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Home Life in the Viking Age

Much of our knowledge of life in the Viking Age houses comes from the household artifacts which have been discovered in burial graves. These items are usually found in the richest graves, and therefore give the depiction of life in the well-off households. We can deduce that aristocrats had large eating tables and chairs, and also beds. Fragments of tapestries have also been found.

However, it is most likely that ordinary households contained much less furniture. The average Viking home would make due with stools, and benches which would have been mounted on the walls. Wooden chests could serve a dual purpose as a stool, but also to store valuables such as jewellery, silver and clothing.

The majority of everyday household items found come from the upper-class homes. Items such as cups were usually made of wood, but also pottery. Drinking cups were sometimes made of horn, the upper class would even have had imported glass vessels.

Unfortunately very few everyday household items from the lower classes have survived. The reason for this is quite simple. The majority of drinking cups, platters, bowls, spoon and ladles were made of wood. So, broken or worn down household items would have been thrown into the fire as a fuel source. As for the items which were not thrown into the fire very few items have been discovered because the wood has decayed over the centuries.

However, some examples have been preserved in waterlogged ground. The household items have the appearance of being hand-carved (most likely by a member of the household). There have been several finds which appear to have been manufactured on a lathe. This could suggest that specialized woodworkers may also have produced items for the home.

It is clear that men and women had the different roles in and around the household. Men work in the fields, and on repairing buildings. They fished and went on hunting expeditions. While the women prepared food (including milling grain into flour and preparing animals to be cooked). Wool from sheep would be worked on the loom, crocheted or sewed into clothing and various other textiles. In the affluent households slaves and servants would have performed much of the work around the home.

The men were often away from the farms for long periods of time hunting, commercial expeditions or pillaging. Viking Age women would therefore be left with the responsibility for the home.

Life inside Viking Age home would have been quite dark. Most of the light inside the home would have come from the central fire. In some homes extra light would have been supplied by oil lamps. During the daylight hours some light would have come in through a couple very small windows. The floors were of beaten earth, and the solid wooden doors to the houses could be locked.