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The Viking Home
The hall at Borg in Lofoten was the home of a wealthy Viking Age lord. A reconstructed hall sits on the site near the ground plan of the original building. The hall was occupied from the sixth century until the tenth century, but the site remained in use with a smaller hall in the eleventh century.
A turf-built house of a type common in Iceland during the Viking Age. Lack of timber led to the need to build their houses using other available materials.
You can read more about the construction of turf houses in the Viking Age on the Hurstwic website.
A man plays a musical instrument to entertain himself and others in this Viking house. He is sitting on one of the platforms (ON bekkr) that ran down both long sides of a typical Viking house. These provided both seating and sleeping areas for the inhabitants of the house. A fire would burn in between these platforms for cooking and heating.
This PhD thesis examines descriptions of houses in the Icelandic sagas and compares them to archaeological remains of Viking Age and medieval houses. It shows that the sagas' authors were aware of how houses had developed between the Viking Age and the medieval period.
video (c) National Museum of Ireland 2014
Viking houses varied in construction technique and size, although they shared similar layouts throughout Scandinavia. The long sides of the house would have a bekkr (platform) on each side. People would sit and sleep here. Movable benches as we know them were not a feature of Viking Age houses.
Possessions would be hung on the wall behind the platform or kept in wooden chests. Privacy could not have been a particularly Viking concept because everyone lived and slept in one room, so anything you did would be seen and heard by everyone else there.
You can visit reconstructed Viking houses like those depicted here. The Viking Museum at Borg features the reconstructed hall, and they have many different activities all year round. Bork Vikingehavn in Denmark has reconstructed houses, a copy of the Gokstad ship and a Viking fair each year, or you can see a different type of house at Vikingecenter Fyrkat. Jorvik Viking Centre in York shows urban life in the Viking Age, while the Ancient Technology Centre in Dorset has a reconstructed long house based on those in Danish forts. The Irish National Heritage Park at Ferrycarrig also has reconstructed buildings among its many exhibits.
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