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Despite their fierce reputation. Vikings may not have always been the plunderers and pillagers popular culture imagines them to be. In fact, they got their start trading in northern European markets researchers suggest.

Combs carved from animal antler, as well as comb manufacturing waste and raw antler material has turned up at three archaeological sites in Denmark, including a medieval marketplace in the city of Ribe.

A team of researchers from Denmark and the U.K. hoped to identify the species of animal to which the antlers once belonged by analyzing collagen proteins in the samples and comparing them across the animal kingdom, Laura Geggel reports for Livescience. Somewhat surprisingly, molecular analysis of the artifacts revealed that some combs and other material had been carved from reindeer antlers... Given that reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) don't live in Denmark, the researchers posit that it arrived on Viking ships from Norway. Antler craftsmanship, in the form of decorative combs, was part of Viking culture. Such combs served as symbols of good health, Geggel writes. The fact that the animals shed their antlers also made them easy, to collect from the large herds that inhabited Norway.

Since the artifacts were found in marketplace areas at each site it's more likely that the Norsemen came to trade rather than pillage. Most of the artifacts also date to the $780$s, but some are as old as $725$. That predates the beginning of Viking raids on Great Britain by about $70$ years (Traditionally, the so-called "Viking Age" began with these raids in $793$ and ended with the Norman conquest of Great Britain in $1066$.) Archaeologists had suspected that the Vikings had experience with long maritime voyages [that] might have preceded their raiding days. Beyond Norway, these combs would have been a popular industry in Scandinavia as well. It's possible that the antler combs represent a larger trade network, where the Norsemen supplied raw material to craftsmen in Denmark and elsewhere.

The primary purpose of the passage is

  1. to explain the presence of reindeer antler combs in Denmark.
  2. to contradict the widely-accepted beginning date for the Viking Age in Britain, and propose an alternate one.
  3. to challenge the popular perception of Vikings as raiders by using evidence that suggests their early trade relations with Europe.
  4. to argue that besides violent pillagers, Vikings were also skilled craftsmen and efficient traders.
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