03 May 2019

BOOK: Alexandra SANMARK, Viking Law and Order - Places and Rituals of Assembly in the Medieval North (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019). ISBN 9781474445757, £24.99

The paperback of a book on Viking law, which we did not yet report on back in 2017, has just been published by Edinburgh University Press.


The first detailed appraisal of Norse assembly sites, providing detailed discussion of their archaeological profile and landscape setting

Until very recently Viking and Norse assembly sites were essentially unknown, apart from a few select sites, such as Thingvellir in Iceland. The Vikings are well-known for their violence and pillage, but they also had a well-organised system for political decision-making, legal cases and conflict resolution. Using archaeological evidence, written sources and place-names, this book provides a comprehensive analysis of their legal system and assembly sites, showing that this formed an integral part of Norse culture and identity, to the extent that the assembly institution was brought to all Norse settlements.
Sites are analysed through surveys and case studies across Scandinavia, Scotland and the North Atlantic region. The author moves the view of assembly sites away from a functional one to an understanding of the symbolic meaning of these highly ritualised sites, and shows how they were constructed to signify power through monuments and natural features. This original and stimulating study is set not only in the context of the Viking and Norse periods, but also in the wider continental histories of place, assembly and the rhetoric of power.


Alexandra Sanmark is Reader in Medieval Archaeology at the Centre for Nordic Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands. She specialises in The Viking Age in Scandinavia and the Viking expansion in the west and the North Atlantic, with a particular focus on landscape archaeology. She is also a specialist in the Christianisation of Europe and Scandinavia as well as Viking-age religion and ritual.


List of Figures
List of Tables

1. Assembly Research: Past and Present
2. Early Germanic and Norse Assembly Organisations
3. Introducing the Assembly Sites of Scandinavia
4. Elite Rituals at Scandinavian Assemblies
5. Assembly Sites in Scandinavia: Activities and Rituals of the Community
6. Centralisation of Power: Christianity and Urbanisation
7. Norse in the North Atlantic: Iceland, Faroe Islands and Greenland
8. Norse in Scotland: Assembly and New Ancestors
9. Assemblies in the Longue Durée

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