28S-DAR-105 NORSE LONGHOUSE
Many Norse were ‘Vikingr’ (roving and marauding adventurers) others were ‘Kaupamadr’ (buyers and sellers of merchandise) who were the masters of trading goods across their known world. More than a few of their ‘Hafn’ (harbour/port trading towns) have grown to be among the largest North West Europe Cities today, but the largest activity in Nordic society was domestic and rural (fishing and farming).
Rural families often lived in a ‘Langhus’ (Longhouse), a form of dwelling that dates back to the Iron Age, with the communal living area of the family in part of the ‘Hus’ and the ‘Scypen’ (Shippon/Cattle Byre) in the other. The family's most valued livestock lived in the byre end of their house with them, keeping livestock safe and providing extra warmth in cold weather.
Like this example many a Norse Longhouse had long, deep rafters each side of the gable (almost to the ground). As well as the low roof eaves it had oversized, feature, bargeboards at the gable ends to protect the roofing from flying off in rough weather and cross winds. It was not just bad weather these farmers needed protection from and their domestic, rural lives were seldom ever tranquil.
A brief look at the Icelandic Sagas shows why rural Norse built robust and well defended homesteads - often the stockade around the Longhouse was more of a defendable palisade - as ‘Vikingr’ had no qualms raiding other Norse. Dans, Swedes, Icelanders, Hiberno-Norse and Manx were just as likely to become ‘Anaud Thrall’ (enthralled captives) and sold alongside Finns, Slavs, Angles, Bretons and Welsh in a ‘Hafn’ slave auction. These rural families lived with the fear of raiders from afar but also with the risk of local feuds becoming deadly. Feuding and vendetta was a large influence on Norse culture at this time, vengeance needed to be seen to be had, or your family lost face and your followers deserted you. It was not unknown for feuds to become bloody little wars between close locals, sometimes ending with the losers held up inside their own Longhouse as it was burned to the ground.