Landscape agency and the materialisation of power in Viking Age Iceland

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther

Abstract

This paper discusses the trajectories of different power centres in Viking Age Iceland as the result of choices of different ways of dwelling in the Icelandic landscape. The dominant discourse on landscapes in the North Atlantic region emphasizes the vulnerability of northern environments, the severity with which they have been culturally modified, and the intensity of their management by Norse settlers and their descendents. This paper proposes an alternative perspective that places greater emphasis on landscape variability and the intimate entanglement and symmetrical interactions of environmental and human agencies. Natural variability in the Icelandic landscape provided different potentialities for economic and social capital, which were used in different ways by the aspiring Icelandic elite. Drawing on examples from recently excavated sites in different regions of Iceland, including Vatnsfjörður, Hofstaðir, Hrísbrú, Reykholt and Hólar, this paper traces how selective interactions with the diverse topographies and resources offered by the Icelandic landscape enabled Viking-age and medieval Icelanders to create different networks, and to acquire different materials and objects, which were used, sometimes in innovative ways, to materialise and signify power. The entanglement of the aspiring elite with different parts of the Icelandic landscape lead to highly variable expressions of power and deeply embedded localized power structures – possibly one of the factors that lead to the civil wars that characterised power politics in Iceland in the 13th century.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2015
EventAnnual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists - University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Sep 20155 Sep 2015
http://eaaglasgow2015.com/

Conference

ConferenceAnnual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityGlasgow
Period2/09/155/09/15
Internet address

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civil war
social capital
Medieval
vulnerability
politics
trajectory
topography
resource
economics
material
dwelling

Cite this

Milek, K. B. (2015). Landscape agency and the materialisation of power in Viking Age Iceland. Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Landscape agency and the materialisation of power in Viking Age Iceland. / Milek, Karen Beatrice.

2015. Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther

Milek, KB 2015, 'Landscape agency and the materialisation of power in Viking Age Iceland' Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Glasgow, United Kingdom, 2/09/15 - 5/09/15, .
Milek KB. Landscape agency and the materialisation of power in Viking Age Iceland. 2015. Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Glasgow, United Kingdom.
Milek, Karen Beatrice. / Landscape agency and the materialisation of power in Viking Age Iceland. Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Glasgow, United Kingdom.
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