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An island in the middle of an island: On cult, laws and authority in Viking Age Gotland

An island in the middle of an island: On cult, laws and authority in Viking Age Gotland

By Nanouschka Myberg

From Ephesos to Dalecarlia: Reflections on body, space and time in medieval and early modern Europe, eds. Regner, E., von Heijne, C., Kitzler Åhfeldt, L. and Kjellström, A. (The Museum of National Antiquities, Stockholm, 2009)

Introduction: The present-day small village of Roma on Gotland in the Baltic Sea was the physical and symbolic centre of the island in the Iron Age and into Medieval times. The Cistercian monastery and the meeting place of the island’s assembly, the All-thing, two well-known features of medieval Roma, have often been taken as indications of an egalitarian and non-stratified society on Gotland during the Viking Age and Middle Ages. It is here proposed, however, that an older Iron Age cult site at Roma eventually came under the control of a chieftain or major landowner who introduced Christianity, founded a monastery and inaugurated the thing in Roma in Viking or early medieval times, just as his equals did elsewhere in Scandinavia. While the later medieval thing was probably located near the monastery, an alternative site on a small island is suggested for the older All-thing.

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