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Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga

4.7 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1560989950
ISBN-10: 1560989955
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In the early Middle Ages, driven by famine at home and the promise of wealth to be had in other lands, the Viking people exploded out of Scandinavia and set about conquering parts of England, Ireland, France, Russia, and even Turkey. Emboldened by their successes, the Vikings pushed ever farther outward, eventually crossing the North Atlantic and founding settlements in Iceland, Greenland, and eastern Canada.

In The Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga, some three dozen scholars examine the growing archaeological evidence of the Viking presence in the New World--including such items as a Norse coin excavated in Maine, runic stones from the Canadian Arctic, and farming implements found in Newfoundland. The contributors consider the sometimes friendly, sometimes warlike history of Viking interactions with the native peoples of northeastern North America (whom the Norse called skraelings, or "screamers"); compare the archaeological record with contemporary sagas and other records of exploration; and argue for the need to better document the Viking contribution to New World history.

"As an historical and cultural achievement," write the editors, "the Viking Age and its North American medieval extension stand out as one of the most remarkable periods in human history." This oversized, heavily illustrated volume celebrates that little-understood time. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

According to this excellent work, there's a lot more to the Vikings than the ill-informed contemporary imagination often allows. The book doesn't only correct misperceptions--it uses the history of the Vikings as a framework for a range of events in world history. Edited by Fitzhugh, the director of the National Museum of Natural History's Arctic Studies Center, and Ward, a curatorial specialist in Viking Studies, this volume is a companion to the Smithsonian's spring exhibition (which will later travel to five other cities). Appearing exactly 1,000 years after the landing of Leif Eriksson in North America, the book first leads the reader through Scandinavian culture, art, religion and daily life and then to Viking expansion into Europe and the Mediterranean. The focus then shifts to the notorious North Atlantic raids that prefigured European expansion and settlement to come half a millennium later, to the effects of this settlement on the descendants of the raiders in Greenland and to the Viking legacy. In every instance, contributors impressively interpret a wealth of archeological and literary evidence in a lively and engaging manner; the analysis of the Vinland Sagas, the two surviving accounts of the settlements in North America, are particularly fine. Although the chapter on "The North Atlantic Environment" may tell more about lice than one wishes to know, it's a pleasure to read such lucid prose on topics that might otherwise seem arcane. Well designed, heavily illustrated and almost encyclopedic in scope and detail, this stimulating work gives the Vikings the place they seserve in the history of the world and will repay both extensive study and casual browsing. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books (April 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560989955
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560989950
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Viking: The North America Saga" brings a breath of fresh information to lovers of Norse history, and is presented in a comprehensive, beautifully illustrated format which earn Fitzhugh and Ward praise in the literary community. The saga begins at the beginning, embracing the intimate originality of the Viking myth from its origins in the Scandinavian countries to the wonderfully adventurous, yet poignant infiltration into the New World. As the 1,000th celebration of Leif Ericson spreads throughout the globe, this book is a must have for anyone with an interest in truth about Norse groups who went "a-viking," touched today's and tomorrow's beliefs with their culture, and in fact, first met with the American Natives. It is clear, as found in the pages of this meticulously researched and documented book, that recent archeological finds support a few ancient theories but dispel others. The book is enhanced with colorful maps, numerous photos of artifacts and narrates the generational tale of the family who, even in their struggles, introduced the globe and the ages to a new continent. Delightful accounts of Norse mythology, day-to-day living, and culture help bring the heralders many of the world's ethnic groups across the ages to the here and now, a literary gem which applauds the anniversary of their amazing accomplishments.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga" is a book which should be on the shelves of any ordinary person who is seriously interested in the subject. Having said that I should warn potential buyers that the book is written by a number of authors of differing views. Readers should not just pick bits and pieces out of it but carefully read the whole. As would be expected, the book leans to the view of conservative scholarship, that the only proved contact between Vikings and North America is that of L'Anse aux Meadows, but some contributors seem to feel this means they must deny the possibility of any other contact and in my opinion they go overboard. For example, a strong attack with all the old gossip is mounted on the authenticity of the Kensington Rune Stone but what is not riddled with errors has by and large already been refuted. Surely too it was not necessary to describe R.A. Hall jnr, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at Cornell, who for nearly thirty years has been one of the strongest supporters of the authenticity of the Kensington Rune Stone, as an 'amateur'. Nor was it reasonable to refer only to his 1982 book while omitting reference to his "The Kensington Rune-stone: Authentic and Important" published in 1994.
In the attempt to protect received history, no mention was made of the probability that some of the survivors of the fourteen ships which went missing from Eric the Red's voyage of settlement to Greenland made it instead to North America and took residence amongst the natives. Similarly lacking is any mention that in the course of returning from his original voyage of discovery Lief Ericsson rescued Thorer and his crew who had been wrecked in the waters between Vinland and Greenland.
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Format: Hardcover
What a complete package! Absolutely loaded with huge beautiful pictures of everything from ancient maps to medieval Scandinavian jewelry to charts of what individual experts think the Vikings dubbed "Vinland", this book has it all. Someone familiar with the subject will find it gorgeously re-introduced in this extremely professional layout, and yet anyone new to the subject will find this book to be inviting, informative, and fun to read. While this book doesn't dig quite as deep as either Jones' textbook-format "A History of The Vikings" or Haywood's geographically well-documented "The Penguin Historical Atlas of The Vikings", this is still like a huge compilation of every other Viking book I've seen yet, giving the subject the spotlight that it needs after so many recent discoveries. A very professional complete package for everyone.
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By A Customer on May 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
This series of essays by Norse scholars is better than any novel I've read in years. So many mysteries, beautifully articulated! Why did a Bishop drop his gold ring in the choir loft? Why did witnesses come forward twenty years later to swear a wedding took place in Greenland just before its population completely disappeared? Why did the Vikings skedaddle out of Vinland? Why did they disappear with their furniture from Greenland but leave their livestock behind? Why did the majority of women die young and the majority of men live into their fifties?
Don't start reading this wonderful book if you're supposed to be doing something else; you won't be able to put this down.
What I like best of all, even better than the outstanding illustrations, is the tone of the writing. You are drawn into another historical era and invited to live there.--Linda Donelson, author of "Out of Isak Dinesen: Karen Blixen's untold story"
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Format: Paperback
This sumptuous and lavishly illustrated volume of 432 large pages, was published by the Smithsonian Institution in 2000 to coincide with the thousandth year, as close as we can reckon, of Leif Erikson's pioneering voyage to North America where he founded an outpost in "Vinland" that was used by subsequent expeditions until finally being abandoned after several skirmishes with the native inhabitants -- this according to the two pertinent surviving sagas.

The book is an impressive compendium of scholarship by 40 writers in 32 different articles, naturally from often different viewpoints. It gets a five-star rating not because I don't have disagreements with certain conclusions of a number of articles, but because of the wealth of information it contains on Viking/Norse life and legacies for anyone seriously interested in the topic. It's divided into seven sections, titled Viking Homelands, Viking Raiders (in Europe), Vikings in the North Atlantic (including Iceland), Viking America, Norse Greenland, and Viking Legacy. (The term "Viking" is ill-used as applied to Iceland and the farther lands -- or for that matter in Europe after about 1100 -- but the label seems irresistible to publishers in titles, even to the Smithsonian. At least Greenland gets a proper "Norse" label.)

Obviously it's not a work to be read cover to cover in one gulp. Since there are too many topics and regions covered in detail to look at closely in a review of any reasonable length, I'll focus briefly here on "Viking America," which presents eight major articles. Their topics range from Ellesmere Island in the High Arctic where Norse artifacts have been found, to, of course, Vinland in the far south (just how far south a matter of complex disputes often passionately held.
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