Viking cremation practices: as they are reconstructed in Season 1 of the History Channel ‘Vikings’ show

In 2013 and 2014 I co-organised two conference sessions at different international conferences on the theme of citation in the Viking Age. I have now drawn together a special themed issue for submission to the European Journal of Archaeology which builds on these events but takes a more specific focus on mortuary and commemorative practices and their strategies of commemoration involving material and spatial citations. I have previously blogged about this project called Mortuary Citations:  Death and Memory in the Viking World.

Publication is not guaranteed and all titles and details are subject to change: we now face rigorous peer-review and editorial appraisal. Please therefore, dear reader, do not pester individual authors yet about their articles. This collection would make a really tidy edited book, but I am hopeful that EJA take this on as it will be a perfect venue for this research.

Hogbacks: Brompton

With these provisos, I wanted to share the titles and authorship of the articles crafted and submitted to this original theme and distinctive publication venue. So far, my input has been as ‘Guest Editor’. I have composed an Introduction (which still needs revisions and improvements) and my own contribution (my second article on hogbacks). I have offered multiple stages of critical but constructive comments on drafts of each article. We are now in the process of formal submission to the journal.

I am very excited about this project because, if accepted for publication, this is the first time (to my knowledge) a special issue of an international journal has been dedicated to exploring death, burial and commemoration in the Viking world. Furthermore, the specific theme of mortuary citation, while pervading many recent studies in European mortuary archaeology, has yet to be explored through a detailed set of case studies from any given region(s) or period(s), let along the 8th to 11th centuries AD in Northern Europe.

As you will see, there are inevitable gaps of data (it would have been cool to have had more papers on this theme and no doubt it will spawn further work by these assembled authors and by others) and geographical coverage (e.g. Iceland and Finland). We’ve got this covered, since other studies are cited and discussed in both my Introduction and the introductions and discussions of each article, allowing readers to navigate between the case studies offered and other research.

The papers have a broad geographical sweep from Ireland and Britain to Denmark, Norway and Sweden and the Baltic and this justifies the context of publication in the journal. The subject matter is also varied, tackling grave-goods and other material cultures from graves, cemeteries, hoards, settlements, rune-stones and carved stone monuments. Articles consider bodies and material culture as well as monuments and their landscape contexts. Crucially, this is not a set of papers investigating one period and ‘culture’, but the complex shifts in mortuary and commemorative practice before and during the Viking Age and between localities and regions. If all goes well, I anticipate this collection will be published during 2016.

The Rok stone – 9th-century runestone from Sweden

Introduction: Viking Mortuary Citations

Howard Williams


Material Citation and Affective Communities: Diverging ways of relating to the past in the Viking Age

Elisabeth Arwill-Nordbladh and Julie Lund


Assembling Communities through Artefacts: Reading Burial Assemblages in the Viking Diaspora

Steven P. Ashby and Stephen H. Harrison

Board Games in Boat Burials: Play in the Performance of Mortuary Practice in the Viking Age

Mark A. Hall

‘Imbued with the Essence of the Owner’: Personhood and Possessions in the Reopening and Reworking of Viking Age Burials

Alison Klevnäs


Gaming pieces I excavated from a Viking boat-grave with Dr Martin Rundkvist, 2008

Commemorating Dwelling: The Death and Burial of Houses in Iron and Viking Age Scandinavia

Marianne Hem Eriksen

Citation in the Visual Language on Viking Age Runestones

Marjolein Stern


Citations in Stone: The Material World of Hogbacks

Howard Williams

Future Directions for Mortuary Research in Late Viking Age Scandinavia

Ing-Marie Back Danielsson

One of my favourite rune-stones