Timothy Carlisle, The walrus in the walls and other strange tales : a comparative study of house-rites in the Viking-age North Atlantic Region, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2017 (Université d’ Aberdeen)
Building offerings, artefacts or bones that had been placed under or within house features, are considered evidence of rites associated with house construction, remodelling or abandonment, and are an archaeological phenomenon that was common throughout European prehistory. This dissertation focuses on interpreting building offerings dating to the Viking Age in Iceland and Scotland. Each find of this type is unique, which poses a challenge for archaeological investigations that often lack the interpretive framework needed to make comparisons between sites. This dissertation critically refines the frameworks of previous studies of similar types of deposits in AngloSaxon Britain and Scandinavia in order to fill this gap in research and discuss the purpose of houserites. The frameworks of behavioural and cognitive archaeology indicate that the performance of house-rites played a role in the construction of the house as the centre of the world-view of Vikingage people. House-rites are situated as prescriptive behaviours that negotiated perspectives of space throughout the residential life-cycle by adding to house materiality. This refined interpretive paradigm is then applied to a comparative survey of Viking-age houses and farmsteads from Iceland and Scotland. In the North Atlantic region, house-rites appear to have been performed in order for Norse people to reimagine their place in the world. The practical elements of the tradition were altered based on the relevant cultural frameworks and specific geo-political contexts to which Norse people were migrating in the Viking Age. In Iceland, people utilised displays of generosity and skills as providers during house-rites to construct an association between social relationships and residential space. The house itself had agency in situating people both within the landscape and the community. In Norse settlements in Scotland, Scandinavian people were relating themselves directly to the symbols used by native peoples through the use of personal objects in the performance of houserites, integrating their new environment into their mentalities. In Scandinavia, house-rites were a long-standing tradition, leading to a well-established, carefully negotiated sense of identity within the landscape. The Norse people who migrated into the North Atlantic region during the Viking Age were leaving this well-established sense of place. This intensified the climate of uncertainty regarding their place in the world, leading to the negotiation of mentalities through the discursive dynamics of house-rites in altered contexts.