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Urban Networks and Arctic Outlands: Craft Specialists and Reindeer Antler in Viking Towns

  • Steven P. Ashby (a1), Ashley N. Coutu (a1) (a2) (a3) and Søren M. Sindbæk (a3)
Abstract

This paper presents the results of the use of a minimally destructive biomolecular technique to explore the resource networks behind one of the first specialized urban crafts in early mediaeval northern Europe: the manufacture of composite combs of deer antler. The research incorporates the largest application of species identification by peptide mass fingerprinting (ZooMS) to a mediaeval artefact assemblage: specifically to collections of antler combs, comb manufacturing waste, and raw antler from Ribe, Aarhus, and Aggersborg. It documents the early use of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) antler, from the 780s AD at the latest, presenting the earliest unambiguous evidence for exchange-links between urban markets in the southern North Sea region and the Scandinavian Peninsula. The results demonstrate that the common conceptual distinction between urban hinterlands and long-distance trade conceals a vital continuity. Long-range networks were vital to urban activities from the first appearance of towns in this part of the world, preceding the historically documented maritime expansion of the Viking Age. We consequently suggest that urbanism is more appropriately defined and researched in terms of network dynamics than as a function of circumscribed catchment areas or hinterlands.

Cet article présente les résultats obtenus grâce à l'utilisation d'une technique biomoléculaire faiblement destructive pour examiner les réseaux de ressources derrière un des premiers métiers urbains spécialisés en Europe du Nord au début du Moyen-Âge: la manufacture de peignes composites en bois de renne. l'étude inclut la plus vaste application de la méthode d'identification d'espèces par séquençage partiel de peptides (ZooMS) sur un ensemble d'artefacts médiévaux; plus particulièrement des collections de peignes en bois, des déchets de fabrication de peignes et des ramures brutes de Ribe, Aarhus et Aggersborg. Elle situe le début de l'utilisation de bois de renne (Rangifer tarandus) au plus tard vers les années 780 av. J. C., et présente les plus anciennes preuves explicites de liens d'échange entre les marchés urbains de la région méridionale de la Mer du Nord et la péninsule scandinave. Les résultats montrent que la distinction conceptuelle habituelle entre les arrière-pays urbains et le commerce à longue distance dissimule une continuité essentielle. Les réseaux à longue portée étaient vitaux pour les activités urbaines dès la première apparition de villes dans cette partie du monde, précédant l'expansion maritime documentée historiquement de l'époque Viking. Nous suggérons donc qu'il faut plutôt définir et étudier l'urbanisme par rapport aux dynamiques des réseaux que de le considérer comme une fonction de zones de desserte circonscrites ou d'arrière-pays. Translation by Isabelle Gerges

Dieser Beitrag präsentiert die Resultate minimaldestruktiver biomolekularer Techniken, um die Rohstoffnetzwerke hinter einem der ersten spezialisierten städtischen Handwerke im frühmittelalterlichen Nordeuropa zu untersuchen: der Herstellung von Kompositkämmen aus Hirschgeweih. Die Studie umfasst die bislang umfangreichste Anwendung einer Artenidentifizierung mit Hilfe von Peptidmassenfingerprints (ZooMS) an einer mittelalterlichen Artefaktgruppe, insbesondere an Sammlungen von Hirschgeweihkämmen, Abfällen von Kammproduktion sowie Geweihrohmaterial aus Ribe, Aarhus und Aggersborg. Sie dokumentiert die frühe Nutzung von Geweihen des Ren (Rangifer tarandus) spätestens ab 780 A.D. und präsentiert die ältesten eindeutigen Nachweise von Austauschbeziehungen zwischen städtischen Märkten im südlichen Nordseegebiet und der Skandinavischen Halbinsel. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass das verbreitete Konzept einer Trennung von städtischem Hinterland und Fernhandel eine lebendige Kontinuität verdeckt. Weitreichende Netzwerke waren vom ersten Auftauchen von Städten in diesem Teil der Welt unverzichtbar für urbane Aktivitäten und sie gingen der historisch überlieferten maritimen Expansion der Wikingerzeit voraus. Daher schlagen wir vor, das das Städtewesen besser im Sinne von Netzwerkdynamiken als über umrissene Einzugsbereiche oder Peripherien zu definieren und zu erforschen. Translation by Heiner Schwarzberg

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Corresponding author
[email: steve.ashby@york.ac.uk]
[email: ashley.coutu@york.ac.uk]
[email: farksms@cas.au.dk]
References
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European Journal of Archaeology
  • ISSN: 1461-9571
  • EISSN: 1741-2722
  • URL: /core/journals/european-journal-of-archaeology
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