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12 Pages

Beyond War Or Peace: The Study of Culture Contact in Viking-Age Scotland

WithH. James Barrett

In the 9th and 10th centuries, burials, hoards, architecture, artefacts and place-names of Scandinavian origin appeared in the Northern Isles, the north mainland of Scotland, the Outer and Inner Hebrides and the western littoral from Sutherland to Argyll. The traditional view of Norse colonization in Scotland can be represented by F. T. Wainwright’s oft-quoted passage: ‘Scandinavian settlement amounted to a mass-migration. The pagan reaction model is based on evidence for early contact between Scandinavia and Scotland — grave-goods and putative reindeer antler combs, for example — now known to date to the Viking Age or to be more consistent with trade than migration. Assumptions regarding the nature of ethnicity also underpin another dichotomy within interpretations of culture contact in Viking-age Scotland. A common approach has been to assess the superficially conflicting evidence in terms of the relative importance of war and peace — a trend which has occasionally led to highly polarized debate.