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6 Pages

At Home in the Viking Period

ByJohn Hines

The study of human settlement through archaeological and historical sources forms a broad and diverse field. It may reassure us that this field is nevertheless fundamentally coherent to think of it as an area of study to which the concept of ‘home’ is central. The word ‘home’ itself was rich in meaning in Viking-period Scandinavia. A number of grammatical variants of the word cover an informative semantic range. A further layer of connotations resides in the adverbial uses of Old Norse heim and heima. These are found frequently in expressions where the sense and force of the word is similar to that in the English idioms to strike home, to drive a point home. The concept of ‘home’ could thus suffuse the whole range of perception in the explicit thought of Old Norse speakers of the Viking Period, from strictly local and specific horizons to the global or even universal.