Vikings and Death

In the Viking Age people were buried in many different sort of places. Did the ancient Scandinavians chose a particular place for burial or were the burial sites randomly selected? Had the choice anything to do with ideas of the afterlife?

The seasons first Tuesday Talk at The Museum of Archaeology has an exciting topic!  Archaeologist Eva Thäte will talk about vikings and death, Tuesday 9 February at 0630 pm. 

– Viking Age burial rites are very diverse as were people’s choices of places for burial grounds. In the Late Iron Age (AD 500-1000), people in Scandinavia buried their deceased on high ground, in ancient burial mounds, in houses, close to water sites and near roads or boundaries, says Eva Thäte.

The Archaeologist is a Visiting Research Associate from the University of Chester in England, and a well-known face at the Museum of Archaeology, where she’s doing further research on the theme Vikings and Death, more specific on the costume of boat graves.

Ideas of afterlife
– The diversity of the evidence poses the question of why the ancient Scandinavians chose a particular place for burial or if the burial sites were just randomly selected. Whilst the custom of re-using ancient monuments for the dead may have had to do with hereditary rights to property in the first place, the historical sources show that the placing of cemeteries elsewhere in the landscape matches ideas of the afterlife, says Thäte.

A comparison with modern studies on near-death-experiences demonstrates that the aforementioned landscape features match archetypes with a liminal meaning. The theory is put forward that people chose sites that covered as many of these topographical features as possible in order to be prepared for the transition to the otherworld.

Source: University of Stavanger

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