Historians at a recent conference in Cambridge claim there was a lot more to the Vikings than pillage. Most of the seafaring peoples who came from Norway, Sweden and Denmark between the 8th and 12th centuries – the 'Viking Age' – were farmers and merchants, rather than violent raiders, and wherever they settled they brought advanced skills in leather and wood-work and soon integrated into local communities. You might even call them 'progressive'. Women, who were free to trade and participate in political and religious life, were afforded considerable respect, as witnessed by the riches found in their graves. Vikings were also in touch with their softer side, fussy about appearance and hygiene and very fashion-conscious. Archaeologists find more Viking combs than either swords or axes.