Archeology
Archeology is a method of reconstructing the past by the study of the material remains of past human life and activity, including everything from ruins of buildings, to sunken ships, to deposits in the ground left either intentionally or unintentionally by previous peoples. Archeologists studying people like the Vikings who left few, if any, written records, make use of every kind of physical evidence - from burials filled with grave goods, to bits of food sieved from the dirt, from offerings to gods or caches of personal goods buried for safe-keeping, to the trash pits outside living quarters. Using this information, archeologists deduce information about ancient peoples and cultures.

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Saga
Sagas are the most important literature about the Vikings. They record events and deeds that were written down by Christian descendants of the Vikings who lived in Iceland two or three hundred years after the events took place. They tell us a great deal about individual personalities, but the details are often unclear or contradictory. Unlike history books, sagas are narratives; they tell complete stories. But because those stories existed as oral tales for many generations before being written down, the details may have been mis-remembered or changed over time. Literature also includes poems or other forms of literature; they tell us about the past indirectly, rather than directly.

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History
History is the discipline that studies the past through written records and documents which are normally created very soon after events occur. (Newspapers today are often called the "first draft of history"). Because the information is recorded by first hand witnesses in many cases, historical documents were long thought to be extremely reliable. However, historians today are beginning to understand that even written accounts like financial and tax records, religious texts, inscriptions, and clerical reports can leave out important details of the past. Because historical documents, especially books, are self-consciously authored by someone, that someone can make a choice about what to include or not include.

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Environment
Environmental science is the study of past climates through clues like ice-cores, animal bones, fossilized pollen, and insect remains. Called "proxy indicators" because they are not first-hand records of temperature and weather, scientists use them to infer information about the past. Such studies reveal what changes were taking place over time and what temperature and environmental conditions prevailed at a given site or region. This is a relatively new science, closely allied with archeology, geology, biology, and global systems research. Although advances have been made in how to reconstruct past environments, the ways environment and human cultures interact are still a subject of debate.

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Genetics
Genetics, and the less-scientific study of genealogy, reveal the spread and adaptation of the human organism and its family history. Together these studies can reveal patterns of disease, rates of genetic change, and relationships between different groups of people. As of yet, these studies are not powerful enough to track individual relationships deep into the past, but they can trace mass movements of large populations.

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Viking
Viking is a term used by modern scholars to refer to the nordic-speaking peoples from southern Scandinavia who raided, traded and settled in Europe and the British Isles roughly between A.D. 793-1066. They would have identified themselves as Danes, Svear, Goths, Norwegians, etc. There never really was a single "Viking" culture; only a loose assortment of people with shared ideas, economies, religious beliefs, and a common Germanic language known today as Old Norse.

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Norse
Norse is used in this website to refer to the Western Scandinavian people of the late Viking Age and early Medieval period. Originally, Norse was a linguistic term for the language spoken by Western Scandinavians (from Norway to Greenland), and it is closely related to Old Norse, which was spoken by all Vikings. More generally, Norse connotes Vikings who have converted to Christianity and are no longer engaged in raiding, but who still maintain the same farming and seafaring life style and a clan-based political structure.

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