Estonia at the end of the prehistoric era

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By the end of the prehistoric era, Estonia was divided into 8 larger and several smaller counties, with no apparent central leadership - every parish was self-governed. In the beginning of the XIII century, Estonia was free from the rule of other countries, though it is assumed that it had close relations with Scandinavian countries and Russian principalities. There were occasional tensions between the neighboring Russians and Latgalians, who made forays to Estonian territories, which the Estonians returned. During this period, the Oeselians (people from Saaremaa) were very active, often raiding areas to their west. It is assumed that on one of those raids, the town of Sigtuna was burnt to the ground in 1187, but that could have also been the work of Kurala or Karjala people.

The Chronicle of Henrik of Livonia describes the background and the events of Estonia and its surrounding areas. It covers the years of 1184-1227. The Chronicle also contains some information about everyday life, customs and culture of the Estonian people.

The main profession at the time was land cultivation, with additions of hunting and fishing. Also horticulture deserves to be mentioned. To a considerable extent, the Estonians dealt in processing of iron from bog ore. Produce of the weapon smiths were quite likely marketed outside of Estonia as well. By the end of the prehistoric era, financial inequities became evident and the noble folk would often live further away from villages, in lager manors. Whether the positions and professions within the classes were hereditary, is uncertain. The lager forts of the time were definitely built as a joint effort of the whole parish or even several of them.

Little is know about the religion from that time. Most likely, people worshiped spirits of nature, there were no greater deities, or they were imports from neighboring people (Perkun, Thor=Taara). It is likely that by the beginning of the XIII century, Christianity had spread over most of Estonia.

Source: A.Mäesalu, T. Lukas, M. Laur, T. Tannberg "Eesti ajalugu I" 1997 "Avita"

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