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Everyday life in Viking times

Market in a Viking townMarket in a Viking town Most Vikings were farmers. They grew crops such as barley, oats and rye and kept cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and horses. In most parts of Scandinavia, people lived in timber houses, but in places where wood was scarce they built with turf or stone instead. Some Vikings worked as fishermen, catching freshwater and sea fish as well as hunting for whales. Salt was a vital commodity, usually bought from travelling merchants. It was used to preserve fish and meat to eat during the long winters, when fresh food was scarce.


Inside a Viking houseInside a Viking houseNearly all houses and workshops were made of timber. They were long and rectangular. The roofs were made of reeds or straw thatch. Other than at a blacksmith’s forge, there were no chimneys, only openings to allow smoke from the hearth to escape. Some poorer dwellings may have had just a single room with a hearth in the centre. With no windows, interiors were gloomy, lit by simple oil lamps or candles. People busied themselves with work such as cooking, drying, salting, smoking and pickling food, tanning leather, blacksmithing, or scouring and dyeing cloth.

A Viking's life expectancy at birth was 20 years old. If a child lived to adulthood, they might expect to live to their late 30s or early 40s. Few parents lived to see their children marry, and even fewer lived to see their first grandchild.

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