The Viking Expeditions from Central Sweden (700-1000):

The Causes and Effects that the Expeditions and Viking Culture Had on Each Other.

Chapter 1 : Introduction
1.1: Purpose
The purpose of this thesis is to explore some of the factors behind the Viking expeditions from central Sweden. The key to understanding the causes for the expeditions will be identifying the environmental and social conditions that were affecting people in central Sweden around 700 C.E. to 1100 C.E. Parallels in other regions and cultures have been used to help identify possible causes of the Viking expeditions from central Sweden. Three general categories of possible contributing factors, namely climate and geography, technology and resources, and culture and population, are surveyed briefly to try to build a reasonably accurate picture of conditions in central Sweden at the end of the Iron age, about 700 C.E. and during the Viking era which followed.
1.2: Sources
Books, popular periodicals, journal articles, faculty members, bibliographies, and maps have been the sources used in researching and writing this thesis. There are hundreds of books and a few dozen articles on Vikings in general. The overwhelming majority of books and articles have concentrated on the Norwegian and Danish Vikings and their travels westward in the Atlantic to Iceland, Greenland, Canada, and west and central Europe. The information about Swedish Viking travels was much scarcer, and information about Sweden prior to 1200 C.E. was even scarcer. Most of the archeology books were primary sources, the remainder of the books were secondary sources. Among the history books on Vikings, about one book out of a hundred dealt with the Swedish Vikings, the Svear, although many books had small sections regarding them.
Most of the information came by gleaning many small bits of information about the Svear from a number of the books, plus extrapolating from the characteristics of neighboring tribes, it has been possible to suggest some components of the Svear's culture. The best overview of the Viking period was A History of the Vikings by Gwyn Jones (1984), which was recently revised to include more recent archaeological evidence. It covers the culture and history of Scandinavia and its peoples from the Bronze age, beginning around 1800 B.C.E. in southern Scandinavia, to the end of the Viking period, around 1100 C.E. Jones provides very good maps and figures and makes good use of pictures of artifacts to help with explanations. His book additionally analyzed the movements and destinations of the different Viking groups. Two other good overview sources, with special emphasis on travels east, were The Viking Road to Byzantium by H. R. Davidson and The Vikings in History by F. D. Logan. The Viking Road to Byzantium was particularly useful due to focus on the Swedish Vikings and their movements east and south, particularly their activities in what became Russia and Turkey. The Vikings in History, another overview source, had particularly useful maps; additionally, it also had helpful annotated bibliographies and substantial information about the settlements started by the Viking expeditions.
There were only a few journal articles on the Vikings and related topics. I did many searches through various on-line databases of journals and abstracts, these searches included the Public Affairs Information Service (PAIS), the Wilson Indexes to Journal Articles (WILS), PsychINFO, the National Newspaper Index (NNID), and the A Matter of Fact Database (AMOF) for references to Vikings, Rus, Svear, Varangians, and so forth . The articles pertaining to Vikings were mostly found in archaeological, psychology, and medical journals. For example. one article in a psychology journal dealt with theories about Berserks and may help provide some insight into the role warfare played in the culture at that time period. A chronic problem in researching this paper has been the absence of many journal issues with potentially useful articles. Either they had gone to the bindery for a few months or were missing from the libraries without explanation.
Popular magazines, with the exception of National Geographic, have not mentioned much about Vikings other than exhibitions of Viking artifacts. National Geographic has had two articles in the last 25 years on Vikings, one in April, 1970 and one in March, 1985. The later article, "The Viking Trail East," dealt with the activities of the Vikings, mostly the Swedish Vikings, in Russia and Turkey and it was helpful in providing an overview of their major trade routes and practices, listing a lot of the sites where the artifacts were found.
Some of the University of Michigan faculty members that had been recommended were Dr. Valerie Kivelson in the History department, Dr. Astrid Beck in Studies in Religion, Prof. William Miller in the Law School, and Dr. William Lockwood in the Anthropology department. Dr. Beck's specialty is in the mythologies and religions of pre-Christian Europe and Prof. Miller's specialty is in Icelandic Viking law. Due to scheduling constraints, it turned out to be far more fruitful and less time consuming to contact graduate students in the appropriate fields, who could be contacted in the evenings and on weekends. Although they are not as experienced in their fields as the faculty, the graduate students provided a lot of useful pieces of information about sources and were able to help answer many of the questions that I was not able to answer myself through further reading.
F. D. Logan and G. Jones had the most helpful bibliographies. Their books, The Vikings in History (Logan 1983) and A History of the Vikings (Jones 1984) contained annotated lists of references. The comments and evaluations they provided seemed plausible, based on having read some of their references and having had some of the sources recommended to me by faculty members. I found several books in Sweden that also contained long bibliographies of sources. However, it was too difficult to acquire more of the sources after I left Uppsala. Two other bibliographies in English that were not in books, one by Judith Mack and the other by Luana Josvold, seemed good, but were a little too general and too old. Apparently, new technologies have changed archeology, and have caused reassessments of already known artifacts and sites.
This summer, June through September 1993, I spent two months studying courses in modern Swedish social institutions and the Swedish language at Uppsala University in Sweden, followed by a month of traveling. I traveled by train, bus, foot, boat, and car, in other regions of central and southern Sweden to learn as much as possible about the local geography, landscape, terrain, and history, both on this last trip and during June of 1991. During the months at Uppsala, I used the resources available in the public and university libraries and the museums in Uppsala and Stockholm. Additionally, since I was in Uppland, one of the regions studied in this thesis, it was relatively easy to make on site visits to areas mentioned in various sources, and to the coast, rivers, lakes, and land. As a result I was able to make first hand observations, during the prime of the growing season, of some of the areas of focus in this study.
1.3: Methods
This thesis is primarily a literature search of material on the Viking age, focusing on central Sweden. The search was supplemented by discussion with the U. of M. faculty, U. of M. and Uppsala University graduate students, lists of references, on-line databases on books and articles, regional maps and charts, and personal visits to some of the actual sites. It seemed easiest to use the literature search to focus on why the expeditions were so successful and then work from there.
As part of the literature search, I located many secondary sources and compiled some lists of their references to get an idea of what to look for in the libraries in Sweden. In order to do this, I had explored as many of the sources as possible here in Ann Arbor, before I left for Uppsala, Sweden. Most of the searching was done electronically using key word searches on library databases. However, an initial problem with the key word searches was that using the word "Viking" as a key word listed all of the many hundreds of books published by Viking Press. Although the climate and the shore level of the Baltic have changed measurably in the last 1000 years, I believe that my on-foot visits to sites helped provide a feel for the territory mentioned by some of the sources. These regions included the Mälar archipelago, the forests, rivers and lakes in south and central Sweden, the fells in southern Norrland's iron producing regions at the water shed. The provinces that I visited included Skåne, Småland, Värmland, Östegotland, Södermanland, Uppland, and Dalarna, Jämtland, and Lappland, in Sweden, and Sör-Tröndelag Fylke and Nordland Fylke, in Norway. Additionally, visiting the many archeology and history museums and farmers' markets provided the opportunity to see and discuss the use of this century's tools, artifacts, and foods from Sweden's and Norway's many regions first hand and to compare them with the descriptions of ancient ones.
Maps and charts from variety of disciplines have helped determine possible distribution of populations, artifacts, and possible crops, living conditions, and so forth, through comparison and interpretation. My experience in hiking and traveling outdoors plus several years experience in gathering and interpreting tactical information for the U.S. federal government have helped allow a better understanding of reconstructing a region based on bits of information.
A significant problem with studying central Sweden was that there were so few sources, particularly historical sources, covering anytime before the 1200's. Foreign cultures had very little contact with the Svear, and the Svear themselves, left virtually no written traces, except for rune stones and rune staves. However, there has been a great wealth of artifacts collected from archeological sites in central Sweden. These artifacts were elements of life in central Sweden and could provide information about life and culture in past times. However, as M. Burström summarizes very clearly, there remains the problem of interpreting the combination of the archaeological finds and the sparse written sources.

In studies of prehistoric social conditions within present day, Sweden considerable interest is usually attached to the historical sources. Written records that describe conditions in Scandinavia prior to the Middle Ages, however, are not only few in number but also meagre and difficult to interpret. In spite of this, earlier research has often started out from the written records and on the basis of these records, interpreted the archaeological record. The problem with this strategy is that it is possible to interpret the archaeological record in so many different ways that it can be used to illustrate almost any historical statement at all. Because of this, written records should not be allowed to govern the archaeological interpretation at too early a stage. Further research into prehistoric societies in present-day Sweden ought therefore to be primarily based on the extensive archaeological record. (Burström : 149)
The problem of over-interpretation of the handful of historical sources has been so large that it was noticeable to me early in the beginning of this thesis. Unfortunately, most of the archeological sources required extensive interpretation and were focused on very narrow subjects. Also, because there are only a handful of historical sources dealing with central Sweden and its inhabitants, they are too few in number to be used reliably. These sources mostly described conditions outside of Sweden, and it is probably not possible to relate these accurately to the general population in Sweden at the time.
Through the use of a literature search supplemented by maps and personal visits to sites in Sweden this thesis explored some of the contributing factor behind the expeditions from central Sweden by the Svear tribe from 800C.E. to 1100C.E. The sources used were historical accounts, journal articles, archeological references, and geographical studies of the Nordic region around the Baltic Sea.

Chapter 2.
Thesis Index.