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The Role of Summer Trading in Viking Cities

Updated on November 30, 2016
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The Midnight Muse received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from the University of South Florida and writes about world cultures.

A Viking Camp Demonstration by Living History Reenactors
A Viking Camp Demonstration by Living History Reenactors | Source

Centers for Commerce and Trade

The role of Vikings cities functioned much differently from the typical definition of a city. These locations were based on cultural traditions and functioned as designated economic centers for commerce, trading, religious activities. The most recognized of the Viking cities were Birka, Hedeby, and Ribe. Vikings, for the most part, lived at fairly large distances from their neighboring households. Although areas were controlled by local earls, the size and proportion of these areas could be quite extensive at times. Seasonal pilgrimages to these merchant cities provided the opportunity for people to meet and conduct business transactions.

The Summer Trading Season

The Vikings loved to trade. In fact, it was a matter of survival to the Viking lifestyle. The wares that were made by a Viking household during the winter months were taken to these economic distribution centers during the summer for barter or trade.

Seasonal Inhabitation

Many of these cities were inhabited on a seasonal basis. During the summer, these cities functioned as established trading centers and allowed for commerce and the exchange of goods; but afterwards, the cities were deserted during the cold winter months. Even at such renowned trading centers as Birka, the habitation of the city did not last very long. The few cities that emerge and remain active throughout the entire year are later abandoned as soon as the flow of trade was diminished. Other cities that were open during the summer months migrated locations according to the exact point where they are erected. These seasonal market-cities were often just like very large flea markets or boot sales.

Learn More About the Vikings

Population of the Cities

The largest of the Viking cities was inhabited by a paltry population of approximately 3,000 people. The population of these cities was quite small when compared to the populations of other European cities of the same time period such as London. Although these trading centers are recognized as Vikings cities, they more closely resemble seasonal towns.

Treasure Hordes and the Value of Coins

In Gotland, a huge Viking coin horde was found. The Vikings preferred Byzantium coinage above all others. They did not care about the worth of coins, but rather were more concerned with their weight and quality. Largest, this was due to an understanding of the worth of gold in the manufacture of objects as well as an understanding of the value of metal rather than that of an assigned fictitious monetary value by foreign governments.

© 2015 Midnight Muse


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