The past few weeks have been incredibly busy for this Viking Specialist- largely because I am helping to paint a house, not really anything cool such as a conference or better yet a dig. Oh well, such is life when you are in post-thesis submission purgatorio [limbo just sounds like a dance to me so here’s my nod to Dante for the day].
As I work one of the things that I consider is the concept of self-identification. I study medieval identity which very rarely acknowledges the presence of a recognizable individual, even though the material studied is often composed of the efforts many individuals. Anthropologists and sociologists working with modern populations are taught to recognize the amount of agency inherent to the individual as this can effect the choices made in creating and maintaining identity during the course of negotiating the social world. For all of this clarity in discussing the individual subject as a distinct “other” when it comes to viewing one’s own position within this network it can become complicated largely because it is very easy for living populations to recognize that identity is practiced on several levels of interaction. For instance as an American trained anthropologist I self-identify as a historical anthropologist. This is the approach I take to my research and is involved in what type of evidence I consider suitable. However as my pg degrees are from a British institution in archaeology which has resulted in a no few number of discussions about the distinct nature of British archaeology between myself and other researchers while abroad. There many see me solely as an archaeologist and see archaeology as being mutually exclusive from anthropology rather than seeing anthropology as encompassing archaeology along with biological, linguistical and modern sociocultural considerations of humans as a species. This is a debate long-standing if you are not already familiar with it and I am far from the first in voicing its presence.
Anyways included in this installment is a diagram I produced for my MA dissertation showing Maes Howe, Orkney, and some of its more famous runic inscriptions.
Hello again intrepid reader,
This morning as I have been sorting through older files on my hard drive in a fit of post-submission tidying I came across the folder of material I collected for an archaeological graphics class during my Master’s year. I had an interesting time working on this piece. To set the scene I had full choice on what I wanted to portray- so I chose hogback sculptural monuments. I’ve been interested in them a long time but since I grew up in California I had never had any opportunity to see one in person. With some research and a little negotiation with English Heritage and the site owners I found a poorly documented piece in North Yorkshire I could use. It was hidden in later medieval chapel constructed by the Conyer Family [many of whom were still under their brass funerary plaques in the floor] along with a wide variety of sculptural pieces that the 17th and 18th century inhabitants of the site had deemed to be out of fashion. This chapel was well off the beaten path which helped to contribute to the lack of reference in publication. All of the hogbacks within are found within Cramp’s Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Sculpture.
Hogbacks are largely dated to the late 10th to the 11th century occurring in northern England and portions of Scotland including Papa Westray, Orkney. In England this was on time controlled by the northern Norse kings of Jorvik [modern York]. By the 12th century hogbacks have evolved into Romanesque grave covers in Scotland with a few indications of their previous pagan aspects. Very very few actually remain in their original settings, particularly those which had other associated elements. The pictorial hogback found at Conyer Chapel certainly has been moved and at one time had been built into the foundation walls of later additions to the small chapel. In order to accomplish this the carvings on the top of the stone emulating a longhouse roof were removed, as were portions of the gripping beasts located on the ends. The hogback I was working on is #33 on the sketch map. Its actually 1.7m long and although I had permission to move it if I needed I’m not actually certain that the four people present could have shifted that block of sandstone safely.
This stone illustrates a portion of a scene associated with the god Tyr.
I’ve put off creating a blog for a while- mostly because I had a doctoral thesis to work on- but now that its in I can focus on the everyday world outside of the academic campus. I can read books that have absolutely nothing to do with my research again without feeling that lingering guilt about how time was being effectively used. First world problems, but personal ones nonetheless.
I’ve also begun my first non-medieval work of research since I was completing my BA- assisting in the location of local photographs of a WW1 soldier buried in Belgium. I enjoy the hunt for information, I suppose I wouldn’t have decided to go into archaeology and anthropology if I didn’t. More to come in the future.
For now though here is a photo of a sequence of churches at Kirkjuboer in the Faroe Islands. In the front of the shot is the last wall of the earliest acknowledged church, with the later medieval church and the ruined cathedral of Mururin in the background. The cathedral is covered by protective sheet metal to slow the destruction of the building further.
The view from Dyrnaes farm. Narsaq, Southern Greenland.