The so-called Viking Age of northern Europe, usually dated c.750-1050 CE, is almost unique among historians’ artificial divisions of the past in being named after a minority with whom hardly anyone of the time would have readily identified, or arguably even recognised. It has long been characterised by images of raiding and plunder, which are true enough in context but also form a cliché that is entirely misleading when applied universally to the Scandinavian peoples of the time. In essence, the problem lies in the fact that for centuries the ’Vikings’ have always been viewed from the outside, rather than on their own terms, a process that began even in their lifetimes. An ongoing, ten-year research project at the University of Uppsala is attempting to adopt an emic perspective to critically explore the origins of the Viking phenomenon, including its chronology, conceptual framework, and the deeply diverse nature of its actors. This talk is based on one of our recent outputs, a synthesis of the period, and will also present some of our conclusions.
Neil Price holds the Chair of Archaeology at the University of Uppsala, and has been appointed rådsprofessor by the Swedish Research Council for his ten-year project The Viking Phenomenon (2016-2025). A specialist on the Viking Age, in particular its mortuary behavior and world-views, his recent publications include The Viking Way (2nd ed., 2019) and Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings (2020).