The Strange Attraction of Viking-Age Urbanism: The Predicament of Emporia

Author(s): Søren Sindbæk

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Ephemeral Aggregated Settlements: Fluidity, Failure or Resilience?" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Maritime trading emporia were nodal points of social networks and economic interactions in Viking-age Scandinavia. Despite their social centrality, archaeology shows that such places were rather small, unassuming, and sometimes short-lived settlement. This contrasts with a wealth of evidence pointing to communities sustaining a complex economy involving intensive long-distance trade and the practice of specialized, professional crafts. Research debates have centered around whether Viking-age emporia can be characterized as a form of urban settlements, and if so, why aspects of an urban economy would be maintained in otherwise overwhelmingly non-urbanized societies. This paper approaches the problem of urbanization as an emergent historical dynamic, converging upon – but not fully determined by – a complex set of cultural attractors. It reviews results from recent, major excavations in the Ribe, Denmark, and argues that a trajectory converging towards an urban pattern of society emerged from diverse attractors including multi-craft collaborations, the search and transaction costs of early commercial seafaring, and the social control of foreigners and 'weak ties'.

Cite this Record

The Strange Attraction of Viking-Age Urbanism: The Predicament of Emporia. Søren Sindbæk. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450701)


Historic Other Urbanism

Geographic Keywords
Europe: Northern Europe

Spatial Coverage

min long: -26.016; min lat: 53.54 ; max long: 31.816; max lat: 80.817 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23923