As described by the Vikings’ own epic poems and evidenced by modern archaeology, theirs was a rather rigid society with just three classes, Jarls, Karls and Thralls. Something like 25 percent of its citizens were Thralls, who had the status of slaves.
Karls were farmers who owned livestock and land. The Jarls held the highest positions in society, so much so that their Thralls sometimes stayed with them after death. That often mean sacrificing and burying them alongside their master. As long as they weren’t Thralls, women, though, had a comparatively free position in Viking society. In some circumstances, in fact, they could inherit property and even become head of the household.
Let’s zoom back to the discovery those archaeologists made in 2018. They were working on an area called Viksletta, in a field next to the 118 highway in southeastern Norway. The site, towards the Swedish border, is famous for its 30-foot Jelle burial mound which drivers see as they speed along the road.