The ancient reputation of Vikings as bloodthirsty raiders on cold northern seas has undergone a radical change in recent decades. A kinder, gentler, and more fashionable Viking emerged. But our view of the Norse may be about to alter course again as scholars turn their gaze to a segment of Viking society that has long remained in the shadows.
Archaeologists are using recent findings and analysis of previous discoveries—from iron collars in Ireland to possible plantation houses in Sweden—to illuminate the role of slavery in creating and maintaining the Viking way of life.
Scandinavian slavery still echoes in the English language today. The expression “to be held in thrall,” meaning to be under someone’s power, traces back to the Old Norse term for a slave: thrall.
Slavery in the region long predates the Vikings. There is evidence of vast economic disparity as early as the first century A.D., with some people living with animals in barns while others live nearby in large, prosperous homes. Ancient chronicles long mentioned that people, as well as precious objects, were a target of the Viking raids that began in 793 A.D. at the Scottish monastery of?Lindisfarne. The?Annals of Ulster?record “a great booty of women” taken in a raid near Dublin in 821 A.D., while the same account contends that 3,000 people were captured in a single attack a century later.
Neil Price, an archaeologist at Sweden’s Uppsala University, suspects that “slavery was a very significant motivator in raiding.” One key factor may have been a dire need for women. Some scholars believe that the Vikings were a polygamous society that made it hard for non-elites to find brides. That may have driven the raids and ambitious exploration voyages for which Vikings are best known. Some genetic studies, for example, suggest that a majority of Icelandic women are related to Scottish and Irish ancestors who likely were raid booty.
As Viking fleets expanded, so did the need for wool to produce the sails necessary to power the ships. This also may have driven the need for slaves. The pressing need for wool production likely led to a plantation-like economy, a topic now being studied by researchers. For example, at a Swedish site called Sanda, researchers in the 1990s found a great hall surrounded by small houses. Some Swedish archaeologists now believe this could have been a Viking plantation with slaves as the labor force. “What you likely have is a slave-driven production of textiles,” said Price. “We can’t really know who is making the cloth, but the implications are clear.”
William Fitzhugh, an archaeologist at the Smithsonian Institution, added that “female slaves were concubines, cooks, and domestic workers.” Male thralls likely were involved in cutting trees, building ships, and rowing those vessels for their Viking masters. Other studies suggest that Viking slaves were sometimes sacrificed when their masters died, and they ate poorly during their lives.
6. According to the passage, the signs of Scandinavian slavery can be found from the following sources EXCEPT ______.
(A) the English language
(B) An Icelandic history book
(C) archeological findings
(D) genetic studies
7. “Slavery in the region long predates the Vikings.” (para 5) means it ______.
(A) can be traced back to the Vikings
(B) is attributable to the Vikings
(C) thrived at the time of the Vikings
(D) came into being long before the time of the Vikings
8. Which of the following statements is TRUE?
(A) Slaves played a big part in the shaping of the Viking way of life.
(B) The Vikings have always been known for their barbarity and brutality.
(C) History records show the Vikings captured women from Scotland and Ireland.
(D) There is solid evidence to prove that Viking plantations were manned with slaves.
9. The Annals of Ulster record that as many as three thousand people were taken in a single raid in ______.
(A) the late 8th century
(B) the early 9th century
(C) the first half of the 10th century
(D) the second half of the 9th century
10. In the Vikings’ society, female slaves did not serve as ______.
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