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Afterword: Major Advances and Future Directions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 October 2023

Tom Horne
Affiliation:
University of Glasgow
Elizabeth Pierce
Affiliation:
University of Glasgow
Rachel Barrowman
Affiliation:
University of Glasgow
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Summary

Already by the time our volume Vikings in Scotland: An Archaeological Survey came to fruition in 1998, it was becoming clear that even two authors could not fully encompass the range of developing evidence. Scientific endeavours, new methodologies and the explosion of environmental data, with burgeoning analysis, were beginning to dominate research agendas beyond our specialisms. During the succeeding decades, these aspects have developed into commonly applied approaches, complementing the study of antiquarian sources, place-names and historical documentation. Taken together, all these aspects provide a unique suite of interdisciplinary tools. The contents of this current – and most timely – volume highlight both the richness of the evidence and the results of a collegiate approach within our discipline as a whole.

Several different approaches are already enabling a much fuller – and potentially more accurate – understanding of the Scandinavians in Scotland. In combination with more commonly applied methods, new approaches and new scientific methodologies are already integrated, and all are providing a much wider platform for discussion. Commencing with a reassessment of accepted narratives, a number of issues can be addressed. Making use of new refinements in C14 determinations, artefactual studies (for example, Ashby on combs, this volume) and isotopic/ aDNA studies, it is becoming more likely that we will be able to establish more clearly the dating of the arrival of the Vikings on our shores, as well as the nature of that arrival and interaction between native and incoming populations. The thorny issue of whether this was peaceful or violent is less commonly dictating the agenda now, being replaced with a more nuanced understanding of regional variations and continuing regimes of landscape exploitation (see, for example, Dockrill and Bond, and Macniven, this volume). The nature of this potential population replacement is informed through isotopic examination where the origin of individuals can be interrogated. The consideration of ethnic identities and their expression in newly settled areas has fascinating potential.

Major datasets ripe for reinterpretation and amplification include little- understood early settlement excavations, markedly Jarlshof in Shetland. As an oft-cited archaeological sequence of developing farmsteads, the issues with the stratigraphy and associated (or otherwise) artefact groups have cast a long shadow over the interpretation of many artefact assemblages from broadly contemporary sites. Items are uncritically considered to be securely dated in the Jarlshof sequence and are cited as datable parallels, when in fact the stratigraphical sequence is problematic.

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Chapter
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The Viking Age in Scotland
Studies in Scottish Scandinavian Archaeology
, pp. 322 - 327
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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