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Maritime Mode of Production Raiding and Trading in Seafaring Chiefdoms

Journal article
Authors Johan Ling
T. Earle
Kristian Kristiansen
Published in Current Anthropology
Volume 59
Issue 5
Pages 488-524
ISSN 0011-3204
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Historical Studies
Pages 488-524
Language en
Keywords bronze-age, viking age, differentiation, colonization, archaeology, evolution, migration, drought, isotope, history, Anthropology, arr ma, 1987, africa, v57, p29
Subject categories History and Archaeology


As exemplified by Viking and Bronze Age societies in northern Europe, we model the political dynamics of raiding, trading, and slaving as a maritime mode of production. It includes political strategies to control trade by owning boats and financing excursions, thus permitting chiefs to channel wealth flows and establish decentralized, expansive political networks. Such political institutions often form at the edges of world systems, where chieftains support mobile warriors who were instrumental in seizing and protecting wealth. Particular properties of the maritime mode of production as relevant to Scandinavia are the fusion of agropastoral and maritime modes of production. To exemplify these two sectors, we use the Thy and Tanum cases in which we have been involved in long-term archaeological research. The historic Viking society provides specificity to model the ancestral political society of Bronze Age Scandinavia. Our model helps understand an alternative path to institutional formation in decentralized chiefdoms with low population densities, mobile warriors, and long-distance trading and raiding in valuables, weapons, and slaves.

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