The Legacy of the Vikings
"All along I wrongly thought my ancient ancestors just drank, raped, pillaged and caused fear at the mere mention of their name." CONSTANCE D. DYER Salt Lake City, Utah
Your article on the Vikings, well written and beautifully illustrated [ARCHAEOLOGY, May 8], provided an excellent overview of those early entrepreneurs and their role in the development of civilization. In the past, the blood of the Vikings flowed through the veins of a great many adventurous Americans. This could be the reason we led the world in industry, science and exploration. Viking descendants may yet explore new worlds in space. JAMES L. MONTGOMERY Olympia, Wash.
Of the Norse raiders you wrote, "and while rape and pillage were part of the [Viking] agenda, they were a small part of Norse life." Are we now supposed to think better of the Vikings? Why don't you take a closer look at America's indigenous people? We could also use an update on those who were here when the Vikings supposedly arrived. MARCO PORTALES Bryan, Texas
The Vikings on the cover of TIME? Well, I guess anything not related to Elian Gonzalez will do. CHARLES J. ILARDI New York City
You did a creditable job with a complicated subject, but some statements about the depopulation of the Norse Greenland colony do not represent opinions universally held by those of us actively engaged in this field. You said, "Norse hunting techniques and agriculture were inadequate for survival in [the Little Ice Age's] long chill, and the Vikings never adapted the Inuit's more effective strategies for the cold." If the Norse were that backward, how did they survive for even one generation in their remote new land? Greenland represented a daunting challenge even in its warmest periods. Instead, the Norse managed well for about a half-millennium, maintaining their own culture while adapting to changing fortunes. The arbitrary date, A.D. 1450, given for when the colony ended merely closes doors that need to stay open until we know more. KIRSTEN A. SEAVER Palo Alto, Calif.
The Vikings came to America before Columbus, but they did not enslave the Indians or unleash such diseases as smallpox on the Native Americans or sell their lands. No matter how brutal the Vikings were, they did not come close to matching the exploits of those who came from England and Spain 500 years later. The Europeans took land away from the natives, while the Vikings' purpose was to trade with them. JASON MIRDANIALI Tampa, Fla.
You listed the Norse origins of three days of the week, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Actually, the Norse are responsible for four weekday names. There is also Tuesday, named for Tyr (or Tiw in Old English), the war god, guarantor of contracts and treaties. MARLON C. RAYBURN Winnipeg, Man.
There's a strange blend of pride and embarrassment in being descended from the Vikings. As a tourist in Britain, one is reminded of the Norsemen's poor reputation when a guide says, "This church was built in A.D. 750 and sacked by the Danes in the year 800." Some pride can be felt, however, in the fact that the Scandinavian countries have been nonaggressive for the past two centuries. ERIK A. THOMSEN Armonk, N.Y.
Coming to America