As the ice of the last Ice Age receded, Sweden started to emerge around 10,000 BC. As the ice retreated the first human settlements started to appear in the south. Between 8000 BC and 6000 BC, the country was populated through coastal villages whose citizens hunted and fished for their food. Tools were basic and made of stone. Some agriculture was developed around 4000 BC, but was subject to climate changes. By 3000 BC, the Swedes started to colonize the Baltic Islands. The Swedes left the Stone Age and entered the Bronze Age around 2000 BC, though stone tools were still in use. During this new age, a sophisticated culture started to develop and is witnessed by the artifacts found from this time period.
From the start of the Iron Age around 500 BC and beyond, contact increased with the rest of Europe, spurred somewhat by the spread of the Roman Empire. The use of Runes was introduced into Swedish culture and originated from ancient Germanic tribes.
The Viking Age
A well-known age for Sweden is the age of the Vikings, beginning around 800 AD and lasting to about 1060. Vikings, or Norse people, came from Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The term Viking is Old Norse but the meaning is not clear. “Vik” means Bay in Swedish and Viking may be a reference to the inhabitants of bays, which is where the Vikings generally had their villages. It is also thought to mean “pirate raid”. Vikings were notorious for their seamanship, bravery, skill as warriors, trade, and on some occasions, raiding of foreign territory. Vikings ventured to and settled in Britain, Iceland, Greenland and even North America, long before Columbus’ first landing. While the Norwegian and Danish Vikings went west, the Swedish Vikings generally ventured eastward toward Russia and the Baltic States. From there they ventured through rivers to the Black and Caspian Seas, and were thought to have gone as far as Constantinople (Turkey). A Viking by the name of Rurik became a ruler of Russia, and his descendants ruled until the late 16th Century. As the years marched on and civilizations grew, the importance of the Vikings diminished as power shifted from the coastal villages to inland cities.