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Monday, January 25, 2010

Characters - Ketill

Note: This is the second in the series giving backgrounds of the characterizations DARC members are planning to use for the LAM 2010 presentation.


There was a man named Ketill, son of Einar. He was from the west coast of
Norway, near to Trondheim. This was not the same Ketill who sailed for
Greenland with Eirik the Red, who had settled in the east and named it
Ketilsfjord.
Now as a young man Ketill Einarsson had voyaged to Ireland, to make his home at
Dubhlin. He became a blacksmith of some skill and married Bera, known as
the Quickfingered for her skill at the loom. Although Ketill did well
enough at his trade, his luck was poor. Some said of him that he should
dream and plan less, and should work at the forge more. His reputation
became as a man who was quick to spend money, but slow to finish the work.
Although no longer young, Ketill sold his house and traveled to Iceland.
There he hoped his years of experience would have more value, and his
poor reputation be less known. Soon after he went to the Althing to see
if a wealthy chieftain might have need of a skillful smith. But the work
that was offered was that he considered only fit for journeymen, the
making of nails and rivets or the forging of horse shoes.
So it was there he heard the ale-told tales of Eirik and his Greenland.
He met silver tongued Ragnarr Thorbergsson and heard of the voyage to
Greenland that was being planned. Ketill was sure that his skills would
be of high value to Eirik and Leif in such a new settlement. For that
reason, the last of his silver has gone to Ragnarr to pay for passage on
the ship.

Text by Darrell Markewitz - Image by Susan Gold (?)

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Characters - Ragnarr & Ka∂lin

Note: This is the first in what will be a series giving backgrounds of the characterizations DARC members are planning to use for the LAM 2010 presentation.


Ragnarr Thorbergsson and Kaðlín Jónsdottir were happy
in their life at Kaupang (Norway). Ragnarr produced wonderful glass
beads and had trading interests in various ships.
Kaðlín produced fabrics suited to the townfolk around
them. Then Olaf the king's friend settled into town
bringing in trade goods including beads and fabric cheaper
than Ragnarr and Kaðlín can make or get. The king made
it plain where his preference was and they saw their trade
drying up.

Unwilling to start a fight they would lose they decided to
pack up and head to that new land they had heard about -
Iceland. It sounded full of promise and the idea of owning
a nice farm with good tenants to do the hard work while they
settled down and worked on a family sounded good. Full of
enthusiasm they sold off their shop, and booked passage to
Iceland.

Unfortunately Iceland wasn't what they had been lead to
believe. No farms were available to be taken they were all
claimed by someone. Making friends with a local chieftain
they hoped that after his trip to the Althing to settle a
claim about a farm that in exchange for some of their trade
goods he might lease them the nice farm involved in the
claim. They went with him to the althing and gifted more
trade goods here and there to help gather support for his
case. Unfortunately the case did not go well and in
addition to losing the farm they wanted the chieftain lost
most of his available money. Now Ragnarr is seen as his
supporter and hence isn't welcome at other chieftain's
homes. Making the best of a bad situation they gathered
together some other disgruntled folks and booked passage to
the wonderful new land Eric found - Green land. Even the
name sounded better than Iceland. Eric would be a much
better chieftain to follow.


Text by Neil Peterson
Image by Darrell

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

LAM 2010 - The Senario

The Althing in Iceland of 1000 AD was an important one. As always, many disputes were heard and settled, to the gain of some and loss of others. One of the significant decisions made at the Althing was to encourage all Icelanders to accept Christianity. This did not sit well with all. As always, many things were discussed, and deals made, away from the Speaker's Rock. Some came just to see and be seen. Traders and artisans came to display their wares, seeking customers and commissions at the gathering.
The days of the Landham were now long gone, so the good (even acceptable) farm land had pretty much all been settled. Knowing this, minor chieftains were becoming less and less likely to even oath to new bondi, and not very generous if they did. The famine years were now just a distant memory to only the oldest Icelanders, but still the land was not as bountiful as it once was. One exciting piece of news at the Althing was that of Eric the Red's new Green Land, and even mention of his son Lief's Vinland, both to the west.

There was a man named Ragnarr Thorbergsson, once from Kaupang in Norway. He had come to Iceland, hoping to improve his status and increase his trading. Now Ragnarr was well known for this weather luck, but not so envied for his luck in travel. His travels never were outright disasters, but certainly things just never turned out as he boasted they would.
Ragnarr's schemes at the Althing had not worked as he had planned. He was certainly not alone in this. There were recent immigrants to Iceland, and even young families and second sons, all of whom found that there was no chance of good farm land in their future. There were some who felt the conversion to the new religion was just not to their taste. As always, there were those who felt a fresh start in a new land would solve what ever problems that always seemed to plague them.

So Ragnarr, nothing if not shrewd, quickly hired a ship to sail to the new colony of Greenland. He gathered up a load of the hopeful and disgruntled who would pay him passage against the chance to settle on new farms of their own.
As it happened, things didn't go perfectly on the voyage, with the ship blown off course. Like Bjarni before them, they found themselves near Vinland. Knowing the tales freshly told, they made their way to Leif's buðir and found some Greenlanders already there. Most were not pleased to find that they would need to lay over the winter before continuing to Greenland in the spring.
This mixed group of farmers and craftsmen, of varied ages and original homelands, now finds themselves stuck together in close quarters in Vinland. They are settling in to this remote outpost best they can, and trying to help get ready for the winter soon to come. The ship and most of the crew has gone off down the coast to harvest valuable timber, hoping to improve their lot when they finally make it to Greenland.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

LAM 2010 - Setting the Stage : ICELAND

Geography 2 - This is a more focused look of Iceland itself:


The first is a modern view, loaded off the Geographic Guide web site. I had looked at a number of maps available (via Google) and thought this was best suited for our purposes.
Unlike many others, it combines both topography, town sites and roads. It did not use false colour (on many showing elevations, with sea level as green - which is problematic). It did include the locations of the major ice sheets, which along with elevation, is important to understand settlement patterns.


This second map is scanned from Vikings - NAS (Fitzhugh & Ward, pg 165). This is a map of the historic settlement patterns. I chose this one primarily because it shows occupation areas in general during expansion period. The key lists 'by 930' which is as close a reference as we are likely to get for were people are in our target period of 1000 AD.

The last image was scanned from 'Viking Expansion Westwards' (Magnusson, pg 86). It is a nice compliment to the map above. It shows the major town and archaeological sites. I suspect this map will prove the most useful when it comes time to start looking at artifact prototypes.



Darrell

Author's Note: This part of a series of shorter descriptions that will add together to paint a picture of the background to DARC's upcoming presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC in August of 2010. Taken together, these articles will deal with a number of specific interpretive elements, using Vinland in the Viking Age as the concrete example. These are most likely to presented here very much in a random order. Hope is to tie them together into a coherent package to be delivered at Forward Into the Past in late March.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

LAM 2010 - Setting the Stage : GEOGRAPHY

After DATE, the next most important consideration in characterization may be PLACE.

The physical location for a character creates a framework that determines what they could know, what they might do, how they might look, and what objects they might have available to them. A town dweller in the home country is sure to be quite different than a farmer in a colony. For most historic periods, the stress should be placed on locally available resources. A good example of this can be found in building construction, where rough form may be cultural, but local materials determine the actual details. This is not always the case, as cultural factors might prevent local materials from being adopted. A nice example here would be early Canadian English freezing to death in cloth coats, because wearing Native style furs was 'just not British'. Access to imported goods has always been restricted, usually thus expensive. What might be easily available in a local area may become high status luxury in a distant place.

The re-enactor is always constrained by the mechanisms of artifact preservation and recovery, a topic that will be dealt with separately. Even when hoping to keep centered to a specific location, lack of artifact prototypes may force you to expand your circle.

As a direct application to DARC at Vinland, take a look at this map of the Norse North Atlantic:


The general immigration patterns during the Viking Age are this:
Danes to England
Swedes to Russia
Norwegians to the North Atlantic
So concentrating on the Norwegians the general pattern is:
Norway to the Shetlands and Scotland
Norway to Ireland (but there are plenty of Danes there too!)
Norse Scotland and Norway to the Faeroes
Norse Ireland and Norway to Iceland
Iceland to Greenland
Greenland and Iceland to Vinland

The pattern is clearly a series of individual stepping stones, both as they moved westward, and as time progressed.

Using our determined time line at 1000 AD, within a normal life time, the primary focus for our characterizations should be Iceland. It is possible to expand slightly to Norway, Norse Scotland and Ireland.

Iceland as a focus presents special problems in terms of artifact selection. Although not marginal, it still had limited resources in terms of raw materials. There will be a considerable impact on the availability and quality of many 'commercial' goods, which primarily had to be imported from the outside. This overall tends to push objects upwards in status level.

Darrell

Author's Note: This part of a series of shorter descriptions that will add together to paint a picture of the background to DARC's upcoming presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC in August of 2010. Taken together, these articles will deal with a number of specific interpretive elements, using Vinland in the Viking Age as the concrete example. These are most likely to presented here very much in a random order. Hope is to tie them together into a coherent package to be delivered at Forward Into the Past in late March.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

LAM 2010 - Setting the Stage : EVENTS

Number Two - Historical Events



This is a generalized time line taken from the Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings.

I have cut a slice here, which reflects the possibilities for any of DARC's historic characters. I have used a framework starting at 950, and running through to 1005 (as presented in the source table. This obviously lists the only the largest events.

Key to this is fixing the year date of the presentation. Staff interpreters at LAM do not refer to a specific date in their presentation. If pressed, they will vaguely reference 'about 1000 AD'.

A short background to theory here:
There are a couple of differing ways a living history program could deal with this statement of dates.
1) Refer only to some general historic era (Viking Age). As you might guess, this generally supports only the lowest level of characterization for the individual interpreter (commentary or 3rd person).
2) Relate to a general event (Norse at Vinland). This appears to be the approach being taken at LAM by the staff. Again this supports 2nd person, maybe 1st person characterizations. This would narrow the focus down to roughly 1000 - 1020 AD. The year 1000 is most likely to be given as the general round number.
3) Pick a specific year. Often this target year is researched in great detail, then repeated annually (an example would be Plimoth Plantation) This becomes most useful when delivering full role playing characterizations.
4) A specific, but shifting, year. In the past this has been the normal approach used by DARC, typically we have simply subtracted 1000 from the current year.

Now, one potential problem with the use of a single (repeating) target year is that it does not have provision for the natural ageing of interpreters. DARC has attempted to deal with that by using the shifting date. This is only a problem when you are considering the deep details of a characterization - which is 'what do I know'. Obviously, some of us have characters that have been presented, sometimes with little modification, for over 15 years. Obviously, 'we are not the (wo)men we once were'.
(There is a further consideration of characters and physical ageing to be discussed, but I will leave that for a future posting.)

So the slice of time seen above brackets the potential life of our oldest character (certainly Kettil), but does not extend much past the Vinland presentation date.

Obviously there needs to be a regional aspect added. If Ragnarr is originally from Denmark, what he knows about events is most certainly different from what Kettil knows (Norway born). The next posting will look at geography.





Darrell

Author's Note: This part of a series of shorter descriptions that will add together to paint a picture of the background to DARC's upcoming presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC in August of 2010. Taken together, these articles will deal with a number of specific interpretive elements, using Vinland in the Viking Age as the concrete example. These are most likely to presented here very much in a random order. Hope is to tie them together into a coherent package to be delivered at Forward Into the Past in late March.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

LAM 2010 - Setting the Stage : ART

Author's Note: Hopefully this will be the first in a series of shorter descriptions that will add together to paint a picture of the background to DARC's upcoming presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC in August of 2010. These are most likely to presented here very much in a random order. Hope is to tie them together into a coherent package to be delivered at Forward Into the Past in late March.

Number One - Artistic Styles :



The table above is taken from 'Vikings - North Atlantic Saga' by Fitzhugh & Ward.

Our time point is roughly 1000 AD. That puts things with MAMMEN as the primary style.
RINGERIKE is still relatively new, and may not be seen outside the homelands.
JELLING has just faded, but is likely to make up many of our 'older' objects.
BORRE may exist in some heirloom objects.

Most importantly, both OSEBURG (too old) and URNES (not started) style objects should not be included on decorative objects.

There will likely more to be said about all this in upcoming posts.

Darrell

(The most obvious starting point would have been geography, but I am having a bit of trouble finding a single map that ties the entire westward expansion over the North Atlantic to the homelands.)

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