Death and Burial in the Age of the Vikings

ARC00090M

Module leader: Steve Ashby

Overview

This module surveys the diverse array of Viking burial practices, across Scandinavia and the regions in which Scandinavians raided and settled between the eighth and eleventh centuries, including the British Isles, continental Europe, and the north Atlantic. It explores the meanings inherent in funerary rites, and sets burials in their landscape, settlement, religious and ideological contexts. The module examines the significance of the material culture employed in burial rites, including both grave goods and funerary monuments. The role of funerary practices in conveying messages about status and
identity will also be explored, as will the manner in which burials mediated processes of religious change. The module is interdisciplinary in focus, and integrates the funerary record with documentary sources, and approaches from archaeological science, including osteological analysis, and stable isotope evidence for diet and migration, to enable us to utilize the funerary record as a means of exploring Viking lifeways, as well as understanding death as a rite of passage. The module will explore key Viking burial sites including Jelling and Trelleborg (Denmark), Oseberg and Gokstad (Norway), Staraja Ladoga (Russia), Repton, Heath Wood and Ridgeway Hill (England), Dublin
(Ireland), Balladoole and Ballateare (Isle of Man), Scar and Westness (Scotland), and Brattahlíð (Greenland).

Aims

  • To critically examine the evidence for, and interpretations of burial practice in the Viking world 
  • To develop research, analytical and presentation skills

Learning Outcomes

Subject content

By the end of the module, students will be able to:

  • Recognise the diverse nature of Viking burial practices in Scandinavia, the British Isles, continental Europe and the north Atlantic
  • Demonstrate awareness of the diversity of sources used to examine burial practices, including those drawn from documentary analysis and archaeological science, as well as the material remains of funerary practices
  • Critically evaluate the evidence related to death and burial in the Viking world
  • Discuss the ways in which funerary practices were employed to convey messages about status and identity

Academic and graduate skills

By the end of the module, students will:

  • Have developed their writing skills through assessed essays
  • Have developed their skills in verbal communication, by discussing complex evidence and arguments in seminar presentations and group discussion

 

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