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A historical look into Norse trade by Othingothi Liam Meader

Updated: Apr 29


The Norse established extensive and lucrative trading routes and agreements throughout the known world at the time and had a profound influence on the economic development in Europe and Scandinavia.

Except for the major trading centers of Ribe, Hedeby and other like countries, the Norse world was unfamiliar and estranged to the use of coinage and was based on what was referred to as bullion economy, the literal measurement of weight of precious metals. Silver was the most used metal in Norse society, although gold was also used, it was not as widely used as silver.

Silver circulated in the form of bars called ingots, as well as in the form of jewelry and ornate ornaments. A large number of silver hoards from the Viking Age have been uncovered in the Scandinavian lands that were settled for resources and trade. The traders traditionally carried small scales used to establish proper weight and value accurately, so it was possible to have a well set up system of trade and exchange, even without coinage like the rest of the known world was using. Goods and trade were well organized. The trade covered everything from ordinary items in bulk to exotic luxury items.

Imported goods from other cultures included. Spices were obtained from Chinese and Persian aka silk roads, who met with the Norse traders in Russia. The Norse homegrown spices and herbs like caraway, thyme, horseradish, mustard and even cinnamon were traded. The Norse and Scandinavian tribes prized glass.

They would travel far and wide on the Russian silk roads to import glass. This imported glass was often made into beads for decoration and jewelry. This material has been found across the lands in Åhus in Scandinavia, and the old market town of Ribe (now central Germany), this small country was a place where major centers of glass bead production took place in the Viking age.

Silk was a very important fabric and a commodity that was purchased and treated from the Byzantine empire in (modern day Istanbul) as well as major imports of Chinese silk. It was valued by most of the European cultures of the time, and the Norse used it to indicate status like wealth, political standing in their communities and nobility. Most of the archeological finds in Scandinavia include silk.

Wine was also a major import for the Norse tribes from France and Germany it was looked at as the drink of the wealthy, when compared to regular old-world meads and ale’s from the region.

A way to offset the balance of these widely sought after and important imports, the Norse exported a large variety of goods. Such as:

·Mjölnir, or Thor’s hammer were made of all kinds of materials such as iron, steel, bone, wood bronze gold silver and even stone. There is one, made of amber...

· Amber

· Fur’s.

· Cloth and wool.

· Ivory

· Silver

· Whale oil

Many of these goods were also traded within the Norse and Scandinavian towns cities and culture, other goods such as soapstone, whetstone were also traded with Iceland and Jutland, they used it for pottery and whetstones were traded as tools for sharpening weapons, such as tools and knives. There is evidence from Ribe and surrounding regions, that there was extensive trade of oxen and cattle from Jutland (see Ox Road), reaching as far back as c. 720 AD.

The long-lasting use of such goods and trade satisfied the Norse tribes' needs for leather, and meat to a small extent, even animal hides for parchment production in the European mainland. Wool was used for making many goods, it is easy to see the importance of wool as a main product used by the Norse, to produce clothing for the cold Scandinavian and Nordic regions, also for the sails of the Viking ships.

The Norse ship designs, like the one found in Knar, were important to their success as traders and merchants. Viking ships required an amount of wool, evidenced by modern day archeology. There are archeological signs of organized textile productions in Scandinavia, reaching as far back as the Iron Ages. Artisans and craftsmen from larger towns were getting and using antlers from organized hunting and large-scale reindeer trade with the Sami people. Most of which were used as raw material for making everyday utensils like combs, hairpins, buttons and much more!

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