March 11, 2021

3.5 Archaeology of Early Medieval Europe: the Earliest Scandinavian Expansion

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Aina Heen Pettersen, NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology

PhD Thesis: Farin Vestir: Perspectives on the chronology, biography and mutability of Insular objects in Viking-Age Norway (c. AD 770/800-950).



Pettersen, Aina Margrethe Heen 2019. The Earliest Wave of Viking Activity? The Norwegian Evidence Revisited. European Journal of Archaeology 22 (4), 523–541

This article discusses the chronology and nature of the earliest Viking activity, based on a group of early
burials from Norway containing Insular metalwork. By focusing on the geographical distribution of this
material and applying the concept of locational and social knowledge, the importance of establishing
cognitive landscapes to facilitate the Viking expansion is highlighted. It is argued that the first recorded
Viking attacks were only possible after a phase in which Norse seafarers had acquired the necessarily
level of a priori environmental knowledge needed to move in new seascapes and coastal environments.
This interaction model opens the possibility that some of the early Insular finds from Norway may
represent pre-Lindisfarne exploration voyages, carried out by seafarers along the sailing route of



Andreas Hennius, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, Sweden.

Dr. John Ljungkvist, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, Sweden.



Hennius. A, Gustavsson, R. Ljungkvist, J. & Spindler, L. 2018. Whalebone Gaming Pieces: Aspects of Marine Mammal Exploitation in Vendel and Viking Age Scandinavia. European Journal of Archaeology 21 (4), 612–631.

Discussions of pre-Viking trade and production have for many decades focused on products made of
precious metals, glass and, to some degree, iron. This is hardly surprising considering the difficulties in
finding and provenancing products made of organic matter. In this article we examine gaming pieces
made from bone and antler, which are not unusual in Scandinavian burials in the Vendel and Viking
period (c. AD 550–1050). A special emphasis is placed on whalebone pieces that appear to dominate
after around AD 550, signalling a large-scale production and exploitation of North Atlantic whale products.
In combination with other goods such as bear furs, birds of prey, and an increased iron and tar
production, whalebone products are part of an intensified large-scale outland exploitation and indicate
strong, pre-urban trading routes across Scandinavia and Europe some 200 years before the Viking
period and well before the age of the emporia.


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