How the mighty have fallen. I used to do all my plans and maps in a hard-core CAD program using a digitising tablet, but then WinXP came along and my mid-90s software would no longer run. For years now I’ve been tracing maps onto translucent film with a pencil, scanning them and editing them in PhotoShop and Windows Paint. Here’s an example of my handiwork, and a snippet of the paper I made it for, submitted last week.
The first decisive step in the formation of the Medieval state of Sweden appears to have been taken about AD 1000 when two ethnic groups, the Svear and the Götar, elected a shared king: Olof Eriksson skotkonungr. The Svear lived around Lake Mälaren, the Götar on either side of Lake Vättern (fig. 1), and their fertile lands were separated by the rugged forests of Tiveden and Kolmården. At any one time during the later 1st Millennium these two groups most likely had several petty kings each, warlike characters whose exploits appear to be reflected dimly in the Scilfingas and Geatas of Beowulf. Written sources for the land of the Götar in that era are so few that the field of study is just barely proto-historical.
When the area enters the first flickering historical torchlight in the eleventh century, the lands of the Götar are divided into two halves separated by Lake Vättern: Västergötland and Östergötland. They somehow belong together as lands of the Götar, but the western part is politically and culturally orientated towards the Danish kingdom to the south-west, and the eastern part shows affinities with the Swedish kingdom to the north-east. Viking Period settlement in Östergötland is largely confined to a wide west-east plains belt through the province and was expanding up two river valleys in the forests to the south. The easternmost quarter of the fertile plains belt is a peninsula, Vikbolandet, where the sea is never farther off than 9 km (5½ miles). Vikbolandet was densely settled at the time. It is highly accessible from the Baltic, and thus vulnerable, and it was orientated immediately towards the lands of the Svear.
In this paper I review the evidence for Vikbolandet’s relationship with powers from the sea in the Viking Period. We shall look at fortifications, boat burials, precious-metal finds, rune stones and the first royal manors of the united kingdom of Sweden.