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

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


Chapter 3 : Contributing factors for the expeditions
3.1: Climate and Geography

Climate and geographical location, more than anything else, seem to have been an influence over the destinations of travelers from central Sweden.
Geographic isolation, relative to western and northern Europe and southern Scandinavia, provided the inhabitants with protection from the unrest of those regions and provided access to regions away from Europe. Several barriers to large scale travel over land during the Viking age shielded the Mälar region from invaders by land and distance and well armed societies to the south provided barriers along the coast. Across the Baltic, the people lacked the boat building skills, among others, to launch expeditions to central Sweden. Thus, aside from their immediately neighboring groups, the region of the Mälar valley was reasonably shielded from invaders.
Geographical barriers acted as territorial borders for the people before modern machinery. The Svear were far away from most of the populations in Europe and the rest of Scandinavia, and it was this intervening distance and wilderness that isolated them from the influence of continental Europe. The regions in north were hard to travel through, particularly the fells to the northwest, because of the terrain and the special skills required to get food and survive in the cold. Overland routes between central and southern Sweden went through the intervening thick forests. These sufficed as trade routes, but they were not a practical way to bring invading forces, which required a lot of food which was usually taken from local populations. Lastly, and very importantly, the Mälar river opened up through a maze of islands into the Baltic and was very difficult to navigate through. Because travel through these regions was difficult and food was not plentiful, these regions acted as a defense to central Sweden from invaders.
The waterways in Sweden are connected in such a way to make access to the Baltic by boat easy from the territories of the Svear. However, it was not as easy for the Svear to travel south, as this would have to be done along the open coast. This also meant that it was difficult for the Danes and Norwegians to reach the territories near the Svear. A diagram 10, shows groupings of people around the Baltic, based on the genetic similarities to one another. On the Scandinavia peninsula, the divisions on the diagram run parallel to the major rivers, indicating that coastal travel was probably the primary way to travel north and south. It appears that waterways were the primary routes of travel north and south. This limited territorial expansion to along the coast and inland regions along the rivers.
The forests acted as a barrier to travel, causing people to travel along the coasts and rivers. Although people traveled via trails, lakes, and rivers from Gotland to Svealand the thick forests separated the regions. The rivers in central Sweden generally flow from the northwest to the southeast and empty into the Baltic or the Gulf of Bothnia, whereas those in the south tend to flow from the north to the south. If these rivers had inland connections, then they would have provided a means for north and south travel other than along the coast. However, the rivers and water ways in the center of Sweden have very few inland connections to those in the southern regions of Sweden. Because of this, travel north and south could only be done along the coast. Thus, the occupants central Sweden had easier access to the lands along the shores of the Baltic than the did to those in Norway or the West coast of Sweden. Although it was possible to travel from central Sweden to Norway and Denmark through the Baltic, such a route required traveling great distances through open sea and through the territories of the Goths, Danes, and others. Conversely, if the Danes or Goths traveled east or north in the Baltic, they also had to travel great distances through occupied lands to get there. Thus, geographical features influenced the Svear to travel in the Baltic rather than the North Sea or the Atlantic.
A region is overpopulated if all of the food that it can produce is needed to support the existing population. The length of the growing season determines how many people can be supported by a particular region. At the northern limit for the successful growth of most crops, farming was possible, but not easy nor successful every year. A seven month growing season, which can be found as far north as Uppsala, Sweden, is long enough to allow a large enough variety of crops to make farming an appealing way of life. However, a five month growing season which is found near Östersund, Sweden (Mead 1958 : 148) is short enough to be the northern limit for many of Europe's staple crops, such as wheat and rye. This is already too far north for most other crops, including grains and many of the fruits and vegetables that are cultivated in central Europe. Even the south central region in Sweden, which is now called Dalarna, growth of vegetation was so slow that cows had to be fed in summer pastures away from the main farm, even into this century. Thus, it appears that the Mälar valley is near the northern most limits of crop farming. Further north, conditions become too difficult to allow farming as a sole means of support, especially without modern equipment and crops. Assuming that a large population must have a large supply of food nearby, the northern limit for a large population would also the northern limit for most crops. The Mälar valley is far enough south that crops can be grown there, but it is also far enough north that the harvest will always be large enough to feed the population. Thus, it is likely that the Svear had occasional food shortages, but not necessarily famine, in the Mälar valley.
Although the Baltic Sea was a source of food for the Scandinavian, it was not as rich as the North Sea. Geographically, the Baltic was cut off from the Atlantic Ocean for a period of time after end of the last ice age, when the land rose for a while. At that time, the Baltic became a great, freshwater lake that drained through the Svea and Göta rivers over what is now Lake Vännern, in Sweden. (Sømme 36-38) Later, the Baltic drained through the Dana river which went between what is now Fyn and Sjaelland in Denmark. Sjaelland was connected to Skåne at that time. Since then the water levels have changed quite a bit, even in recent centuries 11 (Mead 1958). The change from salt water to fresh water and then back again must have affected the fish. To this day the, Baltic has much fewer varieties and quantities of fish than the North Sea and also lacks a particular species of aquatic worm that commonly eats wood submerged in the ocean. While these are good conditions for the preservation of sunken ships, it must have made fishing a common way of life for those living in central Sweden a thousand years ago, compared to Norway or Denmark where fish was more plentiful.
The regions to the southwest were already occupied by cultures similar enough to the Svear that they would be in direct competition with each other. Since it was difficult, dangerous, and expensive to pass through foreign lands, it was best to do so only if the reward outweighed the penalty. Aside from the weather and the elements making trips dangerous, hostile groups had to be dealt with. Making treaties was risky and expensive, although often better than having to battle with an overwhelming opposition. Making treaties was expensive in that it often required the exchange of material wealth and or promises that had to be fulfilled, both of which cost time. Time was an important factor due to the harsh winter weather. However, even with treaties, the leaders or people could change their minds and attack suddenly. So it was best to reduce the amount of foreign territory traveled through to a profitable minimum.
Except for central Sweden, nearly all of the Scandinavian peninsula and Denmark had access to the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, and the Barents Sea. Significantly, the others had access to the resources of the Atlantic, such as prime fishing regions and central and southern Europe, whereas the Svear did not. This meant that the Svear could not. The waterways of central Sweden provided access only to the Baltic and the relatively unpopulated regions north and inland. This meant that while it was difficult for the Svear to reach England, Ireland, France, and other regions on continental Europe, it was relatively easy for them to travel to and from the Baltic regions that are now called Åland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Russia.
Sea access to the different regions on the Scandinavian peninsula is the result of the combination of the effects of the glaciers and the climate. Sea access influences how much the inhabitants could travel by water, prior to recent centuries. For example, the coast of Norway is kept clear of ice during the winter by relatively warm ocean currents that travel north along its coast. However, although Sweden and Finland have many rivers leading to the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, there are no such warm currents there such as those near Norway. So ice becomes a problem along the east coast in Sweden. For example, the Gulf of Bothnia is usually closed off by ice more than 3 months each winter during this century (Mead 1958 : 60). Also, while it may be possible to travel over the ice between Umeå, Sweden and Vaasa, Finland, Umeå is closed in by ice almost half of the year, much like the northern parts of the Great Lakes bordering U.S.A. and Canada. Further south in Sweden, Gävle is closed in for about a quarter of the year (Mead 1958 : 60). Below the 60th parallel, which is just a little south of the Åland islands, ice is a problem only about three months of the year, but it is not usually enough of a problem to force the seaports to close during winter. Additionally, it may have been possible to travel over the ice during the winters between what are now Uppland in Sweden and the south west end of Finland via Åland. Although the average temperature at the end of the Iron age in Scandinavia is thought to have been slightly warmer than it is now, the Gulf of Bothnia was probably not navigable during enough of the winter months compared to regions only slightly further south, such as Stockholm, Sweden where ship travel is possible year round through light ice in the winter. Thus, the Mälar valley is Sweden's northernmost major waterway with year round accessibility to the Baltic Sea with possible travel over the ice to Åland and Finland during the winters.
The climate and terrain of the Mälar valley permitted a large population to be supported by agriculture. At the northern limit for the successful growth of most crops, farming was possible, but not easy nor successful every year. Additionally, the locations of discovered grave sites suggests sporadic settlement 12 in this region. This sporadic settlement could imply that far less land was considered arable using Iron age technology than with today's technology. If the climate had been more conducive to larger harvests, for example, like the long growing seasons in southern Europe, then farming alone could have been such a sustaining lifestyle that the need to travel elsewhere would have been greatly reduced. It appears that central Sweden may have been able to produce a larger population than it could be consistently supported in the region, and thus, created a pressure to for the excess population to seek other regions to settle.
3.2: Technology and Resources
Three technologies and an abundance of key resources made successful travel possible for the Svear. These technologies were the skills of boat building, iron working and production, and organization. The Svear's primary resources during the Viking age were man power, iron and timber, and, to a lesser extent, luxury goods.
The museums of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark have extensive exhibits on the Viking age boats. This type of boat, the same type that the Svear used, was so superior to those of the other cultures at the time that they are still a source of pride for the Scandinavians. The association of the Scandinavians with boats has been a long one. In the 2nd century, Tacitus described the Svear as being powerful not only in arms and men, but in fleets as well (Jones 24), showing an early talent with ships. Building a Viking style boat not only required the resources of trees and iron, but a high degree of skill. The planks were cut in varying thicknesses, to provide strength in the appropriate places while saving weight in the others. Merchant ships were often light enough to be carried (Jones 253). The notches in the planking were cut so skillfully that the boards fit together nearly flush. The notches were fastened together with iron rivets, which were stronger and caused less drag against the water than lashing the planks together, as was done before iron. Water resistance was further reduced by the boats having a prow on each end. The ships were steered by a rudder that was fastened on one side of the ship to give greater stability than a centered rudder. The decreased water resistance and the addition of a sail were important factors in extending the range of long distance travel. The boats were wide relative to their depth to give them stability and enable them to travel in the shallow water of rivers. The studies at the town of Birka in the Mälar valley show that the water has been retreating from the shore over time (Ambrosiani : 31). If the water levels in Swedish rivers dropped also, this probably made being able to travel in shallow water a necessity to reach some communities. Because boat travel was such a large part of the culture in central Sweden, it is no surprise that they were used to explore more distant regions around the Baltic.
Iron probably contributed significantly to the development of population pressure and warfare in central Sweden. Iron products enabled more to get done, because they were more durable than the bronze ones. Thus an individual with iron tools could harvest more crops, thus supporting a larger population in a region. A high enough population density puts a strain on the region's resources, particularly food. In a region with relatively limited resources, such as the Mälar valley, a well fed population could quickly outgrow the local food supply within several generations. This was of special importance in these regions where a good harvest was not always possible. Increased warfare may not have reduced the population as much as it deterred individuals and small groups from relocating to less crowded areas near by.
Iron ore and timber were abundant in Sweden and the Svear were able to utilize these resources. Swedish ore was collected to such an extent by the Viking age inhabitants of central Sweden that the distribution of the remains of furnaces that the they used to smelt ore were scattered throughout the ore bearing regions of Sweden. Although the highest concentrations and largest amounts of iron ore were in southern Sweden, large regions in northern Svealand 13 and southern Norrland had a lot of ore. Iron products were good merchandise for trade because they were in high demand. Additionally iron increased the efficiency of the boats by making them stronger and allowing for a more hydrodynamic design. The iron tools allowed the planking to be cut with greater precision. They were not only made stronger by fastening the overlapping planks with iron rivets, they were made faster. Previously the planks had been fastened by threading strips through rows of holes bored through adjoining planks. These holes and the protruding lashings created a rough surface causing a lot of drag against the water. The rivets were much smaller and needed fewer holes because fewer of them were needed to keep the boat together. With the resulting smoother surface, the iron reinforced boats could move faster with less effort than the older style. Even after the addition of the sail to the Swedish boats, oars were used to maneuver the boat in rivers. The abundance of timber allowed the construction of tools, buildings, boats, fences, and bridges, and was most importantly a reliable source of fuel. In regards to the Viking expeditions, the fuel and boats were the most important. The fuel allowed iron production. The boats allowed travel and transportation.
Organization was another resource that the Svear had in abundance. Iron production, boat building, and sailing all required group organization and planning. Particularly boat building and sailing, which required great coordination of effort within a group. The Svear, like other Scandinavian cultures, also had an organized system of laws and met in more or less organized assemblies. Even as early as the second century, the Swedes were noted for their highly organized infantry (Tacitus 106), which later manifested as a form of amphibious infantry during the Viking period. This high level of organization allowed relatively small groups of people to travel great distances through wilderness and often hostile territory to trade or make highly successful attacks.
Luxury goods such as slaves, wax, and furs brought high prices in the eastern markets. The Swedes were able to acquire these relatively easily in nearby territories. The Swedes were able to capture or trade slaves in small numbers around the Baltic, particularly in the Slavic regions, on their way home or on their way to Byzantium or Islam. Lighter skinned slaves were relatively uncommon and brought a higher price in the southern markets. These slaves were traded for with the other Viking groups that had captured them. More commonly, the Svear captured slaves in raids on the regions around the Baltic, not occasionally on the way to market. Some of the treaties recorded between the Svear and the Byzantine Emperor state that the Svear may not take slaves
The Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity was well established in Constantinople by this time. This combined with the wealth of the local rulers, probably created market for the imported wax for candles for the churches and palaces. (Davidson 1976 : 1 04-105) Tallow candles were dirty and smelly, and probably a sign of poverty, so it is likely that those that could afford to, bought wax candles instead. Since Constantinople was a large trade center and the head of an empire, it was likely that many could afford luxury goods. Even today, honey is collected by gathering the beeswax in which the bees have stored their honey, a lot of wax and honey must have been acquired together. According to accounts of the customs of the Scandinavians during the Viking age, they consumed large amounts of mead daily, and larger amounts as part of ceremonies. Mead is fermented beverage made primarily from honey. A lot of wax was sold by the Svear in the southern markets. This could have been an end in itself, or it could have been related to the production of mead for festivals.
Many animals that lived in Sweden and the other Baltic regions at the time had good pelts. Squirrel, martens, sable, seal, walrus, and even polar bear skins were hunted or collected as tribute by the Svear. The seal and walrus skins were braided into ca bles for ships, probably similar to the ox hide cables that were used in the Falun mine. These furs were held in high especially value in places like Byzantium and Bulghar.
3.3: Culture and Population
Although the occupants of central Sweden lived nearby to other similar people, they had quite a different effect on the regions that they visited. The regions that they visited were very of different cultures than those visited by the other Viking groups.
The wealthy and literate Arabic regions and the Byzantine Empire were located south and east of the Baltic. These two regions were possibly the wealthiest, technologically advanced, and most well-established civilizations of the time, outside of Asia. While the Svear were by no means badly off, these other lands were doing very well and the new regions provided opportunities to acquire exotic goods and to gain wealth and status.
Farming was the foremost way of life in the Mälar valley before, during and after the Viking period. Social standing was partially dependent on land ownership. The Svear seemed to consider themselves farmers first and foremost, for they usually returned to farming during the times they were not away trading or warring.
The period from 800-1100 saw an apparent change in the substructure of social order in Scandinavia. Although familial ties and friendships remained the strongest bonds of loyalty, the emphasis drifted from obligations to relatives to obligations to individuals. (c.f. arise of modern welfare state?) The laws held those related by a common ancestor four generations back, for example a great-great-grandfather, to be the basic social group (Foote : 5) obligated to support each other. Gradually, by the end of the Viking era, fielty to individuals became a more important binding force in society.
The laws and social codes pertaining to honor and alliance, must have made it more difficult to find space for completely new farmsteads to start between or near the old ones. Prior to the early Iron age there was believed to be a drop in population in Sweden, possibly due to a high level of exploitation of the land (Widgren 85), so it is likely that it occurred again. It appears that as much of the land that could have been considered arable at the time was in use by the end of the 1100's. With no innovations in agriculture and no real expansion outwards, it probably became increasingly difficult to farm in that area. Specifically, the methods used were not able to produce high enough yields in a sustainable fashion to support the local populations. New farmsteads require not only land, but protection in numbers for defense and support. And, while still small, must not aggravate the powerful. If view of the potential difficulties and pressures, it probably would have been easier, socially to begin a new farm in another land.
The Christian and pre-Christian societies had several differences. The most prominent difference between the pre Christian era and the Christian era seems to have been that women had a different, and probably better, status than they did later, as far as rights and function in society were concerned. The Arab merchant, Al-Tartushi, wrote that women then had the right to declare divorce and leave whenever they like ( Jones 177). Additionally, many of the rune stones in Sweden were commissioned by women or in honor of women.
On top of familial loyalties, there were three general classes in central Sweden during the Viking era. These were rulers, freemen, and slaves, and each was related to farming, according to the written observations of outside visitors to the Svear and a few others. The Song of Rig (Crossley-Holland) described three social classes, the rulers, freemen, and the slaves. Merchants, craftsmen, religious leaders, lawyers, healers and house-karls were probably not classes of their own, but part time professions. Scholars Foote and Wilson (79-122) corroborate this three leveled structure of slaves, the rulers, and freemen. This structure was not rigid and permitted class to be changed. The kings power depended on the public opinion (Foote : 35), but seem to have been chosen from within a particular family.
Slaves were gathered through war, piracy, and trade ( Jones 148), all methods being so common as to be hard to tell which is most frequent. Anyone could be captured as a slave during the course of travel, warfare, etc. Slaves owned by the Scandinavians could generally work for their freedom. (Foote) Freemen appear to have been the overwhelming majority of the population. They owned and worked land, and occasionally joined in various expeditions. Kings were chosen by freemen and nobles at a public assembly called the thing. Likewise, they could be deposed if their followers determined that the king's luck had run out.
During the Viking age, the Scandinavian peoples governed themselves by a council of leaders and freemen, called the Ting14 (Brøndsted 244). This council gathered out of doors at a hallowed place to make decisions, hear opinions of the members, and air grievances. The thing was well established in Scandinavian culture. Norway's parliament is still called the Storting and Denmark, the Allting and many old towns in Sweden have place names, often street names, named after the Thing. The thing met in Uppsala until 16th c. (Davidson, 1967 : 108) The Thing occasionally oversaw the settlement of disputes which could not be settled by payment, fighting, or a combination of the two.
Penalties were usually payment, temporary outlawry, outlawry (Foote 381). For payment, an appropriate amount was determined and then to be repaid. Occasionally an individual was punished to outlawry that lasted a few years or until payment could be made. Outlawry was the most severe change in social status where the outlawed individual was expelled from society and would be killed if he or she did not leave the territory. Sheltering an outlaw was also a crime, but even if the outlaw did leave the territory he or she could still be hunted and killed without penalty.
The method of governance and types of penalties indicate the concepts that a culture holds to be important. In the case of the Viking age Scandinavians, wealth and participation in society appear to have been highly valued.
Concepts that are important in society often play a central role in myths and religious practice. The practice of religion by the inhabitants and the content . A large religious center lay near Birka, in the town of Uppsala. People were required to attend and pay tribute for a festival that occurred within it every nine years. This almost certainly contributed to the strength of Birka, since two major inland routes cross at Birka. (Ambrosiani : 48)
According to Norse mythology, the universe was composed of three regions, each subdivided into three sub regions. Through all of these ran the tree, Yggdrasil. It was a life supporting the cosmos and itself balanced between decay and renewal. As in daily life, the cosmic order held a distinct hierarchy that was also changing and temporary.
Among the many supernatural beings that existed for the Svear, there were trolls, giants, dwarves, monsters, and two groups of gods. The Norse gods and goddesses, like the folk that worshipped them, were good at a number of things each and adaptable to many situations, not specialized like insects. The two groups of gods and goddesses were the Aesir and the Vanir. The Aesir were newer and more war-like and appear to have usurped the more agrarian Vanir but were unable to vanquish them out right, so an uneasy treaty was formed between the two groups. There were many other important gods and goddesses, but relatively few traces of them survive today The most prominent at the end seem to have been Odin, Thor, and Frey. They most likely represent the attributes and deeds that most occupied the thoughts of the people then. By examining their characters, a sampling of what was part of the lives of the Svear can perhaps be seen.
Odin was the leader of the gods and most versatile of them. He was father of most of the Aesir and was called the god of the slain, the god of knowledge, the god of poetry, and the god of cargoes (Crossley-Holland: 64, 200) to mention just a few of his titles. Odin was foremost the battle god. Above all, Odin was ruthless. He apparently delighted in causing strife on earth and often turned suddenly against his worshippers, calling them into death. No one was spared from his sacrifice, not even himself. Not only did he trade one of his own eyes for a drink at the well of knowledge, he even hanged himself in sacrifice to himself to gain the knowledge of runes.
Odin's quest for knowledge was in the service of collecting intelligence in preparation for the doomsday battle, Ragnarok. He could interrogate the dead, and had two crows, named Thought and Memory, that flew the world daily. It seems that ruthlessness and collection of strategic knowledge would benefit both warriors and merchants. Poetry was, after all, used at this time period as another means of providing an after action report of a battle well fought. Perhaps he was not so much the god of knowledge and wisdom, as we use the words today, but instead the god of versatility through cunning and strategy.
Frey was foremost of the fertility gods and one of the Vanir, but not as much is known about him as Odin and Thor. He and Njord were traded to the Aesir by the Vanir as peace hostages. He was invoked at weddings and possibly at funerals. He was associated with horses (Davidson 1981 : 97) and both he and his sister, Freyja, were associated with the boar. The ban on weapons, blood shed, and outlaws reinforce the concept of fertility god (ibid. 98); things grow better and faster during times of peace.
Thor became the most popular of the Norse gods by the close of the pre-Christian era. He was protector of the gods and of humanity and was probably most closely associated in character with humanity, particularly with the farmer. His primary function among the gods was exertion of force (Davidson 1988 : 200). Possibly this is part of association with the farmer, which was the cause of his popularity. His identifying traits were necessary and admirable to have for a successful farm. He had great strength, and although, a bit slow witted for a god, he was strong and dependable (Crossley-Holland xxvii).
As god of rain and thunder and through his mother, the earth, he can be associated with farming . As additional connection with agriculture there was a whetstone fragment lodged in his skull which gave him pains any time a whetstone was thrown. Whetstone central to pre-industrial agriculture; dull tools make slow, hard work with damage to that which is harvested. To throw a brittle whetstone is to risk breaking it, and a large, even whetstone is much more useful than a small, broken one. However, he was born of the union of the god of battle and the earth; his father was Odin, so his is also known for his fighting prowess.
How a people view what happens after life tends to show what is important to them in life and may even have cause of how people act in this life. Ragnarok embodies a theme of a destruction and creation cycle. Renewal through new life arising from the death of the old, not rebirth of the old. Just as the seasons bring new life without bringing back the old.
Ragnarok, the doom or destiny of the gods, is the gigantic battle which consumes all of the universe, leaving only a few seeds for the next one to grow from. All things must die, even the gods (Jones 318) as part of the cycle of renewal and growth. Here, they all die in battle. As grain is cut by iron for use later, warriors are cut down by iron for use later. Odin and Frigg share the slain warriors. Half go to her hall, Fensalir, half to his hall, Valhalla. Those that do not die in battle, rot in silence in the cold north. In Odin's hall, the slain warriors fight as armies all day every day and then are rewarded with feasting all night every night, in practice for their final battle. The Aesir, led by Odin, will have this army to support them in the final battle.
In the hall of Odin, the food is pig flesh and the drink is mead, both in unlimited supply. Mead and references to mead are many in and out of myth and apparently had religious significance as well as social. Brewing and consuming drink for festivals was required by law in some parts of Norway until late (Foote 402), it seems reasonable to assume that this may have been the case in Sweden, too. Traces of mead are found containers in graves and mead plays a central role in many of the surviving myths as recorded by Snorri Sturluson. (Crossley-Holland 156)
Settlement was another reason to travel outward. The opportunity to more to a less crowded region may have provided some incentive to settle and travelers to Greek and Arab lands passed many fine farming regions. Many settlements were made along the waterways along the routes to the eastern markets. Often these started as temporary settlements that became more and more permanent. Raiding groups, in particular, needed a haven to retreat to that was relatively nearby. Although the Swedes were not allowed to stay over the winter in Constantinople, unless they were members of the Varangian guard, the had garrisons in Novgorod, Smolensk, Kiev that lasted for many years (Brøndsted : 263). Some lasted longer than others.
Extensive trade was carried out in the Mälar valley, particularly in the towns of Birka, Adelsö, Helgö, Sigtuna and others. Much of it was local trade with the nearby farming communities and with the iron producing regions to the northwest. In the case of Birka, however, foreign trade played a big role. Local trade may have been important in obtaining enough food to support a substantial population on such islands with large populations, such as Birka and Helgö.
Evidence of the importance of trade to the Svear can be seen in the amount of foreign goods found in archeological investigations and in accounts and legal documents recorded by those that had contact with the Svear. The Svear traded a wide range of goods which they transported over many great distances. They had their local goods and materials that were gathered along the way either by trade, extortion and tribute, or plundering. Grave finds and other archaeological finds in the Birka, Helgö, Sigtuna areas of the Mälar valley show what made its way to and from the land of the Svear. Accounts recorded by eastern merchants and officials indicate how and where some of these goods changed hands.
The Svear traded quite a bit within their own land and had access to a lot of natural resources. Inland and to the north there were populations to trade with and collect tribute from. Dried fish, down, furs, slaves, sheep, cattle, goatskins, leather, hawks, honey, wax, nuts, grain, amber, iron, swords, and armor were some of the items traded in eastern markets. (Davidson 1976 : 105)
The Svear also traded in human resources. They occasionally hired themselves out as mercenaries and often traded slaves. The Varangian guard in Constantinople was probably the most prominent example of mercenary activity of the Svear. Slave trade went on in private exchanges, rather than open markets. The open markets were considered too degrading. Since the boats were small and could only carry a very limited cargo, quality rather than quantity must have been a key factor in the Svear's slave trade. Highly skilled and slaves with lighter skin brought high prices in the eastern markets. (Davidson 1976 : 100).
There were many trade routes from the Mälar region15. Large scale trade seems to mostly have been done by ship. Those over land went mostly to the northwest, with at least one to the southwest. The water routes went in most directions, but mostly across the Baltic to the Gulf of Finland or the Gulf of Riga.
Some of the routes predated the Iron age, particularly those to the south. Many were expanded during the Iron age and then expanded further during the Viking age. From the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga region, the main routes seem to have been to reach the River Volga and then travel it to Bulghar and then down to the Caspian Sea. Alternately, they would travel south along the River Volkhov to the River Dniepr and then following along the west coast of the Black Sea to Constantinople (Larsson 19). From the Gulf of Riga, the main route seems to have been to have inland to the River Dniepr and then south.
The far away destinations of these travelers were Byzantium and Itil. The trade routes went as far as the boats could travel up even small rivers. Cities along the way, such as Bulghar, received some traffic. Distant cities like Samarkand, Bokhara, and Baghdad were accessible by land travel and it seems that there was some travel there by the Svear, even though it necessitated travel over land.
Fighting between groups occurred for many reasons. Sometimes it went on as a function of plundering, revenge, in assistance to an ally, or defense against any of the previous. Raids occurred for many reasons. Augmentation of supplies and wealth, compensation for poor trade or to capture slaves were all reasons given for raids. Often, these were traded elsewhere, especially the slaves. When tribute was extorted from weaker regions, some times it may have been necessary to show a little force.
Sometimes regions fought back successfully against the attackers, other times they the Svear made treaties with strong groups to avoid such problems and move on. As a result of the raiding nearby, the Byzantine as long as the Svear did no damage locally and shared the gains with the rulers, In 907 Svear who arrived with merchandise and caused no violence in the city or countryside, were rewarded by the emperor with six months of provisions (Davidson 1976 : 90). This was presumably to encourage them to leave when they were done, as it was also written that no Rus arriving without merchandise was allowed to receive provisions. (the point is?)
Although, farming was the way of life for the inhabitants of central Sweden for quite a while before, during and after the Viking period, trade and warfare were supplemental. Crafted products and trade were exchanged to enhance the quality of life and through social intercourse. Warfare was an inherent part of the times. One must defend oneself, and additionally, help to defend friends and family in exchange for their help.
To reach remote regions, the Svear would often have to pass through many territories. Some of these territories were not only organized enough to present a danger, but were occasionally hostile or needed treating with. It was necessary to gain permission before passing through a territory in order to reduce the danger and to be able to travel further. If permission was granted then it was usually easier to pass, but there were often conditions. For example, a fleet of Swedish ships were allowed to pass through from the Sea of Azov to reach the Caspian sea on the condition that half of the plunder be given as payment to the king in Sarkel as payment. (Davidson 1976 : 126) Half of the plunder was quite a price. However, the populace disagreed with the king attacked the fleet as it passed through on its return trip and the king could only try to warn the Swedes.

End Notes
Chapter 3 index.
Chapter 4.
Thesis Index.
10 See Figure 6: Genetic Gradients (based on Piazzi : 1768)
11 See Figure 5: Water Levels in the Baltic (Mead 1958)
12 See Figure 7: Occurrence of pre-Christian grave sites in southern Sweden (Burström : 29)
13 See Figure 8: Iron Production in Sweden (Calissendorff 137)
14 Old Norse: Ting, English: Thing
15 See Figure 9: The Viking World and Trade Routes (Jones 160-161)