Viking Age tar production and the exploitation of the Outlands

Author(s): Andreas Hennius

Year: 2017


In Sweden, recent excavations have revealed how the production of tar evolved from a small scale, household operation situated within the settlements of the Roman Iron Age, to a large-scale activity in the forests during the Vendel and Viking periods. The resulting quantities of tar far exceeded ordinary household requirements. This change in production coincides with the introduction of the sail, characteristic for the Viking Age, with extensive need for large amounts of tar. The change in character of tar production follows a pattern seen in many other handicrafts during the same period, with an intensification of production beyond the farmsteads and exploitation of areas such as forests, coastal zones or mountains - what in Swedish is termed "Utmark" – the Outlands. In addition to reviewing this tar production, the paper will discuss the exploitation of the outlands, with their vast reserves of raw materials. I argue that the increased outland use can be seen as a new way of organizing society, managing labour, the landscape and its natural resources. This resource colonization is suggested to be of major economic importance and fundamental for the understanding of social development during the Viking age.

Cite this Record

Viking Age tar production and the exploitation of the Outlands. Andreas Hennius. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430723)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14364