A selection of guides are now available on 'The Vikings' Website
In the world of re-enactment, the process of making our events as close as possible to the currently understood reality of the period is known as "authenticity".
Authenticity presents several major challenges, since detailed information about the Viking period has not been readily available until comparatively recently. Members of The Vikings have been active in researching many areas of the culture and life of the Viking period, and have produced guides for our members which cover the most important of these, such as clothing, jewellery, weapons, and other personal possessions. It is these elements which the public and our employers now expect to be correct.
Information for our guides is taken from:
Written records : although written records of the period are rare, those which are available do have some value for re-enactors, although this is limited by the type of document which has tended to survive (land charters, church records, etc) and by the problems in dating some of the documents. Although a wealth of detail is provided by the Sagas, almost all of these were written down as entertainment well after our period, and so must be treated with care.
Archaeological finds : reports from excavations provide details on the construction and materials of items which may not be obvious from the general descriptions in cultural histories. In particular, the smaller items such as clothing hooks, belt ends, and details of how shoes were made and fastened are not generally covered in standard academic text books.
Academic publications : although typically very generic in their coverage of the period, many of these can provide a good overview of the lifestyles of the period, and by following this it is possible to get a close approximation of how the average Viking or Saxon would have looked. However, distinctions between the lower classes and the ruling class are not normally detailed in such publications, and it is generally the case that most examples shown are from the top of the social scale, as this tends to be more visually appealing.
The aim of authenticity research within The Vikings is to distill this information into a general guide which is suitable for use by the average re-enactor, but with enough references to allow those with an interest to look into it further. Over time, the guides are updated to include new evidence and interpretations, as well as to expand the scope and detail of the publications.
For more information and authenticity check out The Viking Experience website by Russell Scott, the society authenticity officer.
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