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From about AD 800 to 1100 the Vikings (pronounced veekins) had large settlements in the Stavanger, Norway area. The derivation of the word "Viking" is disputed; it may be from Old Norse vik (a bay or creek) or Old English wik (a fortified trade settlement). The Viking Age, however is a period that long has been popularly associated with unbridled piracy, when freebooters came swarming out of the northlands in their predatory longships to burn and pillage their way across civilized Europe. Today this is recognized as a gross simplification. The achievements of the Viking Age in terms of Scandinavian art and craftmanship, marine technology, exploration, and the development of commerce, empasizes the Vikings as traders and not raiders. Jewels from the early Viking age are proving Vikings were farmers and craftsmen.

Not every Norwegian, however, was a professional warrior or Viking, and not every Viking was a pirate. Leiv Eirikson, a Viking, sailed to America about 500 years before Colombus. Coming from an agrarian culture, he named the new found land, Vinland, the land of meadows. This did not, however lead to a wave of Norse immigration to the North American Continent, as the attempts to settle on the eastern seabord were soon abandoned in the face of hostile weather. Stories of the abortive American venture are recorded in the medieval Icelandic sagas.

The impact of the Vikings was less enduring than might have been expected, as they had a great capacity for being assimilated into local populations. 150 years after settling in Normandy their Franco-Viking descedants were strong enough to conquer England (1066) and Sicily (1060-1090). The settlers brought to the British Isles energetic art forms, new farming techniques, mercantile acumen, and a vigorous language. The Vikings introduced new forms of administration and justice - such as the jury system. Even the word law is from an Old Norse word. Traces from the Vikings are still apparent in the dialects of Scotland and northern England.

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