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The Vikings

Course Times & Enrolment

Thursdays from 18th April 2024 (Code AC035-301) Thursdays from
18th April 2024 6:30pm - 8:20pm • (10 classes)
LG49 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Kristian L. R. Pedersen BIS FSA Scot
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

The Viking Age remains enigmatic because of the diversity of the evidence and the complex inter-relationships between the Scandinavians and the indigenous peoples whom they encountered. This course introduces the main themes of Viking settlement, economy, religion, maritime technology, and exploration. A variety of archaeological sites in Scotland will be considered in detail.

This course includes a visit to the National Museum of Scotland.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge required.

Content of Course

1. Sources for Viking Age research (& introduction to the course)

Different types of written evidence. Archaeological remains and dating techniques. Anthropological comparisons.

2. The Vikings - Introduction

Who were the Vikings? How and when did the Viking Age start? Viking society. Viking artefacts.

3. Viking Economy

Why did the Vikings go raiding? Gift giving and traditional forms of exchange. Silver hoards. The development of a market economy.

4. The Vikings in Scandinavia

Settlement sites and other finds. Burials and religion. Early trading towns.

5. The Vikings in Scotland

Settlement sites and other finds. Burials and religion. Interaction with the local population.

6. The Vikings and the Picts in Orkney

Settlement evidence from Orkney. Who were the Picts? War and peace theories.

7. The Vikings in England and Ireland

Early raids. Settlement. York and Dublin. Finds and settlements.

8. Viking Colonies further afield

Iceland. Greenland. America. Russia and the East.

9. Vikings at the National Museum of Scotland

Discussion of the Vikings-related holdings at the National Museum.

10. The end of the Viking Age

Why did the Viking Age end? What did the Vikings contribute to our society? How have the Vikings been portrayed in modern times? Summing up.

Teaching method(s)

Lecture based with class discussion.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Describe the Vikings’ archaeological monuments, burial practices, house types, economy and religion;

  • Name the most important archaeological sites from this time period;

  • Discuss the Viking raids and settlement abroad;

  • Discuss the impact the Vikings have had on modern European culture.


Core Readings


  • Backlund, J., 2001. "War or Peace? The Relations between the Picts and the Vikings in Orkney." Northern Studies Vol. 36, p. 33-48. (handed out in class).

  • Graham-Campell, J. and Batey, C.E.,1998. Vikings in Scotland: An Archaeological Survey. Edinburgh University Press.

  • Smith, B. The Picts and the Martyrs or Did Vikings Kill the Native Population of Orkney and Shetland? Northern Studies Vol. 36, p. 7-32. (handed out in class).


  • Carver, M. 1999 or 2005 edition. Surviving in Symbols: a visit to the Pictish Nation. Birlinn Ltd.

  • Richards, J., 2005. The Vikings: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.

  • Ritchie, A.,1993. Viking Scotland. B.T. Batsford Ltd and Historic Scotland.

Web Sources


Class Handouts

Handouts will be provided.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.