Maths Bertell

Berserkir and Bracteates: The frustrated and frustrating link between literature and archaeology

Wolfskrieger; Tierkopfwirbel. Spathascheide aus Gutenstein, Bad.-Württ. Spätes 7 Jh. (ehem. Berlin, jetzt Puschkin-Museum). Replik Röm.-Germ.-Zentralmuseum Mainz.

Wolfskrieger; Tierkopfwirbel.
Spathascheide aus Gutenstein, Bad.-Württ. Spätes 7 Jh. (ehem. Berlin, jetzt Puschkin-Museum).
Replik Röm.-Germ.-Zentralmuseum Mainz.

On September 8 at 16.00 Swedish Time, Roderick Dale (PhD. University of Nottingham) will present his research on berserks.

“Scholars such as Liberman have commented how research into berserkir and the archaeological evidence that might be linked to them is circular and have decried attempts to do so, in part because no Viking Age evidence for berserkir is known. Berserkir are defined within Old Norse literature, and the archaeological evidence is then searched with a view to finding parallels to this definition, and then the definition is fleshed out with the result of the archaeological evidence. The self-referential nature of the evidence and conclusions is problematic and weakens the case being made. It is also possible, as some scholars have done, to work wholly within a literary paradigm and only examine berserkir as a literary phenomenon, but that merely ignores the question of who and what berserkir were in the Viking Age. This paper considers the difficulties inherent in attempting to use Old Norse literature in parallel with the pre-Viking Age archaeological evidence, and considers whether any connection can really be drawn between the two. It considers the cultural and social context of the literary berserkr, and how the archaeological evidence that may be related to this context can be weighed against it. In approaching the topic from this direction the question of how we might identify the archaeological remains of a berserkr will be considered, as will the manifold problems associated with attempting this.”

To participate, send an e-mail to maths.bertell@miun.se.