The academically accepted date for the beginning of the Viking Age is around 793 A.D. with the sack of Lindisfarne, however, new researches suggest that the Viking age may have begun earlier. Archaeologists found deer antlers fashioned into various items, including a comb which dates to an earlier age (725 A.D.) The artefacts were uncovered in the town of Ribe in Denmark, which indicates trading connections between the Danes and the Norwegians in a period earlier than what was previously thought.
These amazing findings have certainly altered previous notions of the development of a seafaring culture in Scandinavia. Trade was an important factor to set the beginning of the Viking Age, and the attack on Lindisfarne marks the official start of that period, mainly because of the proximity to several concurring events. If we take other factors into account, the dates for the beginning of the Viking Age will differ a lot of course. However, the first attack on the christians by the Vikings was not Lindisfarne. Another raid tells us of an unfortunate encounter a few years prior to Lindisfarne in which a local official in Britain was murdered for insisting on imposing a tax on Scandinavian traders. Another example are the Raids in Frisia (modern day Netherlands) which had began as early as the 770’s.Now we have evidence that the Vikings had begun traveling for trade as early as the 720’s. What makes Lindisfarne the best candidate for the start of the Viking Age is that it was the singular most powerful event that brought the Scandinavian raids into the public consciousness of the world at that time.
The findings on Ribe raise a lot of questions, but at least we have now confirmed what scholars have theorized for several decades – the Vikings were traveling merchants around Europe (and possibly other places of the known world at that time) long before they began raiding. There are several theories on why the Norse peoples started leaving their homeland to became merchants and raiders, such as climate changing and a great flow of populations and so on. However, the closing of ports to non-Christians by Charlemagne may have contributed to the increasing violence carried out by the Vikings, because they became so much dependent on foreign trade, and barring their way of making a living certainly brought an economic failure in the north and things got bad and the Vikings were forced to raid.
Ribe, the location where the comb made of reindeer antler was found, is one of the oldest towns in Europe, thought to have been founded in the early 9th Century. The finds indicate the town had its beginnings much earlier than previously thought. Thus, in truth, the Viking Age started with the trading of handcrafted items made out of reindeer antlers. The mercantile town of Ribe may have given the Vikings an economic incentive to sail south to Denmark. Coincidentally, these types of travels likely helped the Vikings refine and master boating and navigation skills that helped them explore the world. Merchants and other travelers from the north were visiting Ribe long before the start of the Viking Age.
Studying the items found in excavations, showed that reindeer (which isn’t an animal native to Denmark), made up a number of the crafts. Reindeer did live in Norway during that time, and it’s likely the Vikings brought the antlers to Denmark to trade with their neighbors. In fact, combs fashioned out of deer antlers were a sizable industry during the Viking Age, which lasted until the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Other studies (not directly connected with the excavations and the findings in Ribe) have found that these type of items are commonly found in graves, which suggests that a considerable proportion of the Scandinavian population had reindeer antler combs, which served as a hygienic and aesthetic amenity.