What really caused the Viking Age? The social content of raiding and exploration

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The cause of the Viking Age is one of our longest-lived debates. A combination of push and pull factors and a catalysing environment instigated the late 8th-century escalation in maritime activity that ultimately led to social, political and religious transformation. Recent discussions have focused on the macro level, with little consideration of the individual gains to be made by raiding. This paper argues that rewards consisted in more than portable wealth. In the flexible hierarchies of the Viking Age, those who took advantage of opportunities to enhance their social capital stood to gain significantly. The lure of the raid was thus more than booty; it was about winning and preserving power through the enchantment of travel and the doing of deeds. This provides an important correction to models that focus on the need for portable wealth; the act of acquiring silver was as important as the silver itself.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-106
Number of pages17
JournalArchaeological Dialogues
Issue number1
Early online date15 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

© Cambridge University Press 2015. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • vikings
  • archaeology
  • anthropology
  • migration

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