Viking Houses

The viking house reflects the society that lived in it very well. It is shaped like the viking ship with oval sides, and somewhere between 30 and 50 people living together in a house, the entire family and their slaves, and often domestic animals in a stable room at one side.

The viking house reconstruction at Fyrkat Viking Fortress in Hobro, Denmark

This viking house reconstruction at the Fyrkat Viking Fortress in Hobro, Denmark, is a typical viking house design. This basic architecture was used in all the viking fortresses built in 980-981 AD across Denmark.

Closeup of the side of the viking house at Fyrkat Viking Fortress

Note the many poles at the sides, supporting the walls and the roof, which is made of small wooden roof tiles. There an ongoing discussion among archaeologists whether the poles were placed vertically or like here, slightly slanted. The preferred type of wood used is oak.

An inside view of the viking house reconstruction at Trelleborg Viking Fortress

The inside of a viking house like this reconstruction at the Trelleborg Viking Fortress illustrates the inside layout of viking houses. A low bench follows each of the long sides on which the inhabitants sleep at night. The fireplace is in the middle of the house, at its center, with a hole in the roof above to allow smoke to get out.

The house reconstruction at Brattahlid in Narsarsuaq in Greenland where Leif The Happy lived

Viking houses were adapted to the surrounding area. This viking house at Brattahlid or Qassiarsuk at present day Narsarsuaq in Greenland, what was once the home of Erik Torvaldsson, called Erik The Red, and his son Leif The Happy, is a reconstruction of the house design used at the time. Erik and Leif were admittedly Norwegian rather than Danish, but the architecture was the same that was used by all vikings. The use of turf instead of wood is because there were no trees in Greenland when Erik The Red set up the viking colony Brattahlid in 985 AD.

A pit house in Uummannaq, Greenland, dug partly into the ground

A much used house type was the pit house, which was dug about a meter or 3.5 feet into the ground, using the surrounding dirt as lower part of the wall. By digging the house into the ground you take advantage of its insulating properties and to some degree the heat coming from the ground. The house on the picture is from Uummannaq, Greenland, where such houses next to the harbor can be rented by visitors for short stays. Pit houses were used by the poor because of their low building cost as the most used building materials were readily available in the immediate building area.

Houses at Hedeby city in Southern viking Denmark

A very different house architecture is found in Hedeby, just South of the present day town of Schleswig in Germany, which was Danish until 1920. Hedeby was the largest city in Northern Europe in the viking age, and the houses in Hedeby were some of the most sophisticated and advanced city dwellings of their time.

The inside of a Hedeby house reconstruction showing fishing equipment

The inside of the houses is also different. The space available is much smaller, and the houses were built high enough to accommodate a low sleeping area above the ground floor.

A city street reconstruction in Hedeby

Because Hedeby was such a large city, it had actual streets, made of timber. Again, oak was the wood of choice if available, otherwize whatever kind of reasonably hard wood that was available.

The reconstructed viking house at Trelleborg Viking Fortress

Although there were other designs, this is the typical viking house design called the Trelleborg House. This is a reconstruction of the Trelleborg Houses found at the Trelleborg Viking Fortress near Slagelse in Denmark. Note that the supporting poles are vertical on this reconstruction. This is what is considered a typical viking house, shaped like a viking ship.


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