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"The Farm as a Social Arena” focusses on the social life of farms from prehistory until c. 1700 AD, based mainly, but not exclusively, on archaeological sources. All over Europe people have lived on farms, at least from the Bronze Age onwards. The papers presented here discuss farms in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Germany. Whether isolated or in hamlets or villages, farms have been important elements of the social structure for thousands of years. Farms were workplace and home for their inhabitants, women, men and children, and perhaps extended families – frequently sharing their space with domestic animals. Sometimes important events such as feasts, religious services and funerals also took place here. The household thus became a multi-faceted arena, which brought together a variety of community members that both shaped – and were shaped by – its social dynamics. At times work and other activities defined by the social arena that was the farm even affected long-term developments of society as such.
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Liv Helga Dommasnes
Doris Gutsmiedl-Schümann
Alf Tore Hommedal
The Farm as a Social Arena
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Introduction: e farm as a social arena ..................................... 9
Liv Helga Dommasnes
Sheep, dog and man
Multi-species becomings leading to new ways of living in Early Bronze Age
longhouses on Jæren, Norway ........................................... 23
Kristin Armstrong Oma
Unlocking identities
Keys and locks from Iron Age farms in eastern Sweden ...................... 53
Emma Nordström
Understandings – burial practice, identity and social ties
e Horvnes Iron Age burials, a peephole into the farming society of
Helgeland, North-Norway .............................................. 77
Birgitta Berglund
Individual lifeworlds and social structured societies in Merovingian
settlements from the Munich Gravel Plain ................................ 105
Doris Gutsmiedl-Schümann
One thousand years of tradition and change on two West-Norwegian
farms AD 200–1200 .................................................. 127
Liv Helga Dommasnes and Alf Tore Hommedal
A shattered farm: Changes in making space from pagan to
Christian Norway ..................................................... 171
Kristin Armstrong Oma
House, farmyard and landscape as social arena in a time of transition ........ 191
Helge Sørheim
Between chiefdom and kingdom
A case study of the Iron Age farm Borg in Lofoten, Arctic Norway .......... 219
Inger Storli
Constructing society in Viking Age Iceland: Rituals and power .............. 245
Timothy Carlisle and Karen Milek
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e social structures of High Medieval rural settlements
An example from the Northern Rhineland, Germany ...................... 273
Timo Bremer
“Being a vicar at the end of the world
e priesthood at Alstahaug vicarage in North-Norway presents
its identity through the household and daily life before AD 1750 ............. 297
Birgitta Berglund
Authors and editors ................................................... 323
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Introduction: e farm as a social arena
Liv Helga Dommasnes
During the last decades, social structure has been one of the most central research
themes in archaeology. A gradual shi from focus on the prehistoric nds and monu-
ments as such to the social life that they were parts of has developed within dierent
academic traditions, combined with an increased awareness of the importance of
using varied theoretical approaches.
As a consequence of this shi, the point of departure for formulating research
approaches has also changed, from archaeological nd categories to questions gener-
ated from theoretical considerations. is development has brought archaeology a
long way forward into the common domain of the humanities. In such a process,
something can be lost, however. In the case of the farm, the fact that it is not only
an archaeological category, but was also a (pre)historic one, making up the frame-
work of most peoples lives and potential arenas of developments shaping history, has
somehow fallen out of focus.
e background of this volume is a Norwegian research network focussing on
the social arena aspect of the farm. Studies from Norway therefore dominate this
volume, supplied with case studies from Sweden, Iceland and Germany, reminding
us that farms were to be found under very dierent climatic and social conditions
during both prehistoric and medieval times.
Why focus on the farm rather than on social structure? is is not a question of
either – or. We need both, but in our opinion the farm where people did in fact live,
is a good starting point – the farm was what Gutsmiedl-Schümann in this volume
refers to as peoples “lifeworld” (aer Schütz/Luckmann ). Such was probably the
case in most settled agricultural pre-urban societies. Starting here therefore brings
us close to the people and allows us to adopt a bottom up rather than a top down
perspective, following processes instead of starting with the results. is approach is
prominent in most of the papers in this volume.
Standpoint theories, which argue that knowledge is always socially situated, serve
as a general theoretical background for the project. Some of these theories also claim
that by taking on the standpoint of the underprivileged, one will be able to discover
aspects of society that are invisible from top positions, either because they are consid-
ered irrelevant or because they represent experiences unknown to the upper classes
(e. g. Harding ). Related to standpoint theories is the approach oen referred to
as “maintenance archaeology”. Maintenance activities here refer to the many daily
tasks that are needed to keep life going and uphold social stability. Although the term
refers to practices rather than space, many such tasks were performed in the home
sphere, e. g. on the farm, and were oen referred to as domestic, and therefore unim-
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Liv Helga Dommasnes
portant. Domestic labour provides food and cloth, healthcare and protection against
the weather, and has to be considered as essential for all societies. In the modern
world, however, the main criterion of value is money, and as domestic work has oen
been unpaid, it has dropped out of focus in Western scholarship.
Some such tasks, oen associated with women, have been found to have struc-
tural functions, however. First and foremost they have to do with upholding relations
between people. ey oen entail specialised knowledge, and may have the poten-
tial to aect the long-term development of society (Gonzáles-Marcén et al. , ;
Montón-Subías ). Studying social dynamics on a small scale, it is claimed, has
the potential to reveal previously unrecognised relations between the trivial activities
of everyday life and important changes in history. We think that farms will most
probably have been places where many such changes were set in motion.
What is a farm?
Common to social units called farms everywhere in the world, is that they produce
food, by cultivation, or by keeping animals for meat and for secondary products as
for example milk, wool and hides, and in some cases for their labour. Without these
ingredients it would not be a farm. Most oen we will nd both cultivation and
animals. In many parts of Norway animal husbandry will be more important than
cultivation, due to climatic conditions. For the same reason, northern farms need
houses for animals and crops as well as for people, and land for grazing the animals
and for cultivation.
In addition to being family seats, the Nordic farm in prehistory and into modern
times was home and workplace to the people who lived there, owners or tenants
with family, relatives, guests, hired handicra specialists, farm workers and slaves,
crossing social divisions. It was also where children were socialised and educated and
where old and sick people were cared for, and the venue for most of their social life
from everyday life to feasts, funerals and religious cult.
No wonder then that the farm had a place in mental landscapes. In Old Norse
cosmology the universe was conceptualised as three concentric circles. In the inner
circle lived the gods, men in the middle and in the outer circle there were various
dangerous species like giants, and chaos ruled. In all three parts of this universe there
were farms. Historian of religion, Gro Steinsland, has suggested (, –) that
the Old Norse farm was organised along the same lines as the universe. e high seat
(which was reserved for the couple owning the farm) is equalled with the home of the
gods. e farmyard and inelds were areas where humans and gods communicated
through cult and rites, while the outelds were frightening and dangerous.
In sum, the farm was a safe haven in a dangerous world. In sparingly populated
areas like most of the Scandinavian peninsula, this was denitely the social unit that
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Introduction: e farm as a social arena
most people would relate to, probably more so than in densely populated regions as
for example central Europe, where villages were common. – Most Norwegian farms
were quite remote1 (cf. also the front cover of this volume). Even if some farms would
be parts of larger settlements, the nearest neighbour outside the farm would still be
quite a distance away. ere would be very little infrastructure, and travelling could
be dicult, especially during winters. Where people live far apart from each other,
they have to be self-sucient. In northern Scandinavia, this has been the rule for
people living on isolated farms in the countryside until the last century.
e farm was so central in people’s minds that when some people in early medi-
eval times started to live in market-places or small towns, the term followed the peo-
ple, who moved to their bygård (literally: city farm). Until recently, almost everybody
living in rural areas had to live on a farm, including civil servants and professionals.
Even in modern times, a rural vicar or doctor would therefore have part of their
income from the farms where they lived (“the vicar’s farm” and “the doctor’s farm”).
Such farms were normally owned by the state and worked by a tenant, but could also
be privately owned, as exemplied in Berglund’s paper on Petter Dass in this volume.
e knowledge of the need for self-reliance that is reected in these arrangements has
been an integrated part of research into the Norwegian farm from the very beginning.
Perhaps because of their position in mental as well as practical life, farms have
also been important elements in the identities of people. Even today, most Norwegian
family names are originally farm names, and until recently, country people introduc-
ing themselves always mentioned which farm they currently lived on.
Former research on the farm in Norway
e oldest literary sources describing farms and farm life in Norway/Scandinavia
were written down in the Middle Ages (th and th centuries). ese were mainly
sagas and skaldic poetry, purporting to describe life during the Viking Age, but there
is no consensus about their value as sources to this earlier period. Old Norse laws
(“Landscape laws”) which were also written down in Scandinavia during the Middle
Ages, although they were probably functioning from the late Viking Age onwards,
have information about farms, rights and regulations and rules of inheritance, among
other things.
ese were the main sources that the th century scholars and writers had to
Viking Age society and its structure. Archaeology was then in its very beginning as
an academic discipline, and theoretical approaches to material culture as a source of
information were not very developed. Even so, the idea of the farm as the basic unit
in the early agricultural society of Norway goes back to this era, and is still accepted
1 In post-medieval times primarily, farms could be divided into two or more smaller parts
(bruk), making room for more than one family with separate households.
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Liv Helga Dommasnes
by the majority of scholars in the eld. e farm has since had a central place in
the grand narratives of Norway, as a basis for food production, as a family seat and
sometimes as seats of chiefs and later, kings, based among other things, on the above
mentioned medieval sources.
e early research was dominated by historians. Archaeological investigations
started with excavations of a few house-sites during the rst decade of the th cen-
tury. In , the newly founded Meeting of Norwegian Archaeologists made a list of
priorities for future archaeological investigations. On top of that list was the Iron Age
farm with its houses, fences and elds.
When the  projects were planned, Norway was still a society of small, inde-
pendent farmers, many of whom sympathised with the socialist/social democratic
movement now growing stronger all over Europe. In the Norwegian academic setting,
the s have been characterised as the decade of the farmer’s sons, meaning that
the sons of farmers now found their way into university in increasing numbers. ere
was still only one university, situated in the capital, Oslo, and we may suspect that
some of the rural students felt a bit lost in this well-established academic atmosphere.
In archaeological studies of the farm, however, some of them found a subject where
their rural backgrounds were in fact an advantage. Many of these archaeologists kept
close ties to their childhood communities, and contributed to the development of a
strong tradition of publishing local prehistory. e rst doctoral thesis based on an
archaeological investigation of a farm was published in  (Hagen ).
e work continued aer World War II, now with an ambition to investigate the
farm as part of a larger social structure. At this time, the farm was still conceived
as a men’s world. So was academia. Women of the past were almost invisible. e
women of the present had to wait for another generation. During the s, however,
the daughters of the middle class found their way into the universities, where they
became acquainted with standpoint theories like Marxism and feminism. Realis-
ing that there was still no place for them in the narratives of the distant past, the
small but increasing numbers of women in archaeology set out to carve a niche for
themselves and their foremothers. Numerous studies especially of Iron Age/Early
medieval women were carried out, oen supported by new theoretical approaches.
Gendered divisions of labour as well as social roles and ranks were popular subjects.
Burials came back into focus, mainly because this is where we meet the individuals of
the past, and where gender, rank and work/responsibilities are oen symbolised – or
so we think.
From this point there was only a short road back to the farm. In the West Norwe-
gian Iron/Early Medieval Age especially, burial mounds are placed very close to the
farm houses, and burials have oen taken place on the individual farms. Both women
and men were buried here, and it is generally assumed that these were the owners
of the farm (e. g. Skre ). Equally important when gender is an issue, is that the
burials oen contain tools and thus seem to indicate which tasks were considered
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Introduction: e farm as a social arena
womens work and which were mens. e fact that Iron Age society in the North was
gendered is evident not only from burials, but also from written sources, where some
of the rights and duties of women and men are described. Even more important than
gender was rank, however. A code of honour dened the rights and duties of the two
genders and the top ranks.
Recent developments
Over time, it was realised that the development of a modern society’s industry and
infrastructure increasingly endangered protected ancient monuments, including
farm sites. As archaeological excavation work in Norway was – and still is – the re-
sponsibility of the Directorate for Cultural Heritage and ve regional archaeologi-
cal museums/universities, investigations into the farms also continued locally, from
north to south. While the earliest projects related to the farms aimed at identifying
them and describing the houses and other structures of prehistoric and medieval
farms, recent eldwork has been concentrated on houses and house-types, cultiva-
tion, and to some extent, domestic animals.
e top priority within this modern framework has been houses and settlements.
Numerous house-sites have been excavated all over the country during the last three
to four decades, most of them identied as farm houses. While former investigations
had focused mainly on Iron Age farms, the chronological framework has now been
extended back to the Neolithic, showing a remarkable conservatism in house types
through prehistory, although seemingly small changes in building traditions may re-
ect important developments in farm life, as discussed by Oma chapter  this volume.
For the Christian Middle Ages, however, the nds are surprisingly few. is could be
due to new building techniques that leave few traces (cf. Sørheim this volume).
e majority of these investigations have been rescue excavations. An exception
is “e West Norwegian farm project” initiated by the University of Bergen and the
University College of Sogn and Fjordane. is project was primarily aimed at dating
the origin of the individual farm and the cultural landscape it produced rather than
analysing its social role (Øye ).
Unfortunately, the technique that makes it possible to nd the prehistoric houses,
namely the systematic removal of topsoil in order to nd traces in the underground,
also destroys the remains – if any – of human and other activity at the level where
the house oors used to be. e main focus has therefore so far been on the farmyard
with its houses, and with the farm as the site of food production, which is admittedly
the central function of any farm. But it also means that although the farm has for a
long time had a central position in Norwegian archaeological research, some dimen-
sions have been lacking.
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Liv Helga Dommasnes
e farm as a social arena
As far back as one can see, farms tended to be scattered in the Norwegian landscape
in such a way that they only in exceptional cases made up something resembling a
village. Oen, and even into modern times, the farm was the local community. In
isolated settings, thralls and masters lived together, worked and learned from each
other, and were dependent on each other. Over time and as social stratication devel-
oped, the dierent strata of society were reected at the individual farms, especially
the larger ones, and between farms. While a medium-sized farm would house the
nuclear family or maybe two generations, a large farm would, in addition to fam-
ily, have a household consisting of hired help, slaves, sometimes guests and artisans.
Every need had to be catered for on, or through, the farm, from food and housing
to the education of children and religious needs. From this point of view the farm
becomes a social arena, and the people who lived there were agents on this scene.
And, as pointed out by Gutsmiedl-Schümann this volume, “the space in which peo-
ple are living and communicating with each other, is the space where social reality is
constructed.” Understanding the past starts with understanding the dynamics of its
basic structures and agents. Farm communities would be tight-knit, but by no means
closed. Visitors were the rule rather than the exception. As there was no alterna-
tive accommodation, any farm would now and then house travellers. Another social
aspect of the larger farms from the Late Roman period through the Middle Ages was
the feasts that were sometimes held by chiefs/warlords for their allies (Enright ;
Sigurdsson ) in order to strengthen their alliances.
Generally speaking, the people of the farm would live very close together, es-
pecially during the long and dark winters when almost all work had to take place
indoors. Dierent kinds of maintenance work were probably going on more or less
continuously. Small-scale carpentry, weaving and needle-work would be winter tasks
taking place in the common living-space2 along with food-preparation and meals.
Sometimes the cra production may have been of even greater social and economic
importance than traditional farming activities, as suggested in the case of the Viking
Age farm at Hopperstad, Vik in Sogn (Dommasnes/Hommedal this volume). e
large common room was also where people on the farm would meet to exchange
information, tell stories and keep the memory of former generations alive.
e relations between all those people of dierent origins, ranks and genders
are among our foci. So is the relationship between people and animals. Generally
speaking, people of the past, independently of their work and rank, lived closer to
animals than we do. Everybody would have been surrounded by animals, while a
modern person, whether living in a city or in a village, hardly ever meets one unless
2 Large-scale weaving probably took place in pit-houses, known from several places in Eu-
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Introduction: e farm as a social arena
(s)he keeps pets. On the farm they lived together on a daily basis, for a long time
even under the same roof. ey also worked together, as for example man and horse.
Cooperation was always necessary – when handling the sheep, milking the cow or
collecting eggs from the hens. In transhumance, which is a practice going back at
least to the Iron Age in the north, young girls moved to the summer pastures in
the mountains with the cattle, and stayed there for several months. Smaller children
acted as herders.
Modern research has shown that the thinking on the relationship between hu-
mans and animals has changed over time. Similarities rather than dierences may
have been recognised in other cultures and at other times. In Scandinavian Iron Age
burials animals and people seem to have been cremated together and their bones
treated in the same way (Mansrud ), and in Viking Age culture it is more than
hinted that shape-shiing was a reality (Hedeager , Price ). is familiar-
ity with animals, domesticated as well as wild, leads us once again to consider the
farm in mental landscapes – collective ones in the Iron Age cosmology or individual
ones as in people’s habitus (Bourdieu ), in terms of who you socialised with, the
familiarity with animals, the small community and its material manifestations. We
have already mentioned that the houses where people lived changed very little over
the centuries from the late Bronze Age until the Middle Ages. e same goes for the
inelds, which were organised with one or two parallel longhouses and a cattle lane
leading from the byre part of one of the longhouses through the farmyard to the
grazing area. To many people, this was their entire world, conditioning their thinking
as well as their bodily reexes – their (gendered) lifeworlds in Schütz/Luckmanns’
() terminology, which also provides the background for a persons practices and
communications (Habermas ).
At least from the Roman Age onwards, the most prominent farm people – prob-
ably the owners – were buried on the farm inelds, oen in large mounds. Large
farms, which would sometimes also be chiefs farms, were also arenas for public cult
activities and some of these again had churches raised on the inelds in Early Chris-
tian times. Churches may in such cases have signalled both the coming of a new
religion, continuation of religious leadership and of secular power.
Papers and approaches
In this volume, farms and related topics from the Bronze Age (starting c. BC )
through the High Middle Ages and into the th century are discussed. As a conse-
quence of the Norwegian background of the project, the geographical setting is in the
majority of the papers the coastal region of Norway, from Rogaland in the south to
Lofoten in the North. Two more papers (Nordström; Carlisle/Milek) refer in general
terms to the same (Norse) tradition while yet another two (Gutsmiedl-Schümann;
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Liv Helga Dommasnes
Bremer) discuss farms in German villages from the Early and High Middle Ages
(th/th to th century) respectively. In addition to addressing topics common to all
farms discussed here, the papers from geographical and social environments outside
Norway serve as important reminders that whether isolated or spatially integrated;
farms are always part of wider societies, and formed by their relations to the outer
world and people that surround them.
Although generally tuned to the theoretical frameworks sketched above, ap-
proaches in the individual papers vary with the particular questions addressed and
the sources available. e farm as the framework of people’s daily lives is addressed
in several papers. In the rst paper of this volume, Oma takes as her point of de-
parture the relationship between humans and animals when she tries to understand
a seemingly small change in architecture, namely the transition from two-aisled to
three-aisled longhouses. She nds the explanation in the secondary products revolu-
tion. When people started to keep sheep because of the milk and the wool, they also
needed to handle them more oen. is may have been why three-aisled longhouses
became popular, as they made it easier to house animals indoors. Oma further
sketches how the relationship between people and sheep changed during the Bronze
Age at Jæren in Southwest Norway. e sheep moved in with their people, where they
became household members and contributed to the household through wool and
milk. As the relationship between humans and sheep developed, it became a relation
of understanding and trust rather than domination, she claims.
In her second paper, Oma moves in time to the end of the Iron Age, when the
now age-old three-aisled longhouse gradually went out of use, and was replaced by
several smaller houses. Once again animals were involved. is time it was about
religion and ontological status. With Christianity, Oma claims, the ontological status
of animals was changed. In the Iron Age animal styles, animals and humans could
be depicted as half human, half animal, and some humans were thought to be able to
shi shape into animals. Some animals shared houses with humans and were some-
times buried with humans: basically, they had much in common. In Christianity, on
the other hand, the dierences were stressed. Humans were close to God, animals
were not. ey were seen as subservient to humans, no longer worthy of sharing
our houses. Consequently, the age-old longhouse went out of use and the farm was
divided up in several small buildings with dierent functions.
e very same medieval change into a new farm architecture is addressed from
another point of view, namely a technological one, in Sørheim’s paper, where he ar-
gues that a new technology was the reason why the age-old tradition of stave-built
longhouses was replaced with smaller ones built in the corner-notching technique,
which had long been known in other parts of Europe. is architectural change also
led to a change not only in the housing of animals, but in the relations between people
of the farm, in that they were from now on scattered in many small houses instead of
sharing a large longhouse. One would think that this increased the mental distance
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Introduction: e farm as a social arena
between people – servants and masters – as well. And whatever cause we accept for
this architectural change, with Christianity the old farm was shattered not only in the
sense that people and animals were separated. So were the generations. From now
on, former generations were no longer buried at their own farms, but on communal
graveyards connected to a church.
In our one Swedish case study, Nordström studies aspects of life on the farm
through keys and locks on two Swedish farms, one in the central Mälaren area in
central Sweden and one on the Baltic island of Gotland, dated to the Migration pe-
riod and the Viking Age respectively. She discusses the nds of keys and their use at
the farms, a topic that has not been addressed very oen. Nordström focusses here on
the idea of locking, and its implications for private property and identity. Generally,
keys have been associated with mighty housewives and their roles in managing the
farm resources. In her study, however, Nordström nds that keys have belonged to
men and women both. Keys seem to imply private property and were possibly associ-
ated with people’s identities. It is interesting to note that when looking at Roman Age
warrior burials and mens burials in the Viking Age town Birka in Sweden, she found
a possible link between weapons and locked chests.
Doris Gutsmiedl-Schümann takes us to Bavaria in Merovingian times, which
in this region means late th-th century. Here, the farms were far from isolated, but
rather so close that it is hard to decide “where one farm begins and the other ends”,
and being close to communication lines seems to have been of the utmost impor-
tance – this is all very dierent from the Norwegian situation. Two settlements,
Kirchheim and Aschheim, are focussed on. An even better source to social structure
is the burials, however. While large cemeteries were the rule in the earlier part of the
period in question, farmyard burials came into use towards the end of the th century.
In both cases the burials were equipped with grave goods. is is of special interest
seen in relation to the Norwegian discussion regarding the transition from heathen
to Christian burial rites, as the lack of grave goods has been one of the criteria used to
identify Christian burials in Scandinavia, and farmyard burials are supposed to end
with the formal conversion and organisation of the church.
Burials are the main subject of two more papers. Berglund describes in detail two
special graves at the Sandnes farm in North Norway, and nds that they were both
collective graves used over a period of hundreds of years. One grave she identies as
that of the people of the farm, while the other one may have been reserved for women
specialist workers – in her own words providing “a peephole into the social life of the
coastal farms of Helgeland. She comes up with surprising results: while one grave
seems to house men and women with close connections to the farm, the other holds
women only. Berglund concludes that these (ve) women, who were probably only
loosely connected to the farm, were a group especially skilled in cras, and perhaps
in (magic) runes and healing. For this, they were provided with a special burial place
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Liv Helga Dommasnes
on the outskirts of the farm. If so, this is new and interesting information about me-
dieval farm life.
e other paper that takes burials as a point of departure is the long-term study
by Dommasnes and Hommedal, following two farms in the Vik settlement on the
Sogneord, Western Norway, over a period of almost one thousand years (c. –
 AD). Starting with ten monumental Roman Age burial mounds, interpreted as
symbols of power, the farms and their inhabitants are followed through the Viking
Age into the era of Christianisation, the formal conversion and the unication of the
country with new symbols of power, the churches. Burials, especially those of power-
ful people as was the case in most of the examples mentioned here, are mainly public
events, even if they are conducted on a farm. Another (semi-)public aspect of farm
life was the feasts that chiefs and magnates regularly seem to have held perhaps from
Roman times through the Middle Ages (Bårdseth ; Sigurdsson ) to secure
the continued loyalty of their allies. When the rst churches were built in medieval
Norway, they were connected to individual farms. e development that this new
religion set in motion was, however, one that led public worship away from the indi-
vidual farms into the greater society, and ultimately to the universal Catholic church.
Although it is very probable that both the two Vik farms and the northern
Sandnes farm referred to above had halls, these could hardly match the more than 
metres long hall building excavated on the northernmost Norwegian farm discussed
in this volume, namely the chiey Borg farm in Lofoten, North Norway. is farm
is the point of departure for Storli, who discusses the Borg farm, its environs, houses
and the impressive nds from the site. rough archaeological and written sources,
she discusses the local society and cultural environment, including how the Borg
chieain may have played a role in the politics of Viking Age Norway. Towards the
end of the paper, she describes his (postulated) decision to leave Borg and the ght
for sovereignty in order to look for a new life on Iceland. Storli also suggests that the
posts that had been removed from the Borg house may have travelled with him, to
be thrown on the sea so that they could guide him to his new land. And keep the
memory of his old farm alive?
On Iceland, Carlisle and Milek take over, and introduce us to some interesting
nds from Viking Age Icelandic farm houses, characterised as “structured” deposits
or foundation deposits, tentatively interpreted as traces of house oerings, the Norse
settlers’ way of adapting to their new environment and conditions of life. e depos-
its vary from a walrus carcass built into a wall to iron blooms and scattered nds of
a human tooth and a wide variety of other small nds. In each case the structured
deposits are taken to relate to sources of wealth on the farms in question. e authors
suggest that the deposits may have been used in the negotiation of social standing in
this brand new society.
In our second paper dealing with German medieval society, Bremer discusses the
village Pier in Northern Rhineland, from the Roman period through High Medieval
© Waxmann Verlag GmbH
Introduction: e farm as a social arena
times. While written sources have previously dominated the discussion of medieval
social structures, landscape archaeology has now been developed into a forceful tool
and a new approach to the exploration of the rural past in the area. From the Roman
until High Medieval times there was an enormous population increase, accompanied
by a very complex social structure. Towns inuenced rural life, and in the rural areas
farms and noble estates “were integrated in a complex settlement system and could
not be regarded as isolated ‘small worlds’ ” (Bremer this volume). Studying individual
farms in such a setting makes little sense, and the paper is an important reminder
of the widely varying social conditions in medieval Europe. A feudal society as de-
scribed here was never fully developed in Norway. However, aer the unication of
Norway under one king and the formal Church organisation developed, these insti-
tutions became great landowners, inspired by feudal Europe.
e chronologically latest paper in this volume is written by Berglund, and pre-
sents some of her results from an excavation of the North-Norwegian site of a vicar-
age, namely the one where the th century vicar, hymnist, poet and large personality
Petter Dass (–) and his descendants lived. Petter Dass is still a household
name in Norway, and his hymns are still sung in Norwegian churches every Sunday.
e unique opportunity to follow how he used material culture to construct his Eu-
ropean identity in the North of Norway is therefore of general interest, even more so
as it also demonstrates the potential of archaeological evidence in such matters.
Why the farm?
e main objective of this volume is to draw your attention to a gap in the scholarship
on the prehistoric and medieval farm, in that its social function has until now been
more or less disregarded in archaeology. e sources may be less complete than one
would wish for, but even so, concentrating on this aspect brings some new insights.
First of all, focussing on the basic unit of society makes it easier to follow processes
of continuity and change over time. In spite of many changes, the overall impression
is stability: the farm was the social unit that almost everybody related to over the
One change was the position of the farm in the structure of society. Over time, it
changed from ancestral site in the founding period of settled farming and chiefdoms,
to farms of varying sizes and statuses, ending in the Middle Ages with clusters of
farms (estates) controlled by institutions like the church and kingship. Architectural
conventions changed, although slowly, and following this, the structure of the farm-
yard. With changing farm houses and yard, the relations between those who lived on
the farm, humans and animals, were also altered.
e farm in mental images is an aspect following us explicitly or implicitly
through most of the papers, and we have been able to identify some of the ideolo-
© Waxmann Verlag GmbH
Liv Helga Dommasnes
gies behind the development. Among such ideological changes were probably the
conceptions of animals – and the farm itself – in myths and religion, in connection
with burial rites, and in ontological statuses. e farm’s central place in the human
mind is also expressed through cult activities and farmyard burials, both in heathen
and in Christian times.
is again brings us closer to the people of the past, and enables us to consider the
relations of these people, how they interacted with each other and inuenced each
other’s lives and history. Some of our authors have followed small-scale events and
developments on the farm, or looked very closely at events and processes, discover-
ing unexpected connections and relations, or demonstrating that seemingly small
changes may have profound consequences. Some farms have been home to mighty
people, whose rise and fall we have been able to follow. e physical and mental
frameworks of people’s lives were also parts of the interaction: the surrounding na-
ture, neighbours or lack of neighbours, the farm inelds with the houses, animals,
people and deities. is was the architecture that formed social life at the farm.
Bourdieu : Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a theory of practice (Cambridge ).
Bårdseth : Gro Anita Bårdseth. e Roman Age Hall and the Warrior-Aristocracy:
Reections upon the Hall at Missingen, South-East Norway. Norwegian Archaeological
Review /, , –.
Enright : Michael J. Enright, Lady with a Mead Cup. Ritual, Prophecy and Lordship in the
European Warband From La Tène to the Viking Age (Dublin ).
Goncáles-Marcén et. al : Paloma Goncáles-Marcén/Sandra Montón-Subías/Marina
Picazo, Towards an archaeology of maintenance activities. In: Sandra Montón-Subías/
Margarita Sánchez-Romero (eds.), Engendering Social Dynamics: e Archaeology of
Maintenance Activities (Oxford ).
Habermas : Jürgen Habermas, eorie des kommunikativen Handelns (Frankfurt am
Main ).
Hagen : Anders Hagen, Studier i jernalderens gårdssamfunn. Universitetets Oldsakssam-
lings Skrier (Oslo ).
Harding : Sandra Harding, Introduction: Standpoint eory as a Site of Political, Philo-
sophic, and Scientic Debate. In: Sandra Harding (ed.), e Feminist Standpoint eory
Reader. Intellectual & Political Controversies. (New York and London ) –.
Hedeager : Lotte Hedeager, Iron Age Myth and Materiality. An Archaeology of Scandina-
via AD –. (London and New York ).
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sonoppfatninger. In: Terje Østigård (ed.), UBAS Nordisk , Lik og ulik. Tilnærminger til
variasjon i gravskikk (Bergen ) –.
Montón-Subías : Sandra Montón-Subías, Maintenance activities and the ethics of care.
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Price : Neil Price, Belief & Ritual. In: Gareth Williams/Peter Pentz/Matthias Wemho
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på Island ca. – (Oslo ).
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
This paper discusses possible functions for an Early Roman Age hall (c. ad 1–200) at Missingen, Østfold, south-east Norway. The hall represents one of the earliest known halls in Scandinavia. Its existence corresponds with the introduction of the Roman Age warrior-aristocracy. No status goods were recorded from the hall or the site. The assemblage of artefacts, plant macrofossils, together with the site's layout, points to Missingen as a farm with traditional farm functions. However, the farm's great size and well-considered location in combination with the presence of the hall has led to the conclusion that Missingen represents a chieftain's farm. It is argued that the farm could have served as a resort or camp for a group of warriors, led by a chieftain or a military leader belonging to a warrior-aristocracy. The existence of a Roman Age aristocracy in Østfold, hitherto represented by graves with weapons and rich imported goods, is for the first time evidenced by a hall and a chieftain's farm.
Paloma Goncáles-Marcén/Sandra Montón-Subías/Marina Picazo, Towards an archaeology of maintenance activities
  • Goncáles-Marcén
Goncáles-Marcén et. al 2008: Paloma Goncáles-Marcén/Sandra Montón-Subías/Marina Picazo, Towards an archaeology of maintenance activities. In: Sandra Montón-Subías/ Margarita Sánchez-Romero (eds.), Engendering Social Dynamics: The Archaeology of Maintenance Activities (Oxford 2008).
Dagfinn Skre, Haug og grav Hva betyr gravhaugene? In: Ann Christensson
Skre 1997: Dagfinn Skre, Haug og grav. Hva betyr gravhaugene? In: Ann Christensson/Else Mundal/Ingvild Øye (eds.), Middelalderens symboler. Kulturtekster 11, 37–52. Senter for europeiske kulturstudier (Bergen 1997).
Vestlandsgården – fire arkeologiske undersøkelser
Øye 2002: Ingvild Øye, Innledning. In: Ingvild Øye (ed.), Vestlandsgården – fire arkeologiske undersøkelser. Arkeologiske avhandlinger og rapporter fra Universitetet i Bergen (Bergen 2002) 7–13.
Jon Vidar Sigurdsson, Den vennlige vikingen. Vennskapets makt i Norge og på Island ca
Sigurdsson 2010: Jon Vidar Sigurdsson, Den vennlige vikingen. Vennskapets makt i Norge og på Island ca. 900-1300 (Oslo 2010).
Sandra Montón-Subías, Maintenance activities and the ethics of care
  • Montón-Subías
Montón-Subías 2010: Sandra Montón-Subías, Maintenance activities and the ethics of care. In: Liv Helga Dommasnes/Tove Hjørungdal/Sandra Montón-Subías/Margarita