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Zach Gordon

Location: Vermont. USA
Joined: 07 Oct 2008

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PostPosted: Wed 15 Dec, 2010 8:02 pm    Post subject: Africans/Asians in Europe during the Viking/Medieval Period         Reply with quote

I was watching Valhalla Rising and saw a lot of Africans, and Asians in Scandinavia during the Viking period. I know that the movie was completely inaccurate, but I just got curious about this. Were there any Africans or Asians in Europe during the Viking or Medieval period?
I assume there could have been some Asians during the Medieval period cause of the Crusades. But I dunno about during the Viking period?
With Africans, I don't have any guesses.
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Ben C.

Joined: 01 Dec 2006

Posts: 65

PostPosted: Wed 15 Dec, 2010 8:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wouldn't describe Valhalla Rising as being historically accurate as it is basically just a fantasy movie as opposed to a historical drama. it also isn't even really a movie, it's more like an extended music video. Secondly I don't think there were any Asians or Africans depicted in the film. From memory all of them were Caucasian British and Danish actors other than what were supposed to be native Americans at the end of the film.

Historically speaking there has been a fair amount of interaction between Africans, Central Asians and Europeans since long before the viking age and crusades and it's fair to assume that there would have been some mixing of ethnicities on all the continents. The Hun and Mongol invasions also involved a lot of migration and possible more mixing with local populations. I've read some reports that stated the studies done on bodies found in Gottland showed a mix of European and East Asian DNA, although I have seen much in the way of hard evidence to back this up yet.
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Vaclav Homan

Location: Hradec, Czech
Joined: 22 Jan 2008

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PostPosted: Wed 15 Dec, 2010 11:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

African and Eastasian people in Scandinavia is nonsense. Today is in Europe amount of Arican and Asian people therefore europian population will not be as in past. Genes like blond hare and blue eyes will be very rare.
Population in Europa was conservative from neolit with smoll impact in early medieval and roman time.
New genes research showing at 1or 3% Asian-American genes in population.
Asian-American genes in Gottland was slaves genes Eskimo people.
Asian genes in Scandinavia are very commos as Ugrofinies-Uralo-Siberian people like Finies, Saami, Estonian.

In medieval was african known but it was curiosity like slaves of Muslims merchant and Asian people as Mongolian warriors.

There is only one art of fence yet many ways to reach it
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Gottfried P. Doerler

Location: Tyrol, Austria
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PostPosted: Thu 16 Dec, 2010 3:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i think, scandinavians were the people with the farthest connections to asia and the south, with trading routes on the dnjepr river..... and the people called "rus" were originally scandinavians. and wasn`t harald hardrada serving in the varangian guard in constantinopel ?
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Joel Minturn

Joined: 10 Dec 2007

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PostPosted: Thu 16 Dec, 2010 9:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have heard about at least on boat of travellers from Japan to Europe in the Middle Ages. I can't find any details about it right now, I just have heard it mentioned. Usuallyu in justifining Samuri in the SCA.

In during looking for more information I came across several places that talk about possible Africans in Europe. Supposedly there were Roman Auxilary troops from Africa that were stationed in England
Both those are talking about Africans and "Dark skinned people" in various parts of Northern Europe and England. They may be complete off-base but the theory is out there.
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Scott Woodruff

Joined: 30 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Thu 16 Dec, 2010 9:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This sort of thing can be difficult and tricky to research, as race is a subject that many people find hard to think about objectively and there is a lot of rascist crap polluting the research pool. In the past, it seems to me, racism really didn't exist in its current form, and was submerged under a general xenophobia and ethnocentrism. You really cannot find an ancient culture that was not extremely ethnocentric, thus the propensity for people to call themselves "the One True People" or some such. I am of the "people are people" philosophy, and believe that considering the mobility of people even in the distant past, there were probably some people who moved large distances, married into other cultures/races, lived out their lives and were never paid any particular attention. Genetic testing is mostly irrelevant to race, many "African"-American people carry European gene markers, and "Caucasian"-looking people can be found that lack European markers.
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Blaz Berlec

Location: Podgorje, Kamnik, Slovenia, Europe
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PostPosted: Thu 16 Dec, 2010 10:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Although distances are vast, I don't doubt that somehow people find a way to find themselves on the other side of the planet. I haven't really researched this thoroughly, but I can give you these:

Ahmad ibn Fadlan, 10th century Arab traveller and ambassador visited Rus (he's the inspiration for Chrichton Eaters of the Dead, or movie 13th Warrior), as did Ahmad ibn Rustah from Persia.

There are numerous accounts and depictions of people from foreign lands, sometimes very detailed. This piece of tomb from Koper, Slovenia dates to early 14th century (I know, late), and it depicts warriors with Asian and African facial features. Koper was part of Duchy of Venetia, so they were accustomed to travellers from lands around Mediterranean Sea and even further:

Extant 15th Century German Gothic Armour
Extant 15th century Milanese armour
Arming doublet of the 15th century
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Sam Gordon Campbell

Location: Australia.
Joined: 16 Nov 2008

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PostPosted: Thu 16 Dec, 2010 4:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe that they excavated a 13thC. African merchants skeleton from the South of England at some point this year.
Oh, and read the travels of Sir John Mandeville, 'cause that's obviously accurate Laughing Out Loud

Member of Australia's Stoccata School of Defence since 2008.
Host of Crash Course HEMA.
Founder of The Van Dieman's Land Stage Gladiators.
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Elling Polden

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PostPosted: Thu 16 Dec, 2010 5:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

medieval trade was usually done in stages. For instance, the chinese would bring silk to bactria (present day afghanistan), sell it to the persians, who took it to the levant, where they sold it to europeans. Someone going the entire way would be very uncommon. (Kind of like the fact you can buy a t-shirt from asia without dealing with asians)

There is, as far as I know, no records of "blue men" (as the norse called africans) in the north. Over all, I would guess that there where more scandinavians in the Mediterranean area than the other way around.

As for Scandinavia "being in touch with the east", this is a notion created by the focus on (exotic and thus interesting) eastern influence in viking publications and research. This eastern influence is mostly from close slavic neighbours, not byzantium.

At the same time, there is a huge amount of trade going on in the Mediterranean, and islamic influence in the western Mediterranean is at an high. It is actually just as likely that arab coin found in norse graves came north through the frankish lands: Few others minted coin in the period in question, so arab coins where used actively for trade.

In southern europe, you might find african and near eastern traders at the trade ports. Central or east asians would be unknown, as far as I know.

Later on, in the 15th c, africans ocationaly show up in illustrations, including some fencing manuals(!)

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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