Viking artefacts from southern Scotland and northern England: cultural contacts, interactions, and identities in peripheral areas of Viking settlement

Buchanan, Courtney Helen (2012) Viking artefacts from southern Scotland and northern England: cultural contacts, interactions, and identities in peripheral areas of Viking settlement. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information:


This thesis explores the portable, non-indigenous material culture strongly related, but not exclusive, to one specific ethnic group in the medieval period. It is based on the idea that people from different cultural backgrounds cannot come into contact with each other without their identities being altered in some significant way, and these altered identities will be expressed in their material culture. During the period c.800-1100, the Vikings initiated contact with the inhabitants of Britain, first by raiding and attacking, then by trading and settling amongst the local populations. Whereas most research of Viking and local interaction has focused on Viking settlements in the Northern and Western Isles or the Anglo-Scandinavian town of York, this thesis focuses on the peripheral areas of Viking political control: northern England and southern Scotland. It is in these regions where there are increasing amounts of evidence of Viking activities and interactions with the local peoples. Three key research questions are asked of the materials found within the study area: 1) how and why did items of ‘Viking’ material culture enter regions outside of the centres of traditional Viking settlements? 2) How and why were these items used to conduct meaningful contacts and interactions with those people already inhabiting this land? 3) How and why were identities constructed in these regions where multiple cultural traditions came into contact with one another?
A multifaceted approach is adopted to answer these questions. First, the historical sources are analysed for different contexts of contact and interaction between Vikings and non- Vikings in the study area. Second, a postcolonial approach to studying the interactions between groups was adopted in order to move away from simplistic assimilation or acculturation narratives where one group subsumes the other. Rather, this approach argues for the creation of a new social dimension in which people’s actions, routines, and identities are altered in order to negotiate and thrive within the new cultural landscape. It is argued that the hybridization seen in many of the artefacts, as well as other sources utilised throughout the thesis, is the material articulation of this new space. Finally, this thesis includes data recovered through the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure Trove Scotland in addition to excavated finds.
In the study region, 499 items are identified and catalogued as Viking or hybrid-Viking, many of which have no archaeological context as they are stray or metal-detected finds. Through the course of searching, three major concentrations were identified along major maritime inlets: the Solway Firth, the River Clyde, and the Forth and Tay Basins. These concentrations were turned into three case-study areas based upon concentrations of finds as well as the contextual aids of historical sources, place-names, and stone sculpture. The first case study examines the Solway Firth and determines that the Vikings were a very important part of the population, and a hybridized society is seen there. The second case study of Strathclyde also determines that the Vikings were active there; the evidence indicates smaller, more concentrated communities of Vikings that integrated into the British population of the region. The final case study of the Forth and Tay basins establishes the Vikings as important actors there, although not only in the traditional view of their attacks opening up the Pictish throne for Cinaed mac Alpin. The Vikings settled in this region and aided the formation of the new kingdom of Alba.
Overall, it is shown that Vikings were much more active on the peripheries of their political establishments than has previously been realised. It is also demonstrated that people in contact with others from different cultural backgrounds will alter their routines, practices, materials, and identities in order to negotiate the new social sphere that is created by such interaction. The key to understanding this negotiation is recognising the multiple contexts in which people interact and that each situation will result in different hybridized routines, materials, and identities that are unique to that specific context.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Keywords: Archaeology, Vikings in Britain, artefacts, identity, Third Space
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Batey, Dr. Colleen E.
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Miss Courtney Helen Buchanan
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3391
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 29 May 2012
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2024 08:15
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.3391

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