Ancient World

UNESCO tag yet Ahmedabad needs to do more

Debashish Nayak, Director, Centre for Heritage Management of Ahmedabad University has been working for over two decades as advisor to the Heritage Programme of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) for revitalisation of the ‘Historic Walled City.’ An architect with over two decades of experience in managing urban conservation issues of ‘historic cities’ in both India and abroad, he is also the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Award for “Enterprising Conservation of Heritage Properties” from West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi. Talking to
Urban Vaastu, he opens his heart about the lack of awareness among the people and government bodies in preserving our priceless architectural heritage for coming generations

What has been the response to your short-term management programmes from professionals in heritage organisations and craftsmen?
We began with programmes like “the heritage walk for 5 days” which is a good way to introduce a person to the city. If you don’t know the city you can’t do good or bad with it. So knowing your city comes first. And then there’s another 5-day programme called Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) for government officials aimed at promoting case-writing on heritage management issues. With funding from European Union and Spain we did a heritage management start-up. This programme lasts 30 months. Short term courses are crucial for students doing masters.

Can you tell us about your two-year Master of Management Studies (Heritage Management) course?
Master’s Programme in Heritage Management is one of its kind in India. It emphasises on critical understanding of heritage, and holistic management approach to heritage sector. The curriculum includes a diverse range of heritage sectors spanning tangible and intangible, cultural and natural, historic and contemporary/living with emphasis on management. A unique programme with lectures, seminars, discussion, group work and field-learning culminating in thesis.
Designed for four semesters, we had 15 enrollments in the first year. Then it came to 12. People do come for interview and are more interested in job prospects. But heritage management is a subject of passion. When heritage conservation started in NID and IIM, nobody was interested in studying management. We spread awareness among the companies about the programmes.

How many such courses do you offer every year?
Short courses and management. We also do projects. No expansion plans yet. Public discussions and debates are welcome and age is no bar. We have students from 24 to 60 and a 60-year-old student is punctual.


Designed for four semesters, we had 15 enrollments in the first year. Then it came to 12. People do come for interview and are more interested in job prospects. But heritage management is a subject of passion.


Does the word ‘heritage’ attract lot of students these days?
Not yet. They are curious and do ask questions. Prefer short term courses but the attraction is still missing. Though response is picking up not on enrollment side.

Do you also get foreign students, especially from the developing world?
No. A few inquiries came from Egypt and Bangladesh but for short-term courses and not for management. With our fees low compared to the US and Europe, there is hope that enrollment will go up. Our focus now is on Indian students learning about heritage.

Centre for Heritage Management is involved in bringing institutions and corporates together for ‘mission heritage’ activities in India. Are there any recent initiatives?
Funding from Europe and Spain has helped in creating some awareness. Take for example the “National Heritage Areas” in the US. These are community-led conservation and development. National Heritage Areas are places where historic, cultural, and natural resources combine to form, nationally important landscapes. Unlike national parks, National Heritage Areas are large live-in landscapes. It is a multi-disciplinary project and we should collaborate with many universities around the world. In India, we collaborated with Gujarat Ecology Constitution, Dehradun Wildlife Institute, in Calcutta, Khamir in Kutch. There are 253 cities recognized as world heritage. Ahmedabad is the first city in India to be named as “world heritage city.” Now there is clamour for more cities to be named as “world heritage city.”

Does the centre have close ties with similar institutions elsewhere in the world? Which are these institutions and what kind of collaboration you have with them?
We collaborated with many institutions. From universities outside India to those in the country. Our programmes range from student exchange, faculties exchange and experience exchange.

You advise many Indian city bodies on heritage programmes. Any major achievement because of these interactions?

We are working in Lucknow for UP tourism and Punjab tourism. We renovated and repaired many havelis in historic places. I am advising many cities in India, and if they call us to promote, I will visit and guide them. We worked hard to make Ahmedabad a world heritage city. But there’s no proper awareness among people or government bodies.

UNESCO recently declared Ahmedabad as World heritage city. What will be its impact?
The impact is so high that people have started using the phrase “Oh, you live in world heritage city.” It made an impact in India and Asia and in economy terms it is thumbs up. People now know more about the city and those working in this sector see their work recognized. Trade has increased. It also means understanding the importance of preserving heritage monuments.

Are you satisfied with the way conservation is being done for over two-dozen ASI-protected monuments in Ahmedabad?
Lot needs to be done. At least they are protected. More than 42 monuments are there and strict laws are needed to safeguard them. It’s a slow progress yet work goes on.
Most ancient structures in India are deteriorating rapidly. What is the solution? Can a replica be made to keep the heritage intact?
Depends on situation to situation. Not every monument is deteriorating. Pollution is a threat and dedicated groups are conserving our heritage. There are plenty of monuments & heritage buildings. All need proper care.

Chandragupta Maurya

Born in a humble family, Chandragupta Maurya rose to build the largest empire on the Indian sub-continent with a prosperous economy and a powerful army under the shrewd guidance of Chanakya


Once Chanakya, who would later write the Arthasastra, had arrived from Takshashila at the court of the powerful Nanda rulers on the Gangetic plains. Insulted by King Dhana Nanda, Chanakya swore revenge and was leaving in fury when young Chandragupta sought to meet him. It was this chance meeting that led to one of the greatest partnerships of all times and the creation of the Mauryan Empire.
Known to the Greeks as Sandrokottos or Androkottos, Chandragupta’s reign is known for its prosperous economy and was driven by Chanakya’s shrewd grasp of statecraft and economics. With a strong central administration from Pataliputra, Chandragupta ruled over nearly the entire Indian sub-continent through an organised, efficient structure. The focus was on building economic prosperity, connectivity by land, diplomacy and a powerful army that was in permanent readiness. Religions thrived, with Buddhism, Jainism and Ajivika living along with Hinduism.

It was the end of Alexander the Great’s conquests. When his armies refused to cross


the River Beas and move eastward into the Indian sub-continent, Alexander chose not to wage war against the powerful Magadha kingdom of the Nandas. Leaving his troops west of the River Indus, he returned to Babylon in 323 BC. It is said that a young Chandragupta had met Alexander, but that held no significance in the Mauryan’s rise.
In 323 BC, it had been a year since Alexander’s retreat. Under Chanakya’s shrewd guidance, Chandragupta formed a small army of his own and through alliances with local rulers, defeated the Greek-ruled cities in the region. By 322-321 BC, he began rising in prominence.
To the East were the powerful Nandas who had been ruling the region since 345 BC. In preparation for a war against the professional Nanda army, Chandragupta, under Chanakya’s guidance, formed more alliances and strengthened his army.
After forming an alliance with Parvataka, a ruler in the Himalayan region, his march towards Magadha on the Gangetic plains began.
After an initial rebuff at the hands of the Nandas, the capital Pataliputra fell into Chandragupta’s hands, ending the Nanda dynasty. With the Gangetic plain under his rule, Chandragupta may have formed alliances with the Kings of Rajputana on the west and Kalinga in the south.
According to Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador’s records, Chandragupta’s army would number at least 400,000 when he gained full control, compared to the 200,000-foot troops of the Nandas.
Meanwhile Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BC. Chandragupta looked towards the west. Alternately assassinating or defeating the governors that Alexander had left behind, Chandragupta expanded his empire into the northwest.

Alexander’s Macedonian general, Seleucus I Nicator had established the Seleucid kingdom in 312 BC with Babylon as his capital.


A powerful ruler, he had conquered almost all of Alexander’s Asian empire, including Bactria and Indus. This brought him into conflict with Chandragupta.
Seleucus crossed the Indus and the two armies battled each other. Soon, the two kings arrived at peace through a marital alliance in which Chandragupta married a Seleucid princess. Not only did he have peace with Seleucus, he had also annexed some of the latter’s provinces. In return, he sent 500 elephants to Seleucus which enabled the latter to win the Battle of Ipsus in which he, in alliance with others, defeated the Macedonian Greek rulers. At this point, the Greek ambassador Megasthenes arrived in Chandragupta’s court.
Chandragupta turned his eye south of the Vindhyas, conquering the Deccan Plateau. At its peak, Chandragupta’s Empire extended over almost the entire Indian subcontinent.

Chanakya’s Arthasastra, which is known for his shrewd principles of administration and economics, was implemented in governing the Empire. Chandragupta ruled with the aid of a ministerial council, the ministers themselves were called amatya. The empire was structured into janapadas, that is, territories and regional centres which were protected by forts. The royal treasury funded the state functioning as well as the army.


Paying heed to Chanakya’s wisdom, Chandragupta had many reservoirs and networks built, facilitating irrigation which in turn ensured reliable food supplies to his citizens and to the army. In fact, his officials were given the duty of ensuring regional prosperity through agriculture. His irrigation works were so well-planned that 400 years later these works, built by Chandragupta and strengthened by Ashoka, continued to function, and were repaired and enlarged by later rulers.
Economics and safety took precedence over arts and architecture, and there is no conclusive evidence that archaeological findings of artefacts dating back to the period can be credited to Chandragupta Maurya.
Chandragupta’s Death
Chandragupta renounced his throne in 298 BC and went to the south with the Jain teacher Bhadrabahu, leaving his son Bindusara as the emperor. Ashoka would rise to the throne after Bindusara.
Chandragupta lived in Shravanabelagola and eventually, followed the Jain practice of fasting to his death in 297 BC.

Humble Origin
Chandragupta’s birth is unrecorded. It is quite possible that Greek sources are authentic in their narrative that Chandragupta did not come from a warrior background. Jain and Buddhist sources, which were written centuries later, stated that he was from noble lineage, at the least from a village chief.
The most likely event is that Kautilya, whose real name was Chanakya and who originated from the north-western region, had trained Chandragupta at Takshashila.
Stable Economy
The Mauryan economy was very developed for its time. The existence of a stable centralized government and the unity of the sub-continent made by the emperor resulted in an advanced trade. Land routes were built to transport goods with roads suitable for the movement of carts. The Empire was no longer dependant on the trickle of movement through mules or on water transport. In fact, a 1000-mile highway connected Pataliputra to Takshashila. Others connected the capital to Kapilavastu, Kalsi, Sasaram, Kalinga, Andhra and Karnataka. With this, Chandragupta achieved not only extensive trade, but also rapid movement of his army.
State-owned weapon-manufacturing centres were another of Chanakya’s ideas. Chanakya’s principle was that prosperity is necessary to pursue Dhamma, that is, morality. He also states in his Arthasastra that diplomacy must prevail over war and if that is not possible, an army that is always ready has to be maintained.

History of Kerala

Known today as the Spice Garden of India, Kerala had prominent trading posts with the ancient Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Arabs, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans.


Kerala has a history of being an important exporter of spices since 3000 BCE. The name Keralaputra is mentioned on Emperor Ashoka’s rock inscriptions of 3rd century BCE, referring to the Cheras who had ruled over Kerala, and is the first known reference to the name Kerala.
The Rig Veda’s Aitareya Aranyaka is the earliest Sanskrit work to mention Kerala. It is also mentioned in the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Skanda Purana. Katyayana in 4th century BC and Patanjali in 2nd century BC too refer to the region. Greco-Roman trade maps refer to Keralaputra as Celobotra.


Marine fossils found near Changanacherry have led to the conclusion that Kerala may have been under the sea in the ancient past. Evidence of pre-history, that is, the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic Stone Ages, has been found in Kerala.

Dolmens, which are, large vertical stones supporting a horizontal stone were found in Idukki. Although archaeologists do not know their purpose, what they do know is that these date from the Neolithic age, that is, the New Stone Age which began about 10,200 BC and ended between 4500 and 2000 BC.

Locally, they are called muniyara, from muni which stands for sage and ara, meaning dolmen. Rock engravings in Wayanad’s Edakkal caves too date back to 6000 BCE. It is also possible that Kerala had interacted with the Indus Valley Civilization during the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.


Trade and Settlements
Sumerian records show that Kerala was a prominent exporter by 3000 BC, interacting with the Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Arabs and Phoenicians. By the time the world entered the Christian Era, Greeks and Romans too were trading for Kerala’s spices. In addition, the Cheras who ruled over Kerala were trading with China and West Asia.
marayoordolmenSangam literature speaks of Roman exchange of gold for pepper. According to Pliny the Elder, with favourable South West monsoon winds, Kerala could be reached from the Red Sea ports in 40 days. Muziris, also known as Muciri, Mahodayapuram or Makotai was a flourishing sea port at the mouth of the River Periyar, and was later submerged by the sea. Nelcynda and Berkarai were two other Kerala sea ports.
At the time, Kerala was known to foreign regions as Malabar and some of these visitors established coastal settlements here. Some married local women, forming the Mappila communities, with Muslim, Syrian Christian and Jewish settlers.
The Cochin Jews believe that they are descendants of those who had fled Jerusalem’s destruction during the first century AD. The Saint Thomas Christians trace their ancestry to converts by Saint Thomas, one of Christ’s 12 disciples.

Dynasties of Kerala
edakkal_stone_age_carvingThe Early Cheras are believed to have ruled from 4th century BCE to 5th century CE over large parts of current-day Kerala, and Coimbatore and Salem districts. They were contemporaries to the Chola, Pandya, Tamiraparani and Satiyaputra. The Chera capital was Vanchi, which was either Vanchimutur or near Muziris.
Buddhism and Jainism had reached Kerala by the Christian Era. During the Sangam period, between 4th century BC and 2nd century AD, Brahmins settled in central Kerala and the Nambudiri community emerged.
The Ay dynasty had ruled from the 3rd century BC to 1200 CE from Nagercoil to Thiruvilla with Kollam as their capital. Weakened by Pandyan attacks during the 7th and 8th centuries, they declined. The Ay kingdom, particularly Venad, had been a buffer between the Cheras and the Pandyas and the weakened Ay dynasty became part of the Second Chera kingdom.
The Kulasekharas were also known as the Second Cheras, Later Cheras or Perumals and ruled between the 8th and the 12th centuries.

It is during their reign that Kerala emerged distinct from Tamils. Nair leaders ruled over provinces under the ruler.
Wars between the Cheras and the Cholas during the 11th century led to the decline of foreign trade and Buddhism and Jainism disappeared from the region. Caste divisions hardened into divisive lines. Chola invasions destroyed Kollam in the 11th century and Mahodayapuram fell during a subsequent battle, causing the Chera ruler Rama Varma Kulasekhara to shift his capital to Kollam. Hence, it is believed that he, the last emperor of the Chera dynastry may have founded the Venad royal house.
The Later Pandyas and Later Cholas gained control although Ravi Varma Kulasekhara regained control briefly during the 14th century. His death led to the rise of the Nair leaders in Samuthiri, Venad and Kochi.
Thrippapur and Chirava, which were branches of the Ay dynasty, merged into the Venad family during the latter half of the 12th century with the former having authority over the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, among others. Travancore was developed by Maharaja Marthanda Varma who belonged to the Thrippapurs, by expanding Venad during the 18th century.

Colonial Powers
vascodagamaWith Vasco Da Gama’s arrival in Kozhikode, began a period of Portuguese trade dominance. During the 16th century, they established a factory and fort in the kingdom of Kozhikode which belonged to the Samuthiris. But, the Portuguese fell out with the Maharaja and were defeated.
During the 18th century, the French began controlling Mahe. After being captured by the Brisith twice, it was handed back to the French.
The Dutch weren’t far behind. During the 17th and 18th centuries, they defeated the Portuguese, but they themselves were weakened by battles with King Marthanda Varma of the Travancore Royal Family and the Travancore king gained greater power.
During the 18th century, Hyder Ali took control of Kozhikode. But, his son, Tipu Sultan was forced to cede control over Malabar district and South Kanara to the British during the late 18th century. The British turned Cochin and Travancore into princely states, and Malabar and South Kanara became part of the Madras Presidency.
Uprisings against the British continued through the 19th and 20th centuries. When India achieved independence, the Travancore and Cochin kingdoms joined the nation. On 1st November 1956, Kerala was formed, bringing together large parts of these two kingdoms and Malabar district.

History of Iceland

Icelands are Norse origin stock and Iceland is 7th richest in the world on per capita GDP and also boasts of world’s oldest parliament



Iceland’s history goes back to the 8th or the 9th century when Celic monks are believed to have arrived on the island. Subsequently, Naddod, a Norwegian-Faroese Viking is credited with discovering Iceland. Later, when the Swede Garoar Svavarsson was driven to Iceland by a storm, he circumnavigated the land, establishing it as an island.
In 871, Ingolfr Arnarson, a chieftain arrived from Norway with his wife and brother, and established the first permanent settlement in Reykjavik. Later, Norwegians and Scandinavians arrived with their slaves, who were largely Irish or Scottish, and by 930, settlement was complete.
Iceland has no standing army and has a coast guard who takes care of its defence. With a population of over 300,000, it is sparsely populated and is home to active volcanoes.

In 930, the Althing, the Icelandic parliament was established with legislative and judicial powers over the Icelandic commonwealth, making it the world’s oldest parliament.

During this period, the region experienced the medieval warm period and when Erik Thorvaldsson, also known as Erik the Red, was banished from Iceland for three years, he spent them on Greenland.
He later established a permanent settlement there with other settlers.
Meanwhile, under pressure from the King of Norway, Christianity was adopted in Iceland by the end of the

10th century and it co-existed with Norse paganism. It was only in 1117 that slavery was abolished.
During the 13th century, Iceland came under the Norwegian crown since Iceland’s commonwealth could no longer deal with the now stronger chieftains. From Norway, control over Iceland passed to the Kalmar Union of Norway, Denmark and Sweden during the late 14th-early 15th century and Iceland came under Danish control.

Iceland is a land of active volcanoes since it is located on the mid-Atlantic Ridge and is also located over a hot spot. Thirteen of its 30 active volcanic systems have erupted since permanent settlements began on the island. Over the past 500 years alone, its volcanoes have spewed one-third of the entire lava output of the world.
Mount Hekla which was dormant for 250 years, erupted in 1104, covering half of Iceland with material composed of ash, cinders and volcanic blocks, causing devastation. Over the centuries, Hekla continued to erupt.
Volcanic fissures in Laki erupted in 1783, leading to the death of over 50 per cent of the livestock over the years and one fourth of the population due to famine.
Black death caused by the bubonic plague which had hit Europe during the 14th century reached Iceland in the early 15th century, killing half its population between 1402 and 1404. It hit again in 1494, killing half the population this time too. In 1707, small pox killed a quarter of the population.
Lutheranism was imposed on Iceland by the King of Denmark during the 16th century and it continues to be the primary religion on the island. A period of decline followed during the 17th and 18th centuries with Denmark granting Danish merchants monopoly on trade with Iceland.
The trade restrictions, combined with volcanic eruptions, disease, deforestation, infertile soil and raids by pirates who also abducted the Icelandic people into slavery led to the island’s decline. Iceland became one of Europe’s poorest nations, relying largely on fishing.
In 1787, Danish trade monopoly ceased, yet it was only in 1855 that Denmark granted Iceland the right to free trade.
Although Denmark and Norway separated in the early 19th century as a result of the Napoleonic wars, Iceland continued under Denmark’s rule. Climate turned colder and over 20 per cent of Icelandic people emigrated to North America. Towards the middle of the century, the independence movement gained momentum under Jon Sigurosson and Iceland gained limited home rule by the end of the century, moving towards greater power by the early 20th century.

Although Denmark recognised Iceland’s sovereignty, it continued to handle foreign policy matters and Danish embassies functioned as Iceland’s embassies too. Iceland, like Denmark remained neutral during the second world war until Germany occupied Denmark.

At this juncture, Iceland took control of its foreign affairs. Britain invaded Iceland, violating Iceland’s neutrality and passed its control to United States in 1941.
Two years after Iceland became a republic in 1944, the allied forces left the island.
But troops of the United States returned when riots erupted on Iceland’s joining the NATO, once again leaving the island in 2006.

In 2008, Iceland suffered a financial crisis and its three largest banks collapsed. By 2011, the nation stabilised and driven by a strong rise in tourism, it rebounded to the pre-financial crisis levels. Based on different estimates, tourism constitutes anywhere between 5 and 10 per cent of Icelandic GDP.
In 2016, tourists constituted 4.5 times the island’s population, bringing in nearly 30 per cent of the nation’s export revenue. Industrialisation and liberalisation led to substantial development and the nation’s per capita GDP ranked 7th in the world in 2016.
Iceland depends heavily on the fishing industry and fisheries constitute 40 per cent of exports which is more than 12 per cent of Icelandic GDP. Hence, Iceland is sensitive to fish products.

The first Cod war broke out between United Kingdom and Iceland when the latter expanded its fishing zone from 4 to 12 nautical miles. It lasted from 1958 to 1961 and ended after they came to an agreement.
The second Cod war arose in 1972 when Iceland extended its fishing zone to 50 nautical miles. This dispute was resolved in 1973.
The third Cod war broke out between the two nations in 1975 when the United Nations Conference of the Law on the Sea supported a 100-nautical mile limit to territorial waters and Iceland extended its limit to 200 nautical miles.
An agreement was reached in 1976 when NATO mediated between the two nations.



The name Viking brings up the image of seafaring savage warriors who plundered and destroyed regions of Europe. They had also been traders and settlers whose women enjoyed greater freedom and rights



Between the 8th and the 11th centuries, seafaring Vikings expanded from Scandinavia and came to be known across Europe first as warriors, then as explorers and traders. It was the Viking age.
Scandinavia comprises present-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Sailing across the Norwegian and the Baltic Seas, the Vikings formed settlements in the Shetland, Orkney, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and in North America in Newfoundland, among others.


Norse names like Egilsay, Ormskirk, Meols, Snaefell, Ravenscar, Vinland and more exist to this day. English words like Thursday, which stands for Thor’s day, axle, crook, berserk, skerry, ransack are a few of the Old Norse words.
The Vikings had not left a literary legacy, hence what is known of them comes from archaeological evidence and from Western Europe which was literate and came in touch with them.

The Viking raids began during the reign of Charlemagne, King of the Franks, lending credence to the


theory that their expansion from Scandinavia began with Charlemagne’s use of terror to spread Christianity among the pagans. This in turn led to Viking resistance and desire for revenge.

The other theory is that they simply expanded during a period when the other regions were weak and Viking ships travelled easily, facing little opposition on the seas. The fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Islam had affected trade between Western Europe and Eurasia, leaving room for the Vikings.
While the Norwegians moved north and westward towards Ireland, Scotland, Iceland and Greenland, the Danes moved to England and France and the Swedes to the east towards Kiev. The Rurik dynasty controlled the regions in Slavic and Finno-Ugric dominated areas of Eastern Europe as well as Kiev in Russia.
Vikings were the ancestors of the Normans who ruled over parts of Northern France during the 10th century. King Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England traces his ancestry to Denmark while Sweyn Forkbeard and Cnut the Great became kings of England during the 11th century.
Emissaries from Sweden visited Byzantium during the 9th century and Scandinavians formed a large part of the Varangian Guard, the imperial bodyguard of Byzantium.

Three socio-economic classes, the Thralls, Karls and Jarls comprised Viking society with some mobility between the latter two. Thralls were slaves who worked for the Karls and the Jarls, tending to daily chores and heavy construction.
Karls were peasants owning farms and cattle while Jarls were the wealthy aristocracy, owning large estates and horses and were involved in administration and politics. When Jarls died, sometimes the Thralls in the households were killed and buried next to them. There were also the felag in civil and military.

Women held free status with the paternal aunt, niece and granddaughter having the right to inherit the property of a dead man. An unmarried woman with no male relatives or sons could inherit property and be the head of the family. When she turned 20, an unmarried woman had the right to decide her place of residence, although the clan decided whom she married.

Widows had the same status as unmarried women while married women could divorce and remarry. A free woman could live with a married man and have children with him without marrying him and these children held the same status as those born within a marriage. Women acted as priestesses and oracles, they were poets and rune masters, merchants and medicine women. The introduction of Christianity brought these practices to an end.

The Vikings ate cured, smoked and whey-preserved meat, including beef, mutton, pork, horse meat, sausages, hens, game birds, seafood of whales and walrus among others, bread, porridge, milk products, vegetables, fruits, berries and nuts. They used herbs and spices.
They liked music and played the harp, fiddle, lyre and the lute. Sports was encouraged, involving weapons and combat skills, mountain climbing, swimming, skiing and ice skating, horse fighting and a game similar to hockey. They played board and dice games too.
The Vikings did not stick to a single method of dealing with their dead, they buried them in the ground, or with mounds of earth or stones raised over the graves, they had ship burials and cremation, depending on local customs.

Norsemen sailed the river Volga, trading in furs, tusks, seal fat, which functioned as a sealant for boats, and in slaves. Silver was the primary metal for trade and they bought spices, glass, silk and wine.

Norsemen sailed the river Volga, trading in furs, tusks, seal fat, which functioned as a sealant for boats, and in slaves. Silver was the primary metal for trade and they bought spices, glass, silk and wine.
By the end of the 11th century, Christianity became legitimate, Denmark, Norway and Sweden took their independent identities and administrative centres, market sites and monetary economies emerged under English and German influence.
With the Church disapproving, slavery, which had been a driving force behind Viking raids, fell and raids lessened.

The Vikings wrote on runestones, leaving behind a record of the times. The Norse knew the runor, an alphabet that was not standardised but built on sound. While some runic inscriptions recorded Viking expeditions and the people who took part in them, others recorded those who died in these expeditions. The one by the Dane, Harald Bluetooth records the conquest of Denmark and Norway and Denmark’s conversion to Christianity.
Used in warfare and exploration, the long ships, which have been synonymous with Vikings, were agile and had oars and sails to navigate even without the wind. With a long, narrow hull and shallow draught, they could easily land troops in shallow water.
The knarr were merchant vessels and carried cargo with their broader hulls, deep draughts and fewer oars which were needed only to manoeuvre. The Viking built the beitass which was a spar mounted on the sail so that they could sail against the wind.
HELMETS: Viking helmets did not have horns or wings although they may have been worn for rituals. Their helmets were conical and were of hard leather with wood or metal reinforcement.
SAVAGES: The Viking image of dirty, unclean savages is untrue. They fought in a disordered style of fighting which, it is believed, was done to shock the enemy.
SKULLS AS DRINKING VESSELS: The Vikings did not drink out of the skulls of defeated enemies. The myth emerged from the mistranslation of a poem which referred to drinking horns.

European Huns

Feared nomadic warriors and accurate mounted archers, the European Huns played a role in the decline of the Roman Empire.



The Huns rode the lands of East Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia from the first to the 7th century AD. Originally, they lived to the east of the Volga River in what was then Scythia. Nomadic and pastoral in nature, they were feared warriors known for their horsemanship and accurate mounted archery. They rode horses, giving them speed in their charges and retreating as suddenly as they attacked, leaving their opponents confused.
Not until Attila the Hun were they united under a single king. Rather, they had comprised groups of warrior bands who integrated easily with other tribes to increase their strength.

While some scholars disagree, it is believed that the Huns of Europe were connected to the Xiongnu who lived to the north of China. Tribes from Mongolia are believed to have migrated to the northern parts of Central Asia during the 2nd or 3rd century AD and to Europe during the 4th century.

Both the Huns and the Xiongnu used bronze cauldrons like the people of the Steppes did. But, other practices differed between the two.
While the Xiongnu sported long pony tails, the Huns did not.
The Huns practiced the act of artificially elongating the skulls while the Xiongnu did not.

The Huns came from the eastern side of the River Volga.

From the time that they invaded Europe, the Huns dominated central and south-eastern Europe for 70 years.
Between the Volga and the River Don were the Alani who, like the Huns, were warriors and pastoral people in addition to being well-known horse-breeders.
The Huns overran them when they emerged from beyond the River Volga during the 4th century. Those that survived the slaughter either submitted to the Huns or fled across the Don.

By the 5th century, the Huns were united under King Rua, also known as Rugila. His nephews Bleda and Attila succeeded him on his death.
Between the Rivers Don and Dniester lived the Ostrogoths, that is the Eastern Goths. When the Huns attacked them, most surrendered while the rest fled across the Dniester. The Huns then defeated the Visigoths, that is the Western Goths who lived in Romania. The Visigoths went to the lower Danube and sought Roman asylum with the Eastern Goths and other tribes following them.

Bleda died in 445 AD, and it is not known whether Attila had murdered his brother. Attila took full control and in 447 AD, attacked the Eastern Roman Empire once again. Beset with internal problems, the Empire could not withstand the Huns although Constantinople was saved.


The Huns had now reached the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire by the River Danube. They forced a treaty with the Eastern Roman Empire in 435 AD, earning trading rights and an annual tribute from the Romans. In addition, the Romans gave over refugees from the Huns to execution. The Huns also acted as mercenaries, fighting for the Empire.
In 440 AD, the Romans did not honour the treaty and the Huns attacked them. A truce was signed in 441 AD, but was breached yet again. This time, the Hunnish attack took them close to Constantinople. After a defeat, the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II gave in to Hun demands and they returned richer to their lands.

Bleda died in 445 AD, and it is not known whether Attila had murdered his brother. Attila took full control and in 447 AD, attacked the Eastern Roman Empire once again. Beset with internal problems, the Empire could not withstand the Huns although Constantinople was saved. The Huns wreaked havoc on the Balkans and drove into Greece going up to Thermophylae. In 449 AD, they were forced to retreat because of disease and the Romans agreed to pay a large tribute in gold.
The Huns though were on good terms with the Western Empire. But, when in 450 AD, the Roman Emperor decided to marry off his sister Honoria to a Roman senator, she wrote to Attila for help, sending a ring along with the plea. Choosing to see it as a proposal for marriage, Attila asked for half the Western Roman Empire as dowry. When the Emperor stated that the proposal was not legitimate, Attila sent an emissary to say that he would come to claim her.
In 451 AD, Attila entered Gaul and continued towards the west, going through Paris and laying siege to Orleans. The joint Roman-Visigoth armies clashed with the Huns at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in which Attila suffered his only defeat.
In 452 AD, too, Attila made the same demand and entered northern Italy. The Roman Emperor negotiated with him for peace.


The Xiongnu were nomadic pastoral tribes who lived to the north of China. By the end of the 3rd century BC, the tribes joined together and dominated Central Asia up to 2nd century AD, ruling over much of Siberia and Mongolia. Their attacks on China led to the construction of the Great China Wall although it could not fully stop their attacks.
Like the Huns, the Xiongnu too were mounted warriors and archers with the ability to gather hundreds of thousands of warriors for their intrusions into North China. The Chinese chariots were no match for their flexibility and ease of movement.The attacks continued until the Han Emperor Wudi sent his warriors into central China to fight the nomads and build alliances with the Xiongnu’s enemies.
The Xiongnu split eventually and the eastern horde submitted to the Chinese while the western horde moved towards Central Asia. The Tujue, who were the dominant nomad people of Mongolia in the 7th century, claim to be descendants of the Xiongnu. Some of the latter’s customs are similar to Turkish customs. Hence, some historians believe that the western Xiongnu may have been the ancestors of the European Turks, yet others believe that the Xiongnu are the European Huns.

Italy had undergone a famine and if Attila were to attack Rome, he would need supplies from Italy. Further, his troops whom he had left behind to guard home territories were defeated by the Eastern Roman Empire which led him to retreat.
Once again, the Eastern Roman Emperor stopped payment of tribute and Attila prepared to attack Constantinople. But, in 453 AD, he died of a hemorrhage on his wedding night.
The Huns lost their power within a year of Attila’s death and any trace of them disappeared within a few centuries