The Viking Phenomenon

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

In December 2015, the Swedish Research Council made an unprecedented investment in archaeology with a ten-year, multi-million dollar grant to establish a center of excellence in Viking Studies at Uppsala University. Much of the recent research into the Vikings and their time (c. 750-1050 CE) has focused on the complex processes of state formation and Christian conversion that eventually gave rise to the modern Scandinavian nations. Far less attention has been devoted to the very beginnings of this trajectory: who really were the Viking raiders in a specific sense, why did they do what they do, what kind of societies produced them, and why did they start to expand so violently at precisely this time? The answers to these questions concern the very origins of the Viking phenomenon, and our focus is thus on the critical period 750-850 CE and the decades either side. This session presents a range of ongoing archaeological work within the project: issues central to our understanding of how Scandinavia came to be what it is today, and the sometimes problematic ways in which this knowledge of the Viking-Age past is received in contemporary society.