How the Vikings Inhabited Scotland: A Social Zooarchaeological Approach
By Siobhan Cooke
PhD Dissertation, University of Aberdeen and the University of the Highlands and Islands, 2017
Abstract: The field of human-animal relations is a growing area of research, and with regard to the Viking Age the majority of this research has concerned the Scandinavian homelands. Scotland has been recognised as important in the widespread migration of the Vikings, yet subject to little theoretical enquiry. This thesis represents the first in-depth social zooarchaeological evaluation of the Scottish material to determine to what extent animals played a structuring role in the settlement of Scotland, and the ways in which the Vikings in Scotland understood and negotiated their world. A further aim was to assess the potential of a social zooarchaeological study in understanding Viking identity in Scotland, and to determine the use of animals as social expression in the context of the wider socio-political climate of Scotland.
A review of faunal assemblages from published and unpublished settlement sites across the Norse inhabited regions of Scotland was conducted and a comprehensive database of Viking burials compiled, to characterise the nature of human-animal relationships in Scotland, comparable to the Scandinavian homelands and Late Iron Age Scotland. Data analysis highlighted the complexity of human-animal relationships, illustrating that such relationships were transported, acquired and developed, and for which there was regional variation.
Through applying a theoretical approach, it is concluded that human-animal relations functioned in strategic ways. Thus, this thesis addresses wider questions concerning continuity, interaction, disruption and the importation of tradition into Scandinavian Scotland whereby animals were a means of negotiating and defining human-human relations.
Top Image: The ravens Huginn and Muninn sit on Odin’s shoulders in an illustration from an 18th-century Icelandic manuscript