Kupiec Patrycja, Transhumance in the North Atlantic : an interdisciplinary approach to the identification and interpretation of Viking-Age and Medieval shieling sites, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2016 (University of Aberdeen)
This thesis contributes new archaeological evidence to the debate on transhumance in the Viking and Medieval Periods in Iceland and the Outer Hebrides. It examines shielings in these two regions at new levels of detail, and with new techniques, to improve previous methodologies for the identification of periodically occupied settlements. It presents detailed geoarchaeological studies of the floor deposits at both known and putative shieling sites in Iceland and the Western Isles, which demonstrate that micromorphological analysis is a method capable of distinguishing between periods of punctuated and permanent occupation. The results of these analyses form the basis of a new analytical and interpretive framework suited to identify and study periodic occupation at shieling sites in the North Atlantic region. The micromorphological studies, contextualized by a review of ethnographic sources, provide new insights into the potential flexibility of the type and duration of occupation at Icelandic and Hebridean shielings, and demonstrate that high-resolution geoarchaeological techniques might be essential to disentangle these changes. By integrating archaeological, historical, and ethnographic sources for the first time, this work also provides new insights into Norse shieling economies in Iceland and the Western Isles of Scotland. This analysis reveals a picture of multi-faceted shieling activities, with the use of shielings adapted to fit unique local conditions in different Norse colonies, proving that rigid models cannot be used to study past transhumant practices. The study of the archaeology of Viking-age and medieval shielings, and the medieval saga literature and later folklore that relate to shielings, demonstrates that shielings were conceptualized as different to farms, and that they played an important role in shaping the social relationships and identities of those engaged in summer transhumance. Through this holistic approach to the study of Viking-age and medieval shielings, a fuller picture of Norse society emerges, in which seasonal pastoral settlements are given a more prominent place alongside other features of the Viking and medieval landscape in the North Atlantic region.