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Twilight of the gods? The ‘dust veil event’ of AD 536 in critical perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2015

Bo Gräslund
Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Uppsala, Box 626, SE-751 26 Uppsala, Sweden (Email:
Neil Price
Department of Archaeology, University of Aberdeen, St Mary's, Elphinstone Road, Aberdeen AB24 3UF, UK (Email:; and Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


The popular notion of social collapse consequent on natural catastrophe is here elegantly disentangled in a study of the dark summer of AD 536. Leaving aside the question of its cause, the authors show there is good scientific evidence for a climatic downturn, contemporary with good archaeological evidence for widespread disruption of settlement and population displacement in the northern latitudes. They then navigate through the shifting shadows of myth, and emerge with a welcome prize: strong circumstantial reasons for recognising that this widespread horror, like so many others, did leave its imprint on Scandinavian poetry and sculpture.

Research article
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd. 2012

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