Vendel helmets - before norseman started to sail west.

8:37 PM

In the dark times of Europe, when the whole contintent was still divided into hundreds of mini realms the brave men of north weren't ready to sail. From 6th till 8th century AD Norway and Sweden was in chaos. The later known Nordic kingdoms or ‘nations’ had not yet been developed during the Vendel age. Scandinavia was inhabited by numerous North Germanic tribes and clans who were almost in constant war with each other. Even the sub-tribes and clans of the larger tribes were politically independent from each other, constantly fighting one another. It seems that at times powerful warlords appeared establishing ephemeral principalities or kingdoms. This is the time and the societies described in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, an epic possibly of Jute or Gott/Gotar origins. We call this period as a Vendel, pre-Viking period. It's famous from very wealthy burial sites of norse elite warriors.

In this era the largest tribes of eastern and southern Scandinavia were the Svears, the Gotar and their probable branches – the Gauthigoth, Ostrogothae, Vagoth, Gutar, Theustes – the Jutes. Graves from Vendel (but also from other places) are very wealthy, what is interesting they are similar to famous anglo-saxon burial site: Sutton Hoo.

In 1881-1883 several excavations by Hjalmar Stolpe revealed 14 graves in and just beyond the south-east corner of Vendel churchyard. Several of the burials were contained in boats up to 9 metres long, and were richly furnished with arrangements of weapons (including fine swords), helmets, cauldrons and chains, beads, shields, tools, etc. Vendel has given its name to a period (the Vendel Age) in the Scandinavian Iron Age, and to the corresponding style in Art (the Vendel Style). It has often been suggested that the Germanic Vandals, or at least their kings or rulers, were connected to the site. In this it is coupled with the name of a companion site at Valsgärde in the same region. The close comparisons with the 27-metre ship burial at Sutton Hoo show a direct connection between the armourers producing work found at the two sites, a connection central to the understanding of both. The Sutton Hoo burial is often associated with King Raedwald of East Anglia, (ruled c 599-624), who in his later reign (c 616-624) was most powerful among the rulers of the English kingdoms.

The numerous tribes of the Vendel age gradually began to join in larger tribal unions or confederations, usually by force, while most Jutes, Angles and Northern Saxons of modern Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein had already migrated to Britain at the beginning of this period (starting at the early 5th century AD, of the pre-Vendel era). The Svear and the peoples of Scandinavia possibly related to the continental Goths – that is to say the Heruli (Heruls) and the Gotar (Gott Gutar and/or Geats) and their branches of modern Gotaland and the Oland & Gotland Islands (in modern southern Sweden) – went on living side by side during the Vendel period (550-793 AD) and the Viking age (793– early 11th century AD). Finally after several confrontations, around the 12th century they joined in a single kingdom, after all not being significantly different in language, origins and culture. Thereby they were both assimilated in the Swedish nation.

According to historians, the Viking Age began on June 8, A.D. 793, at an island monastery off the coast of northern England. Norseman started to sail. A contemporary chronicle recorded the moment with a brief entry: “The ravages of heathen men miserably destroyed God’s church on Lindisfarne, with plunder and slaughter.” The “heathen men” were Vikings, fierce warriors who sailed from Scandinavia and bore down on their prey in Europe and beyond in sleek, fast-sailing ships. In the centuries that followed, the Vikings’ vessels carried them deep into Russia and as far south as Constantinople, Sicily, and possibly even North Africa. They organized flotillas capable of carrying warriors across vast distances, and terrorized the English, Irish, and French coasts with lightning-fast raids. Exploratory voyages to the west took them all the way to North America.

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