Jane Harrison, Building mounds : Viking-Late Norse settlement in the North Atlantic, c. AD800-1200, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2017 (Université d’Oxford)
The subject of this study is Viking-Late Norse settlement (c. AD800-1200) in the North Atlantic, focusing on Orkney and on longhouse complexes constructed on mounds. For the first time these mound settlements are investigated as a group and as deliberately constructed mounds. Settlement mounds in Orkney are also closely associated with nearly 40 Skaill ON skáli (‘hall’) place-names, which place-names linked the sites with the social and economic networks of Orkney’s peripatetic leaders. This association is examined more closely. The analysis also demonstrates that constructing settlements on mounds required particular building techniques, which relied heavily on the use of midden-type material. Those techniques are examined using new and freshly analysed material from published and grey literature-published excavations and surveys of sites from the Viking-Late Norse period in Orkney and elsewhere. Three core data-sets were established to provide the evidential basis: the first, also drawing on site-visits, looking broadly at mound landscapes and skáli-areas in Orkney; the second at the building techniques and materials used on settlement mounds; and the third, also requiring site-visits, at all the skáli place-name sites. The possible origins of settlement mound living in the settlers’ Scandinavian homelands are investigated, then the extent to which mound living was also followed in Shetland, Caithness and the Western Isles, and finally in previously unoccupied lands, using Iceland as a case study. The mound-sites, their archaeology, mound architecture, place-names and landscape setting are also analysed in a new theoretical framework to reach fresh understandings of Viking-Late Norse settlement in Orkney. The analysis thus considers the wider cultural significance of constructing and living on settlement mounds, and what that communicated about Viking-Late Norse society. The thesis argues that Viking-Late Norse groups chose prominently-placed sites for their visual dominance and commanding views, but also that the rebuilding of mound structures in one spot, and building out and up of the mound itself using midden material, set strong cultural messages about stability, continuity and association with the surrounding landscape. The mounds were complex features of culturally meaningful architecture.