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The Wandering Farm - Viking Farming Practice

Farming Excavations 
The best known of the excavated Vikings farming villages are in Denmark and they are located near Sædding and Vorbasse in central Jutland. Although they are not identical in layout they do share some common features with each other and other sites. Each village consists of about six or seven individual farms, and each farm has eight or nine buildings of different sizes, and each farm was enclosed by a fence. The largest building was the house where the people lived (the longhouse), which would not only accommodate the people it would also accommodate the animals. At one end of the longhouse there are stalls for up to 50 cows or other animals. Other farm buildings included forges, and a collection of sunken pit houses. The pit houses may have been the homes of hired workers or of slaves. In most cases each farm also had a tree lined well. Each farm appears to have been inhabited by a single household, and all the farms give the impression that they were particularly prosperous between 8th and 10th centuries.

The Viking Age farming settlements near Sædding and Vorbasse are not inside the modern age villages; rather they are quite close to them. During 300 years of the Viking Age these farming communities did not stay in the same place. It appears they would shift a hundred meters or so every generation or so. This was a common practice during the Viking Age. It was only with the coming Christianity when stone churches were built as the center of village communities that farming villages became fixed. The building of these stone churches gave the communities a focal point.

It was once assumed that Viking Age farms in central Sweden must have been isolated from each other, just as they are today. It was believed that the Viking Age farms would be found just below today’s farms (meaning that the same farm area had been used continuously for more than 1000 years). However, excavations of farming villages by Pollista and Sanda Sweden show that that was not the case. This assumes that the Pollista and Sanda excavations are typical.

Although the villages were significantly smaller than the ones in Denmark, they still had similarities to the Danish farms. They all had a central dwelling longhouse and multiple out-buildings. The villages Swedish farming villages also appeared to have moved from time to time, just like the settlements in Denmark. This obviously means that the farms today probably have not been farmed continuously for the last 1000 years.

It has been quite difficult for archaeologists to come up with information on Viking Age farming communities in Norway. Many farms from the period prior to the Viking Age have been excavated in the southwest part of the country, but actual Viking Age farms have been very hard to find. The explanation may be that Viking farms were very scattered making them difficult to find.

One of the few Viking Age farms that have been excavated in Norway was near Sogne Fjord. This 9th – 10th century settlement called Ytre Moa was not a village of the Danish type. Instead it is a single farmstead made up of several small, almost square buildings which each had their own use. There are separate buildings for dwelling, cattle, storage etc. The buildings shape and design differs from the Danish farm buildings. None of the buildings from the Ytre Moa excavation were more than a few square meters in size. They had thick walls of stone and peat, and the insides of the buildings were covered in wood paneling.

The difficulty in locating Viking Age rural settlements in Norway implies that much more work is needed before we can truly understand Viking Age agricultural in this country.

LastUpdate: 2015-04-10 11:45:35