Trading in Viking-Period Scandinavia – A Business Only for a Few? The Jämtland Case
By Olof Holm
Viking and Medieval Scandinavia, Vol.11 (2015)
Abstract: This article deals with the question of whether trading in rural areas in Scandinavia during the middle and late Viking period (c. 875-1050/75) was largely in the hands of elite groups in the society, or if a trading system more open to popular participation prevailed. Jämtland, a region in inland Mid-Scandinavia, is investigated here and constitutes an example of an area with a seemingly open system.
On the basis primarily of grave finds, the author shows that many people living in Jämtland participated in buying and selling goods (e.g. furs) to such an extent that they had obtained scales and weights as tools of trade and used weighed silver as a means of payment. This widespread usage of silver as payment had arisen in spite of Jämtland’s remoteness from the major Scandinavian trading centres of the time. Several geographical, cultural, social, and economic factors that might explain this development in Jämtland are discussed.
Introduction: To what extent did people in rural areas in Viking-period Scandinavia, living outside the emporia of the time, participate in buying and selling goods? From the 1980s until recently a common standpoint in this question has been that such trading, when it occurred, was largely in the hands of elite groups in society.
Top Image: A detail from Carta Marina showing Jämtland (Iempihia)