A comparative study of portable inscribed objects from Britain and Ireland, c. 400-1100 AD

Johnson, Catherine Estelle (2020) A comparative study of portable inscribed objects from Britain and Ireland, c. 400-1100 AD. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis provides a comprehensive comparison and analysis of portable inscribed objects from all ethno-linguistic cultures in early medieval Britain and Ireland, in the period between the post-Roman era (c. AD 400) and ending just after the Norman Conquest (c. AD 1100). It looks at the relationships between people and objects, observing differences in inscribing practices between object types, the application of text onto material culture, and the differences and similarities of the types of inscriptions found on these objects. Where past research has placed focus on only a single script, culture, or object type, this thesis is the first to combine all Insular scripts (runes, Roman, ogham) and languages (Old English, Old Norse, Latin, Irish/Early Gaelic) on portable objects from all major cultures in early medieval Britain and Ireland (Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, Pict, Irish, Scots). In total, 270 objects are catalogued and discussed, consisting of personal adornments and dress accessories, household and personal tools, weaponry and armour, ecclesiastical objects and church equipment, objects related to writing and reading in learned environments, funerary and memorial-related objects, and objects that cannot be identified but are categorised by raw material (i.e. metal, bone, stone). The types of object show a trend towards inscribing jewellery and dress accessories in Anglo-Saxon contexts and scripts (runes and Roman letters), whilst most of the objects of Scandinavian character and text (only runes) are made of ephemeral material including complete and incomplete pieces of bone and antler. Objects with ogham inscriptions follow a similar pattern and are primarily inscribed onto tools made of antler and bone, but, like the inscriptions in Scandinavian runes, can also be found on metal dress accessories and household items.
To analyse these objects in their social, personal, and political environments, this thesis employs the theories of object biography, gift and social exchange, and agency to look at the contexts in which the objects were used and inscribed and to consider the purposes behind the inscriptions. Additionally, ideas behind the power of writing and text, in particular those texts that are described as ‘gibberish’ or non-lexical, gives insight into how text was perceived and used in those cultures that engaged with it and how this evolved over time. The inscriptions include personal names and statements of ownership, maker, and commissioner, demonstrating direct relationships between people and things, and religious texts indicating that objects were used as vehicles for devotion and faith. This thesis has revealed that a wide variety of objects were given text in early medieval Britain and Ireland. It presents new and different perspectives on concepts of cultural and personal identity in regard to the study of material culture, providing discussions that are consistently growing and evolving as more objects and inscriptions are discovered each year.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright issues the full version of volume 1 of this 2 volume work is not available for viewing. The edited version of volume 1 is available. Volume 2 is restricted due to copyright issues.
Keywords: objects, inscriptions, runes, ogham, portable, material culture, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Pict, Irish, Latin, Old English, Old Norse.
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CN Inscriptions. Epigraphy.
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Forsyth, Prof. Katherine and Batey, Dr. Colleen
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Miss Catherine Estelle Johnson
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81499
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2020 13:50
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2022 08:13
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.81499
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/81499

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