The size and character of Viking armies in the light of Viking camps from England and Ireland

Author(s): Gareth Williams

Year: 2017


In the 9th century, Viking 'armies' are recorded raiding (and in some cases conquering) in Britain, Ireland and the Frankish kingdoms. Contemporary sources indicate that the largest of these were comprised of hundreds of ships and, by inference, thousands of men. Many of these accounts give round numbers, and historical opinion is divided between those who accept that the figures may represent approximations rather than absolute historical fact, but are nevertheless representative of very substantial forces, and those who argue that the figures are exaggerated for effect, raising further questions of what constituted an 'army' in this period.

Archaeologically, the movements of these armies have left relatively little trace. A number of hoards and single finds can be linked with historically documented movements of specific forces, but until recently a single partially excavated winter-camp at Repton in Derbyshire has provided a paradigm for the likely size and form of such sites generally, and has been taken to support the minimalist interpretation of Viking armies. The investigation in recent years of additional sites in England and Ireland points to the presence of much larger forces, while also pointing to diversity of activity which goes beyond traditional military definitions of Viking 'armies'.

Cite this Record

The size and character of Viking armies in the light of Viking camps from England and Ireland. Gareth Williams. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430727)


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): 14302