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Vikings is the modern name for a group of seafaring people mostly from Scandinavia (modern-day Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) who raided, pirated, traded, and settled throughout Europe from the late eighth to late eleventh centuries. They traveled throughout the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East, and North America. This period is recognized as the Viking Age in parts of the nations where they raided and settled, and the name "Viking" is also used to refer to the population of the Scandinavian homelands as a whole. The early medieval history of Scandinavia, the British Isles, France, Estonia, and Kievan Rus' was profoundly influenced by the Vikings.
Vikings established Norse settlements and governments in the British Isles, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Normandy, the Baltic coast, and along the Dnieper and Volga trade routes in what is now European Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, where they were also known as Varangians, aboard their characteristic longships. These Norse settlements gave rise to the Normans, Norse-Gaels, Russians, Faroese, and Icelanders. Also visited by the Vikings were Constantinople, Iran, and Arabia. They were the first Europeans to arrive in North America, living in Newfoundland for a short time (Vinland). While expanding Norse culture to new regions, they also carried slaves, concubines, and other foreign cultural influences back to Scandinavia, significantly impacting both genetic and historical development. The Norse homelands were gradually unified from tiny kingdoms into three bigger kingdoms throughout the Viking Age: Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
The Vikings wrote rune inscriptions and spoke Old Norse. They practiced Old Norse religion for the majority of the time, but later converted to Christianity. The Vikings had their own set of rules, as well as their own art and architecture. Farmers, fisherman, craftsmen, and traders made up the majority of Vikings. The complex, advanced culture of the Norsemen that emerges from archeological and historical sources often differs greatly from popular images of the Vikings. In the 18th century, a romanticized image of Vikings as heroic savages began to form; this expanded and spread throughout the 19th-century Viking resurgence. The contrasting versions of the modern Viking myth that had taken shape by the early twentieth century owe a lot to people's perceptions of the Vikings as violent, piratical heathens or intrepid adventurers.