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The Viking Phenomenon: Paradigms, Parameters, and Progress

The Viking Phenomenon: Paradigms, Parameters, and Progress

Lecture by Neil Price

Held online by The Society of Antiquaries on April 8, 2021

Abstract: In December 2015, the Swedish Research Council made an unprecedented investment in archaeology, in the form of a £5 million grant for ten years of pure research into the origins of what we call the Viking Age. Based at Uppsala University under the speaker’s direction, the project is running 2016-25 and revisits the fundamental questions at the heart of this critical period of Eurasian history, beginning with why the Scandinavian peoples began moving into the wider world on such a scale, and why this occurred in the latter half of the eighth century. Rejecting the illusory notion of a ‘smoking gun’ or any single trigger factor, we are exploring the longer time depth of the Viking phenomenon further back into the late Iron Age (following Nordic terminology), the varied ethnicities and identities of ‘Vikings’, and the structures of economy and politics that underpinned their developing diaspora.

The project employs researchers from several countries, and includes a major publication programme for the boat-grave complexes from Valsgärde in Sweden and Salme in Estonia. Other strands examine Viking ‘armies’ in the comparative context of piracy research; systems of enslavement; pre-Viking trading and raiding patterns; and long-distance connections focussing on the routes from the Baltic as far east as the Asian Steppe and beyond. This talk outlines the project, and in particular the framework established within it for how the period should be approached, its paradigms and parameters of study. As we near the halfway point, progress to date will be reviewed, and preliminary conclusions presented.

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Neil Price is Professor of archaeology at Uppsala University. Click here to view his university webpage.

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