Jorvik Viking Festival

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Trade flourished during the Viking Age. The Vikings created a global trade network that spanned as far east as the River Volga (Russia) and Istanbul, west to Dublin and Newfoundland (North America), and north to Greenland. There is also evidence that they had trade contacts with the Middle and Far East.

The Vikings were keen travellers and traders. While they are more often remembered for raiding, according to archaeological evidence they actually set off on peaceful trading voyages around Scandinavia 70 years before their first raid on England.

The vast, expansive and organised trade network included connections to the Mediterranean with trade routes through Central Europe and around the Iberian Peninsula. They connected to Istanbul, Jerusalem, Baghdad and the Caspian Sea through the Volga river (flows from Russia to the Caspian) and Dnieper river (flows from Russia to the Black Sea).  Traders travelled the Russian river systems to tap into the market in exotic goods coming westwards along the Silk Road.

On their travels, they bought exotic and luxury goods such as silver, silk, spices and wine. They mostly sold honey, tin, wheat, wool, wood, iron, fur, leather, fish and walrus ivory; which were exported from Scandinavia. They also bought and sold slaves everywhere they went – slave trading was extremely profitable during the Viking Age.

The Vikings used silver for payment according to its weight – this included using cut-up silver jewellery and ingots, as well as coins. Viking-age silver hoards have been discovered, like the Watlington Hoard, which contain a variety of different silver items. Thousands of silver Arabic coins have been found on Scandinavian trading sites.

Places like Jorvik were established as trade centres after they had been settled. Workshops at Jorvik produced cups, tableware, glass beads, pottery, drinking glasses, bone and antler combs, leather goods, jewellery, and cloth. Blacksmiths and armour makers produced swords, battle axes, chainmail and armour; all of which were exported to the world through their trading networks.

Trading and settling in this way enabled the Vikings to develop self-sufficient communities, taking advantage of the raw materials around them and the goods they obtained from their voyages around the world.

Discover stories of Viking trade at JORVIK Viking Festival 2020