldn't have maintained these complex connections for 300 years

0:38:050:38:09

if they'd simply been opportunistic raiders.

0:38:090:38:13

They had, in fact, formed a trading network like no other in the era.

0:38:130:38:17

However we interpret the Vikings, one thing is consistent -

0:38:220:38:26

we are fascinated by them.

0:38:260:38:28

Scholars continue to try to define the legacy they left behind

0:38:300:38:34

when they spread out from Scandinavia

0:38:340:38:37

and settled all around the globe.

0:38:370:38:39

So, what trace of the Vikings can still be detected

0:38:400:38:43

in how we live today?

0:38:430:38:45

Surprisingly, some of the Vikings' political ideals still resonate.

0:38:470:38:52

Searching for freedom from the abuses of an unchecked monarchy

0:38:520:38:55

in the 9th century, Norwegian Vikings came to Iceland

0:38:550:38:59

and attempted to build their own utopia.

0:38:590:39:02

They set up, perhaps, Europe's first national assembly,

0:39:030:39:07

known as the Althing,

0:39:070:39:09

where every freeman could have a say in establishing the laws

0:39:090:39:12

of this new, revolutionary model for society.

0:39:120:39:16

It really was an astonishing enterprise,

0:39:160:39:20

when you come to think about it, but entirely logical and consistent.

0:39:200:39:23

These Norsemen had left their homelands to get away

0:39:230:39:26

from the growing power of kings, and so here,

0:39:260:39:28

from the Law Rock at Thingvellir in Iceland,

0:39:280:39:31

they set up a republic.

0:39:310:39:32

Just imagine, a country without a king at a time in history

0:39:320:39:36

when the whole idea of kingship, of royal authority,

0:39:360:39:39

was becoming politically paramount,

0:39:390:39:41

a parliamentary democracy long before its time.

0:39:410:39:45

If Westminster is the mother of parliaments,

0:39:450:39:47

then Thingvellir is the grandmother.

0:39:470:39:50

It really was a commonality of middle-ranking people

0:39:500:39:54

who met at the Althing and sorted out their business.

0:39:540:39:58

And I think that was very unusual at the time,

0:39:580:40:01

but it's also been adopted by people in much more recent times

0:40:010:40:05

as an example of something which we like to point to today.

0:40:050:40:09

A lot of countries in Europe have got rid of their monarchies

0:40:090:40:12

in recent centuries, for one reason or another.

0:40:120:40:16

Now we see Viking-age Iceland as an example.

0:40:160:40:19

In the centre of Reykjavik, the modern-day Althing still exists

0:40:190:40:24

as one of the world's oldest parliaments.

0:40:240:40:27

Rather wonderfully, one of the Vikings' key legacies

0:40:270:40:31

was a prototype for a democratic Europe.

0:40:310:40:34

But this legacy has been joined by others,

0:40:360:40:38

which may have surprised the Vikings.

0:40:380:40:41

Their culture has been appropriated,

0:40:410:40:43

twisted and repurposed by anyone who wants to use it.

0:40:430:40:47

In the 19th century, the Northern Europeans began to talk about

0:40:480:40:52

nations as "races of people", with national characters acquired

0:40:520:40:56

from their ancestors.

0:40:560:40:57

And they chose the ancestors they wanted.

0:40:580:41:02

A lot of Victorians started to ask themselves, you know,

0:41:020:41:04

"Why are we so successful?

0:41:040:41:07

"Why have we got a great empire?

0:41:070:41:09

"Why are we such a great trading nation?"

0:41:090:41:11

And the answer that a lot of people came up with,

0:41:110:41:13

or a significant number of people,

0:41:130:41:15

like the assistant editor of The Times who, for 30 years,

0:41:150:41:18

assistant-edited The Times and was one of England's greatest saga

0:41:180:41:21

scholars, and his answer again and again was -

0:41:210:41:25

"Viking blood in Victorian veins."

0:41:250:41:28

The Vikings rule their empire in the 9th and 10th century

0:41:280:41:32

and the Victorians rule their empire in the 19th century.

0:41:320:41:35

Why? Because the Vikings and the Victorians got up early

0:41:350:41:39

in the morning, were smarter than the next guy,

0:41:390:41:42

and had that kind of continuity of spirit through blood.

0:41:420:41:47

The Vikings have been used by successive generations

0:41:470:41:51

to show something that those people wanted to demonstrate.

0:41:510:41:56

So in the Victorian period, imperialism is going out

0:41:560:41:59

and taking over other countries and imposing your will on them.

0:41:590:42:03

This would reach darker depths in the 20th century,

0:42:030:42:07

when a new brand of imperialists would lay their claim

0:42:070:42:10

to the Viking legacy.

0:42:100:42:11

And in Europe, fantasies of heroism, national pride in pagan ancestors,

0:42:140:42:19

ideas about the proud northern race have had their darker side.

0:42:190:42:23

In Germany, the Norse became images of the Ubermensch.

0:42:260:42:30

Pagan heroism and contempt for the weak became virtues for a new Reich.

0:42:300:42:35

It is possible to see, as the decades go on,

0:42:350:42:40

people's preoccupation in their own time influencing their view

0:42:400:42:44

of the Vikings.

0:42:440:42:46

So the Vikings are sort of brought into the picture and, in a way,

0:42:460:42:49

people project their own ideas and views of the world onto them.

0:42:490:42:54

By the mid-'90s, film-makers were ready to explore how the Vikings

0:42:540:42:58

became assimilated into other societies

0:42:580:43:01

as they settled in new lands.

0:43:010:43:03

As the European Union formed and themes of multiculturalism

0:43:050:43:08

and globalisation rose in the national discourse,

0:43:080:43:11

Timewatch began to delve into the Viking legacy of integration

0:43:110:43:15

and assimilation throughout the continent.

0:43:150:43:17

Palermo, which was ruled by Viking descendants,

0:43:180:43:21

shows exactly what that means.

0:43:210:43:23

This cloister, built in the 1170s, feels like an Arab courtyard.

0:43:280:43:33

Sicily had been ruled by Arabs 300 years back.

0:43:330:43:36

The mosaic columns are Greek.

0:43:400:43:42

The island had been part of the Greek empire of Byzantium

0:43:420:43:45

100 years back.

0:43:450:43:46

And on top of the columns, northern French carving -

0:43:520:43:55

the latest conquerors had been Normans.

0:43:550:43:58

But these Normans, Northmen,

0:43:580:44:00

were the grandsons of Vikings, settled in France.

0:44:000:44:03

And of that Viking heritage, no trace at all.

0:44:030:44:06

They had already become French and now they were Sicilians.

0:44:070:44:13

Their brilliance is a result of their complete open-mindedness.

0:44:130:44:17

In the 1990s and the 2000s,

0:44:180:44:21

the dominant view was that the Vikings were excellent

0:44:210:44:25

at assimilating into the cultures that they came into contact with.

0:44:250:44:30

They dropped their Scandinavian language and their clothes

0:44:300:44:34

and their economic system and they embraced the existing systems

0:44:340:44:38

that they found.

0:44:380:44:39

I think that could be seen as of its time as well,

0:44:390:44:42

in terms of a modern interpretation in the 1990s.

0:44:420:44:45

We were very keen on integration and minimising differences,

0:44:450:44:49

so that we could form a productive whole,

0:44:490:44:52

and I think that is reflected in people's views of the Vikings.

0:44:520:44:57

With the European Union and the kind of political focus on integrating,

0:44:570:45:02

I think that filtered through into the prevailing scholarship

0:45:020:45:06

of the day and I think now, 20 years on,

0:45:060:45:09

we might take a somewhat different view.

0:45:090:45:11

By 2001, in Blood Of The Vikings, Julian Richards

0:45:130:45:17

wanted to further the argument that the Vikings' true legacy

0:45:170:45:20

was a blueprint for a society that could easily assimilate

0:45:200:45:24

and integrate with other cultures.

0:45:240:45:26

And one of the tools they used was religion.

0:45:260:45:30

He pointed us to 10th-century Denmark

0:45:300:45:33

and to King Harald Bluetooth.

0:45:330:45:35

The first king of a united Denmark was Harald Bluetooth,

0:45:350:45:38

who was probably given his colourful name on account of his rotten teeth.

0:45:380:45:42

But despite his dental afflictions, he was a ruler

0:45:420:45:45

who changed the course of Danish history.

0:45:450:45:47

And here, carved on this massive boulder, is the record

0:45:470:45:51

of his greatest achievements.

0:45:510:45:52

In the chaos of 10th-century Scandinavia,

0:45:530:45:56

Harald Bluetooth was a unifier.

0:45:560:45:59

He brought together the dissonant tribes spread across Denmark

0:45:590:46:02

into a single kingdom.

0:46:020:46:04

Harald changed our concept of the Viking as a ruthless barbarian.

0:46:040:46:09

He was an astute political animal,

0:46:090:46:11

who realised how power and religion were intertwined.

0:46:110:46:16

But this third site is the most astonishing

0:46:160:46:18

because there's what appears to be the figure of Christ.

0:46:180:46:21

You can make out the face, outstretched arms and hands,

0:46:220:46:25

right down to the feet.

0:46:250:46:26

Now surely, at this time, the Vikings in Scandinavia were pagans.

0:46:270:46:31

So what are they doing carving images of Christ?

0:46:310:46:35

The runic inscription ought to provide the answer.

0:46:350:46:37

Professor Else Roesdahl, a leading Viking archaeologist,

0:46:390:46:42

has come to translate it for me.

0:46:420:46:44

So, what does this say?

0:46:440:46:46

It starts with the name of the king, Harald Bluetooth,

0:46:460:46:49

who raised the stone.

0:46:490:46:51

Harald, King, ordered these

0:46:510:46:56

monuments to be made for Gorm, his father.

0:46:560:47:00

And in memory of Thyra, his mother.

0:47:000:47:04

That, "Harald,

0:47:040:47:06

"who won, for himself, Denmark...

0:47:060:47:10

"..and Norway."

0:47:120:47:14

And then the last deed, "And made the Danes Christian."

0:47:140:47:19

So his third great deed was to make the Danes Christian,

0:47:190:47:23

to Christianise the Danes.

0:47:230:47:24

-So that explains why you've got the figure of Christ...

-Yes.

0:47:240:47:27

-..on this side.

-Yes.

0:47:270:47:29

And it's the oldest great picture of Christ in Scandinavia.

0:47:290:47:34

The conversion of King Harald and Denmark to Christianity

0:47:360:47:39

was actually a shrewd act of political pragmatism.

0:47:390:47:43

By becoming a Christian, you gain access

0:47:430:47:46

to a incredibly exclusive club of European monarchs,

0:47:460:47:51

all united around the same religious ideas, and with it comes all of the

0:47:510:47:56

trappings that have been handed down from the idea of the Roman Empire.

0:47:560:48:02

The turning of rulership into kingship is something

0:48:020:48:05

that must have been incredibly attractive.

0:48:050:48:08

As a Christian king, he was acknowledged to be

0:48:080:48:11

Christ's representative on Earth -

0:48:110:48:13

a position which brought almost universal loyalty and allegiance.

0:48:130:48:17

Programme makers were now ready to explore the idea

0:48:190:48:22

of the cosmopolitan Viking.

0:48:220:48:24

The mid-20th-century version of the intolerant, violent oaf

0:48:240:48:29

was being replaced by an open-minded, cultured sophisticate.

0:48:290:48:34

For the Danes, becoming Christian wasn't just a matter of exchanging

0:48:340:48:37

a collection of Norse gods for one Christian God,

0:48:370:48:41

it also brought them into the European fold,

0:48:410:48:44

into a culture centred on books and learning, laws and taxes.

0:48:440:48:48

But perhaps more significantly, a Christian king had divine authority,

0:48:480:48:53

which gave him huge power and the means of showing it.

0:48:530:48:57

It's a way of creating power structures

0:48:580:49:01

that link you with the other Christian kings in Europe,

0:49:010:49:05

to link you with a powerful administration,

0:49:050:49:08

a powerful symbolism.

0:49:080:49:10

For instance, through coinage.

0:49:100:49:13

So Christianity gives you a cultural package, if you like.

0:49:130:49:17

New rulers in new lands need, above all else,

0:49:170:49:21

to be considered legitimate kings.

0:49:210:49:25

And by adopting Christianity and taking on its trappings and

0:49:250:49:28

presenting themselves in the way that people were used to kings

0:49:280:49:30

presenting themselves, they were able to do that far more rapidly.

0:49:300:49:34

One of the biggest questions about the Viking legacy in Britain

0:49:340:49:38

has been whether they left a genetic trace.

0:49:380:49:41

By 2001, the BBC hoped to use genetic testing

0:49:420:49:46

to identify Viking DNA, and they commissioned the series

0:49:460:49:50

Blood Of The Vikings to attempt just that.

0:49:500:49:53

But first they explored how much the material evidence

0:49:530:49:57

suggested that the Vikings had assimilated into British life.

0:49:570:50:01

We thought that there would be Viking remains of some sort,

0:50:010:50:04

but the finds we've made have exceeded our wildest expectations.

0:50:040:50:07

These fantastic buildings, standing six feet high,

0:50:070:50:09

and the 13,500 good objects we've got,

0:50:090:50:12

it's way beyond our best hopes.

0:50:120:50:13

York provides a picture of a wealthy trading centre.

0:50:150:50:19

There were exotic items, like amber from the Baltic and silk

0:50:190:50:22

from the Mediterranean.

0:50:220:50:23

There were dyes for minting coins, scales,

0:50:250:50:28

and an enormous amount of metalwork.

0:50:280:50:30

York became a Viking boom town.

0:50:310:50:34

But none of this evidence tells us just how many Vikings settled.

0:50:340:50:38

So can genetics answer this question?

0:50:380:50:41

Blood Of The Vikings was part of a long-running BBC brand

0:50:430:50:47

called Meet The Ancestors,

0:50:470:50:48

which focused on the study of human remains,

0:50:480:50:51

as opposed to earlier documentaries which had concentrated

0:50:510:50:55

on technology and historical events.

0:50:550:50:57

It marked a shift, as we are now looking back,

0:50:590:51:02

not just at culture, but at the people themselves.

0:51:020:51:05

So would that unscientific Victorian claim

0:51:070:51:11

that Britons are Viking descendants prove to be true?

0:51:110:51:15

Presenter Julian Richards hoped that modern science could provide

0:51:150:51:18

a definitive answer.

0:51:180:51:21

In a pioneering survey, they'll be searching for signs

0:51:210:51:24

of Viking genetic inheritance in the male Y chromosome.

0:51:240:51:26

The DNA from Britain and Ireland will be compared to other samples

0:51:280:51:32

taken in the Viking Scandinavian homelands and in northern Europe.

0:51:320:51:36

And you don't have to look far to find people with theories on their

0:51:370:51:40

Viking ancestry.

0:51:400:51:42

The name Rimmer is derived from Ramer,

0:51:420:51:44

which is Norse for a leather worker.

0:51:440:51:46

And, curiously enough, I trained as a saddler,

0:51:460:51:49

and my dad was a leather worker as well, so...

0:51:490:51:52

Right, right.

0:51:520:51:53

Fascinating results were soon discovered as the team began

0:51:530:51:56

to take samples in the northern islands of Scotland.

0:51:560:52:00

When we carry out just this very simple analysis,

0:52:000:52:02

asking, with those chromosomal types we only find in Norway,

0:52:020:52:05

how much of them do we see in the Scottish islands?

0:52:050:52:08

We actually see quite a lot.

0:52:080:52:09

When we look at Shetland, when we look at Orkney,

0:52:090:52:12

we see something just under 30% of the chromosomes are found in Norway,

0:52:120:52:16

but we can't find them in the indigenous population.

0:52:160:52:19

So it looks actually quite likely that those chromosomal types

0:52:190:52:22

have a Norwegian origin, so we right away see a clear indication

0:52:220:52:27

of substantial Norwegian genetic input into those islands.

0:52:270:52:31

That's quite a hefty figure, isn't it, really, for a first stage?

0:52:310:52:34

It is a high figure and, in fact, probably in the end,

0:52:340:52:37

when we've carried out a more complete statistical analysis,

0:52:370:52:40

the figure will only go up, because those are the types

0:52:400:52:43

that look pretty clearly to be Norwegian in origin.

0:52:430:52:45

In fact, when the final data was gathered in,

0:52:470:52:50

it was found that 60% of men in the northern Scottish islands

0:52:500:52:53

had a striking genetic link with Norwegians.

0:52:530:52:57

British people appeared to have Viking ancestry.

0:52:570:53:00

I would say that we definitely should be Scandinavian

0:53:020:53:05

more than Scots.

0:53:050:53:07

I suppose we're all Vikings at heart.

0:53:070:53:10

The programme revealed how the science of genetics was starting to

0:53:110:53:15

contribute to debates which had previously been the preserve

0:53:150:53:18

of archaeology and history.

0:53:180:53:20

So we found the highest concentration of the

0:53:220:53:24

continental invaders' DNA in northern England.

0:53:240:53:27

Only in central Ireland and Wales did we find populations

0:53:270:53:31

almost entirely descended from ancient Britons or Celts.

0:53:310:53:34

Along the Northern Sea road, there's a different picture.

0:53:350:53:39

From Shetland, all the way down to Cumbria,

0:53:390:53:41

we found strong signs of Norwegian ancestry.

0:53:410:53:44

There can be no doubt these were the lands of the Vikings.

0:53:450:53:48

Blood Of The Vikings gave us the first exciting glimpse

0:53:500:53:54

of the genetic legacy of the Norsemen in Britain.

0:53:540:53:58

But 1,200 years after the first waves of Viking invaders

0:53:580:54:02

arrived in Britain, you would perhaps expect their influence

0:54:020:54:05

on our everyday lives to be negligible.

0:54:050:54:08

In fact, in Britain, and in many parts of the globe,

0:54:100:54:13

we keep the Viking legacy alive every day.

0:54:130:54:16

In 2012, Neil Oliver was back in the Viking trading town of York

0:54:180:54:22

to discover how their influence lives on

0:54:220:54:26

through the English language.

0:54:260:54:27

How many of the words that we use every day actually have their roots

0:54:270:54:32

in Viking words?

0:54:320:54:33

Lots and lots, really basic, everyday words.

0:54:330:54:36

So the word you've just used, "root",

0:54:360:54:38

itself probably comes from Old Norse,

0:54:380:54:40

probably comes through the Viking side of English's ancestry.

0:54:400:54:43

What about things around us in this market?

0:54:430:54:45

Well, things like eggs, skirts, you can see some bags over there.

0:54:450:54:48

The sky, windows.

0:54:490:54:51

Other things that I can see include skin, leg, skull.

0:54:510:54:55

So, very simple words?

0:54:550:54:57

-Very simple, basic words for things.

-OK.

0:54:570:55:00

Also words which describe how we feel and how we react to stuff.

0:55:000:55:04

So if you're angry, if you're happy, if you're ill...

0:55:040:55:07

-Those words as well?

-All these words come from Norse.

0:55:070:55:10

Basic verbs as well, so "give" and "take", "get", "call"...

0:55:100:55:15

It's wonderful to think that in our simple daily conversations

0:55:150:55:19

we're actually expressing our inner Vikings.

0:55:190:55:22

We're talking about people who arrived, you know,

0:55:220:55:26

1,300, 1,200 years ago,

0:55:260:55:27

and yet the words they brought with them are still

0:55:270:55:31

echoing around us today.

0:55:310:55:32

Yeah, they're all around. Yes, that's right, that's right.

0:55:320:55:36

In the language that's now spoken in every continent of the world,

0:55:360:55:40

the words of the Viking are heard.

0:55:400:55:43

Their legacy truly lives on,

0:55:430:55:45

and 1,200 years after they sailed into view, we're still

0:55:450:55:49

reassessing their impact.

0:55:490:55:51

Once seen only as opportunistic raiders,

0:55:520:55:55

we can now see that they were also open-minded nation builders.

0:55:550:55:59

They contributed to the growth of towns,

0:56:020:56:04

they stimulated the use of silver economies,

0:56:040:56:07

they were responsible for establishing new societies

0:56:070:56:10

in places that Europeans hadn't been before.

0:56:100:56:12

With their advanced naval technology, they opened up

0:56:140:56:16

a global trade network that was incomparable in their era.

0:56:160:56:20

They really establish long-distance networks

0:56:220:56:25

and communications between very distant lands,

0:56:250:56:28

and they were perhaps the most prominent among

0:56:280:56:32

contemporaries of bridging different communities.

0:56:320:56:35

And we've realised that their brutal tactics weren't unique

0:56:370:56:40

in the violence-saturated times of the Dark Ages.

0:56:400:56:44

Even the violent aspects of the Viking phenomenon,

0:56:460:56:48

the invasions and the raids, stimulated the development

0:56:480:56:52

of new kingdoms, new identities, new people.

0:56:520:56:55

New art styles came into existence as a result of Viking activities.

0:56:550:56:59

And a lot of those things still endure.

0:56:590:57:01

Here in Britain, we once characterised ourselves

0:57:030:57:06

as a Christian nation set against pagan barbarians.

0:57:060:57:11

In recent decades, we've come to realise that we cannot define

0:57:110:57:15

Viking culture as entirely separate from our own.

0:57:150:57:20

Archaeologists, historians and film-makers have continued to push

0:57:200:57:24

forward our knowledge and understanding of the Viking world.

0:57:240:57:29

There's been a tendency in recent years to really emphasise

0:57:290:57:32

the global dimensions of the Viking expansion,

0:57:320:57:36

the technological aspects of the Viking phenomenon.

0:57:360:57:39

These are real leitmotifs for the 21st century,

0:57:390:57:44

so in some ways it's no surprise that these are the things

0:57:440:57:46

that we identify in the Vikings and elevate.

0:57:460:57:49

They've become a big part of our own culture today.

0:57:510:57:55

People know about the Vikings, are very interested in the Vikings.

0:57:550:57:59

We have blockbuster exhibitions.

0:57:590:58:01

People are fascinated with the subject,

0:58:010:58:03

so they've become part of our modern culture, too.

0:58:030:58:07

The Vikings have never left us.

0:58:070:58:09

They're part of who we are today.

0:58:090:58:11

Their story is ultimately not simply one of raiding and conquest,

0:58:110:58:15

but of assimilation and integration.

0:58:150:58:18

The Vikings came here to plunder, but then they stayed,

0:58:190:58:24

and their legacy is still with us,

0:58:240:58:26

in our language and in our blood.

0:58:260:58:29

On 8 June 793 Europe changed forever. The famous monastery at Lindisfarne on the Northumbrian coast was suddenly attacked and looted by seafaring Scandinavians. The Viking Age had begun.

Professor Alice Roberts examines how dramatically the story of the Vikings has changed on TV since the 1960s. She investigates how our focus has shifted from viewing them as brutal, pagan barbarians to pioneering traders, able to integrate into multiple cultures. We also discover that without their naval technology we would never have heard of the Vikings, how their huge trading empire spread, and their surprising legacy in the modern world.