Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A Viking Settlement

A Viking Settlement.

Photo by Jon Whiting from Lejre outdoor museum near Roskilde in Denmark.

Most Viking settlements were probably farmsteads inhabited by an extended family or, where the land was fertile enough to support more people, small villages. Where the novel Shieldmaiden is set, around the lakes of Loweswater and  Buttermere in Cumbria, in the mid-10th Century the most likely scenario is that of farmsteads. So this picture could well show something similar to what Sigrid's home looked like; a collection of houses surrounded by a fence.

    Photo by Marianne Whiting of reconstructed Viking longhouse from South Sweden.
There is little archaeological evidence from Viking buildings in Cumbria. There are, as I discussed in an earlier post, lots of place names but the only excavation of a Viking house, outside York, that I know of is the one at Ribblehead. there may of course be many more that are buried under buildings still standing today. Ribblehead consists of three buildings, a main house which looks much like the ones in the picture and two smaller ones used perhaps as dairy and workshop. The walls of the main Ribblehead house are stone-built with a thick layer of soil between the wall and the sides of the roof which almost touches the ground. They knew about insulation and with the central hearth these houses were probably quite cosy.

    Photo as above.

This gives you some idea of the construction with a framework of beams holding up the roof-timbers. The picture is taken about half way along the house. It looks a bit empty and sad but would have been furnished with wall-hangings and benches covered in blankets and furs.

    Photo by Jon Whiting from Ribe Viking Centre in Denmark.

This gives a better impression of what the hearth would look like even if this one is from a larger building. There would also, within the enclosed farmstead, be smaller buildings such as a dairy, a stable, store houses and barns. Well away from other buildings was the smithy.

    Photo by Marianne Whiting from Foteviken Viking Village in Sweden.

Just to show an alternative building technique using horizontal planks and a turf roof. This is a very small house and some of the cooking is likely to have taken place outside as the hearth is quite small.

Photo as above.