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Commemorating Dwelling: The Death and Burial of Houses in Iron and Viking Age Scandinavia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Marianne Hem Eriksen*
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo, Norway

Abstract

Current debates on the ontology of objects and matter have reinvigorated archaeological theoretical discourse and opened a multitude of perspectives on understanding the past, perspectives which have only just begun to be explored in scholarship on Late Iron Age Scandinavia. This article is a critical discussion of the sporadic tradition of covering longhouses and halls with burial mounds in the Iron and Viking ages. After having stood as social markers in the landscape for decades or even centuries, some dwellings were transformed into mortuary monuments — material and mnemonic spaces of the dead. Yet, was it the house or a deceased individual that was being interred and memorialized? Through an exploration of buildings that have been overlain by burial mounds, and by drawing on theoretical debates about social biographies and the material turn, this article illuminates mortuary citations between houses and bodies in Late Iron Age Scandinavia. Ultimately, I question the assumed anthropocentricity of the practice of burying houses. Rather, I suggest that the house was interwoven with the essence of the household and that the transformation of the building was a mortuary citation not necessarily of an individual, but of the entire, entangled social meshwork of the house.

Les débats actuels sur l'ontologie des objets et sur la matière ont ravivé les discussions théoriques en archéologie et ouvert nombre de perspectives sur le passé, des perspectives qui ont à peine commencé à être l'objet de recherches concernant l’âge du Fer récent en Scandinavie. L'article présenté ici est un examen critique de la tradition, qui se manifeste de façon intermittente, de recouvrir les maisons longues et les ‘manoirs’ (halls) de tertres funéraires pendant l’âge du Fer et l’époque Viking. Après avoir servi de marqueurs sociaux dans le paysage pendant des décennies ou même des siècles, certaines habitations furent transformées en monuments funéraires et remplirent un rôle mnémotechnique, rappelant l'espace dédié aux morts. Mais est-ce la maison ou le défunt que l'on enterre et honoreUn examen des structures d'habitat recouvertes par des tertres funéraires, ainsi qu'un recours aux discussions théoriques sur la biographie sociale et la matérialité, nous permet d’éclaircir les citations entre maisons et corps en Scandinavie à la fin de l’âge du Fer. En fin de compte c'est l'interprétation anthropocentrique de la pratique d'ensevelir les maisons qui est mise en cause. Ici il s'agit plutôt de suggérer que la maison était entremêlée avec l'essentiel du foyer et que la transformation des structures d'habitat était une forme de citation funéraire non pas d'un individu mais du réseau entier que la maison représentait. Translation by Madeleine Hummler

Die aktuellen Diskussionen über die Ontologie der Gegenstände und der Materien haben den Diskurs in der archäologischen Theorie erneut und eine Vielfalt von Perspektiven über die Vergangenheit erschlossen. Diese Sichtweisen haben erst begonnen, in den Untersuchungen der späten Eisenzeit in Skandinavien aufzutauchen. In diesem Artikel wird die in der späten Eisenzeit und Wikingerzeit sporadisch dokumentierte Tradition Langhäuser und Edelsitze mit einem Grabhügel zu überdecken kritisch angesehen. Nachdem diese Häuser Jahrzehnt- oder sogar Jahrhundert-lang als Landschaftsmerkmale dienten, wurden einige Wohnsitze in Grabhügel umgestaltet, die als materielle Gedächtnisstütze des Bereiches der Toten galten. Ist es aber das Haus oder der Tote, den man so beerdigen und ehren wollte? Durch die Untersuchung von Wohnstrukturen, die mit Grabhügel überdeckt wurden und mit Hinsicht auf die theoretischen Diskussionen über die soziale Biografie und Materialität wird hier versucht, die Zitierung von Häusern und Körper in der späten Eisenzeit und Wikingerzeit in Skandinavien zu erleuchten. Schlussendlich wird unsere anthropozentrische Einstellung gegenüber der Sitte Häuser zu begraben infrage gestellt. Hier wird betont, dass das Haus eher mit der Wesentlichkeit des Haushaltes verknüpft ist und dass die Umgestaltung der Gebäude eine Art von Zitierung war, aber nicht unbedingt eines individuellen Toten, sondern des gesamten, verknüpften sozialen Netzwerkes eines Hauses. Translation by Madeleine Hummler

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Article
Copyright
Copyright © 2016 the European Association of Archaeologists 

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