Our knowledge about the arms and armour of the Viking age is based on archaeological finds, pictorial representation, and to some extent on the accounts in the Norse sagas andNorse laws recorded in the 13th century. According to custom, all free Norse men were required to own weapons and were permitted to carry them all the time.
Ibn Rustah was a 10th-century Persian explorer and geographer. His impression of the Vikings/Rus' is very favourable: "They carry clean clothes and the men adorn themselves with bracelets and gold. They treat their slaves well and also they carry exquisite clothes, because they put great effort in trade. They have many towns. They have a most friendly attitude towards foreigners and strangers who seek refuge." (Vikings by Brynjar Ágústsson, via Flickr)
The women held a strong position in Viking society and were responsible for the farm when their men were abroad. The symbol of the powerful housewife was her keys, hung from her gown. If her husband took the keys from his wife, she could divorce him instantly, and keep their shared property. No women were forced into marriages, unlike most other cultures at that time.