Ancient History 101: The Iron Age
Heidi Håvan Grosch
In Norwegian elementary schools, social studies (samfunnsfag) is a required subject. Many schools use the same textbooks, although some schools have stopped using textbooks altogether! In fourth grade, it is common to learn a little bit about the Iron Age (jernalderen). Now it is your turn!
Before the Iron Age, there was the Bronze Age (bronsealderen). Bronze was a metal that was hard to find, so it was only for the rich. Iron was easier to find and form into tools, so everyone had the chance to use it. It was easy to keep sharp, so one could make tools to harvest crops, chop down trees, and hunt for food… but then it also became possible to make more weapons. In Norway the Iron Age was from about 500 f. Kr (før Kristus / B.C.) to about 1030 e. Kr. (etter Kristus / A.D.).
(Some of this information comes from the school textbooks, and some from my very clever archaeologist sister-in-law!)
• The weather got colder during the Iron Age, so animals had to be brought inside in the winter, so people lived in long houses (langhus) with their animals.
• Reddish-brown clumps found in bogs and marshes contained iron. These clumps were heated and then pounded and shaped to make useful things like coins, plows, and armor.
• The process of working the iron into shape by heating and pounding it is called smithing. The person that does that work is called a blacksmith (smed).
• Farms were often named after things in nature (Ås / mountain ridge; Vik / creek, cove, inlet; Rygg / ridge), after Norwegian gods (Tor, Ull, Frøy), or ended in –heim, –vin, –horg, or –hev.
• The Vikings were around from about 792 to 1030 e. Kr/A.D.
• Did you know that ice cream was invented by the Persians in 400 f. Kr/B.C.?
• During the Iron Age, rich and powerful people could be buried in grave mounds (gravhaug). They were buried with special things like beautiful drinking glasses and swords with Latin inscriptions. These things were probably traded with the Romans for iron or could have been presents for helping with a war.
Social studies (samfunnsfag) / Science (naturfag) books used by Norwegian fourth graders
• Gaia (Gyldendal, publisher), web2.gyldendal.no/gaia/gaia4
• Cumulus (Aschehoug, publisher), www.aschehoug.no/nettbutikk/cumulus-1-4-2-aco.html
• Regnbuen (Cappelen Damm, publisher), regnbuen.cappelendamm.no
See how they might have made iron in the Viking Age in a video produced by the Lofotr Viking Museum at www.youtube.com/watch?v=j33LogIy-mo.
This article is a part of Barneblad, a monthly feature by Heidi Håvan Grosch to share with kids and grandkids.
It originally appeared in the Feb. 12, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.