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The Birka Warrior: the material culture of a martial society
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This is a study of martial material culture in the context of the Viking Age warrior of Birka, Sweden. The aim is to establish the role, function and affiliation of the Birka warrior and thereby place Birka on the power-political map of the 10th century. The study is based on the excavations of the fortified structures, particularly the Garrison, at the trading post of Birka as well as the extensive remains of material culture deriving from these investigations. A starting hypothesis is that an analysis of material culture constitutes a way of mapping social structures and that style and iconography reflect cultural groups, contacts and loyalties.

Based on the case studies of six papers, the synthesis deals with questions of the work and world view of the warriors, as too their relation to their contemporary counterparts in eastern and western Europe. Questions are raised concerning the value and function of symbols in a martial context where material culture reflects rank, status and office. In defining the Birka warrior’s particular stylistic expression, a tool is created and used in the search for contacts and affiliations reflected through the distribution patterns. The results show close contacts with the eastern trading posts located on the rivers Volga and Dnjepr in Ancient Russia.

It is stated that these Rus’ trading posts, essentially inhabited by Northmen, shared a common cultural expression that was maintained throughout a vast area by exceptionally close contacts. It is suggested that a particular stylistic expression developed in these Rus’ trading places containing elements of mainly Scandinavian, Steppe nomadic and Byzantine origin.

In conclusion, the results of this thesis show that the warriors from Birka’s Garrison had a share in the martial development of contemporary Europe but with their own particular traits. Close relations with the eastern trade route and contact with the powerful Byzantine Empire were enjoyed. As a pointer for future research, it is wondered what organisational form the close-knit structure of the Rus’ trading posts actually took, keeping the subsequent guilds of medieval Europe in mind. The fall of the Garrison, as of Birka, corresponds with the establishment of Christianity in the region. Such changes were not limited to Central Sweden but part of a greater process where a new political structure was developing, better anchored in local concerns.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för arkeologi och antikens kultur , 2006. , 120 p.
Series
Theses and papers in scientific archaeology, ISSN 1400-7835 ; 8
Keyword [en]
Birka, martial society, warrior, material culture, distribution patterns, cultural expression, Rus’, Viking Age, Early Middle Age, iconography, style
National Category
Archaeology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-1272ISBN: 91-89338-15-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-1272DiVA: diva2:189759
Public defence
2006-10-20, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 A, Stockholm, 10:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2006-09-26 Created: 2006-09-26Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The study of three mounts from Vendel using laser scanning techniques and surface structure analysis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The study of three mounts from Vendel using laser scanning techniques and surface structure analysis
1998 In: Laborativ Arkeologi, ISSN 1101-7848, Vol. 10-11, 81-84 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-22927 (URN)
Note
Part of urn:nbn:se:su:diva-1272Available from: 2006-09-26 Created: 2006-09-26Bibliographically approved
2. A group of Viking Age sword chapes reflecting the political geography of the time
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A group of Viking Age sword chapes reflecting the political geography of the time
2002 In: Journal of Nordic Archaeological Science, ISSN 1650-1519, Vol. 13, 103-112 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-22928 (URN)
Note
Part of urn:nbn:se:su:diva-1272Available from: 2006-09-26 Created: 2006-09-26Bibliographically approved
3. Rus', Varangians and Birka Warriors
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Rus', Varangians and Birka Warriors
2009 (English)In: The Martial Society: Aspects on Warriors, Fortifications and Social Change from the Bronze Age to the 18th Century, Stockholm: Archaeological Research Laboratory, Stockholm University , 2009, 159-178 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Archaeological Research Laboratory, Stockholm University, 2009
Series
Theses and papers in archaeology. B, ISSN 1102-1195 ; 11
National Category
Archaeology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-22929 (URN)978-91-89338-19-7 (ISBN)
Available from: 2006-09-26 Created: 2006-09-26 Last updated: 2013-07-11Bibliographically approved
4. The Oriental Mounts from Birka's Garrison: An expression of warrior rank and status
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Oriental Mounts from Birka's Garrison: An expression of warrior rank and status
2006 In: Antikvariskt arkiv, ISSN 0083-6737, Vol. 81, 1-101 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-22930 (URN)
Note
Part of urn:nbn:se:su:diva-1272Available from: 2006-09-26 Created: 2006-09-26Bibliographically approved
5. Borre style metalwork in the material culture of the Birka warriors: An apotropaic symbol
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Borre style metalwork in the material culture of the Birka warriors: An apotropaic symbol
2006 (English)In: Fornvännen, ISSN 0015-7813, E-ISSN 1404-9430, Vol. 101, 312-322 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The use of the Borre style in the dress and equipment of the Viking Period warriorsat Birka is presented and discussed. The absence of Borre style metalwork onblade weapons evokes thoughts on the symbolic meaning of the style within amartial society. An apotropaic symbolic role for the style is suggested.

National Category
Archaeology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-22931 (URN)
Available from: 2006-09-26 Created: 2006-09-26 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved
6. Diet and status in Birka: Analysis of stable isotopes and grave goods
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Diet and status in Birka: Analysis of stable isotopes and grave goods
Manuscript (Other academic)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-22932 (URN)
Note
Part of urn:nbn:se:su:diva-1272Available from: 2006-09-26 Created: 2006-09-26 Last updated: 2010-01-13Bibliographically approved

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