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Viking Farming Methods

Archaeological studies in Denmark have not only uncovered some of the fields where crops were grown, but also traces of some of the agricultural practices that were used.

In Ribe, Denmark for example simple scratching marks have been found in the ground under the Vikings Age town. These scratching marks show that an ard (scratch plough) was used to break the soil loose in preparation for seeding. An ard is a primitive type of plough which cuts a groove through the soil, but does not turn the soil over. Ards were generally in use until late in the Viking Age when a heavier plough with an iron-shod was introduced.

A rare discovery was made at Lindholm Hoje near Aalborg in Northern Jutland in the 1950’s. Archaeologists removed a thick layer of sand which was covering a Viking Age village and cemetery which had been abandoned in the 11th century. Also found was a fossilized Viking Age field which still had slightly curved grooves from its last ploughing some 900 years ago.

Other agricultural implements must have been common on farms, but none have been preserved in any large quantities. Grains and hay were harvested with an iron sickle and vegetation intended for animal feed was cut with a simple knife called a leaf-knife. Pitchforks and spades have been found and they were made of wood. Flails and sieves for threshing and sifting the grains would also likely have been made of wood. Wooden barrels and baskets were used for storage, and hay for animal feed would likely have been transported from the fields on wooden carts.

The Danish Viking villages were surrounded by farming fields, but there was also good access to grazing areas for livestock. The rearing of animals was as important as the cultivation of the soil; it is likely that raising cattle was one of the most important jobs in many villages. Pigs and sheep were also raised by some Vikings.

In modern Sweden and Norway the raising of animals was even more important, and seasonal migrations were practiced in some of the highland areas (as is still the case in some places). Flocks of sheep, goats and cattle were driven up to higher pastures during the summer when grazing was good, and they would be brought back down to the valley farms in the fall. During the harsh winter cattle would be kept indoors and fed with hay which was harvested on the valley pastures during the summer and stored for winter feed.

LastUpdate: 2015-04-10 11:43:34