Investigating Portages in the Norse Maritime Landscape of Scotland and the Isles

McCullough, David Alexander (2000) Investigating Portages in the Norse Maritime Landscape of Scotland and the Isles. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Throughout history, the practice of carrying boats and supplies overland between navigable rivers, lakes and stretches of sea has been a concern of all maritime cultures. The Vikings are notorious for their use of portages during their expeditions of exploration and settlement. Portages are an intrinsic aspect of navigation within a maritime landscape, opening up new territories and expanding nautical routes. Portaging provides economic, logistic and strategic advantages over the alternatives of navigating dangerous waters or having access denied by land. As portaging is an activity performed by a maritime culture the evidence used in investigating portages must be multi-disciplinary, involving archaeological evidence, place-name studies, historical sources, ethnological studies and experimental archaeology. This thesis explores all aspects of the portage scenario, as they would have been manifest in the Norse maritime landscape. A survey of the history of portaging from antiquity to the modem era is performed, concentrating on the activities of the Vikings in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. The place of portages in the navigation of the maritime cultural landscape is applied to the many different situations in which they would have provided an advantageous or necessary alternative. Essential to the study of maritime activities is the vessels involved. An exploration of the maritime technology available during the Viking Age is presented, grouping the vessels into types based upon size, capabilities and purpose. To help understand some of the methods and techniques involved in the portage activity, experimental Viking ship archaeology is reviewed with special attention paid to experiments in portaging. All of these data combine to provide a criterion that is used to identify possible portage sites in the Norse maritime landscape of Scotland and the Isles. The last chapter and a video appendix present the navigation and portaging of a replica Viking Age cargo vessel based upon information provided by this thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Jennifer R Birks
Keywords: Archaeology
Date of Award: 2000
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2000-75823
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 17:57
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 17:57

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