Can houses die? The death and burial of houses in Iron and Viking Age Scandinavia

In July 2016 my article  Commemorating dwelling. The death and burial of houses in Iron and Viking Age Scandinavia was published in the European Journal of Archaeology.

The article was part of a special issue of European Journal of Archaeology, guest edited by Prof. Howard Williams. The topic of the special issue is Mortuary Citations: Death and Memory in the Viking World, and you can read more about the project on Howard Williams’ blog. I again want to thank Howard for inviting me to contribute to the issue, and his many valuable suggestions to the text!


Screenshot from online version of article by Apollon about the ArchDwell project and my research

Apollon, the Research Magazine of the University of Oslo, published this great feature of the article and the ArchDwell Project here. Thanks, Apollon!

And the original article is now up to 900 views and downloads!


The beginning of something new: ArchDwell

Starting the research project ‘Archaeology of Dwelling’

In December 2015, I discovered that I have been lucky enough to have been awarded a so-called FRIPRO Mobility Grant financed by the Norwegian Research Council and Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions’ COFUND scheme. The post doc grant entails a two-year research visit abroad, in my case, at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge University, and a final year at my home institution, the Dept. of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo.

Additionally, I had already been awarded an internal position at my department, a temporary position as Associate Professor. I was extremely pleased when the two offers could both be realised, with a year as Associate Professor in Oslo first, and subsequently a three-year post doc position divided between Cambridge and Oslo.

About the project: ArchDwell
Archaeology of Dwelling. Architecture, Household, and Social Structure in Scandinavia through Deep Time (1800BCE to 1000CE)

The research project springs from an apparent paradox: How and why could a specific form of dwelling – the three-aisled longhouse – survive in Scandinavia for almost three thousand years, from the early Bronze Age throughout the Iron Age; simultaneously as Scandinavian societies underwent ground-breaking social, ideological, and political changes? ArchDwell is concerned with fundamental questions in the discipline of archaeology and the humanities/social sciences at large, namely the relationships between continuity and break, between agency and structure, and the relationship between space – herein social space expressed through the built environment – and time.

A crucial background to the project is that traditionally, studies of both the Bronze and Iron Ages have been directed towards top-down, socio-political topics: e.g. the emergence of chiefdoms and kingdoms, expressions of power in the form of monumental grave mounds, long-distance trade, warrior ideology and cosmology. Sporadic attention has been directed toward the domestic sphere. Yet, I argue, it is everyday life and everyday practice that creates the social world. Contrary to approaches that place the house outside and beyond the socio-political sphere, I argue that practices and spatial order of the house are intrinsic, entangled elements in the production of hierarchies, social identities, and cosmologies. Therefore, an important motive for the post-doctoral research is to explore how later Scandinavian prehistory, known for its chieftains, warrior ideology, and idealization of masculine ideals, looks from the point of view of the house.

My PhD work may in this context represent a ‘proof of concept’ for ArchDwell. Although the PhD research centred on a specific architectural element of the three-aisled longhouses – the door – I was able to, through comparative analysis of more than a hundred buildings from the late Iron Age (550-1050CE), generate much wider understanding of social structure, gender, ritual and mortuary practices, and mentalities. The post-doctoral project will extend the proof of concept to a longer time scale in order to expand existing knowledge not only of later prehistory, but also more generally of the dynamics of change and stasis in relation to built environments.

Through this blog, I hope to disseminate not only ongoing analyses, preliminary results, etc. from my research, but also thoughts on academic writing, archaeology and research in general. Stay tuned.