Mapping sculpture and power: symbolic wealth in early medieval Scotland, 6th-11th centuries AD

Gondek, Meggan Merrill (2003) Mapping sculpture and power: symbolic wealth in early medieval Scotland, 6th-11th centuries AD. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis is a study of the articulation of power in Scotland c. 500-1000 AD using an analysis of manifestations of ‘symbolic wealth’, particularly sculpted stones.

In studying the power structures of early medieval Scotland, both textual and archaeological evidence must be considered. Documentary evidence for Scotland is poor, but comparison can be made with Ireland, which has relatively rich textual evidence. The archaeological evidence of the early medieval period in Scotland is considerable, but has an uneasy relationship with the textual sources. Previous attempts to understand the power structures of early medieval Scotland through contemporary descriptions, such as those existing for the monastery at Iona, have resulted in constructed ideal types. These ideal types (e.g. for monasteries, emporia, civitates) have hindered the recognition of difference and variety in early medieval settlement. Within this thesis, relevant documentary evidence is considered alongside the archaeology with the aim of exploring variability in contemporary perceptions and perceived hierarchies of places of power.

This research recognises that control of resources, material and physical, is a crucial aspect of power relations in the early medieval period and approaches power by looking at the type and distribution of material culture and how it indicates changes in ideology and politics. Aspects of material culture invested with social meaning are termed ‘symbolic wealth’. Traditional manifestations of symbolic wealth, such as imported pottery, glass vessels and fine metalworking are considered. The main body of evidence comes from a new methodological approach to sculpted stones that argues sculpture can be ranked by virtue of the relative investment in its creation process. This, in turn, indicates the degree to which power and investment were centralised. The methodology evaluates the relative time involved in the steps of the creation process of individual monuments.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Campbell, Dr. Ewan and Driscoll, Prof. Stephen
Date of Award: 2003
Depositing User: Geraldine Coyle
Unique ID: glathesis:2003-988
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2009
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2013 09:29

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