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Pagans and Christians at the frontier: Viking burial in the Danelaw

By J.D. Richards


[FIRST PARAGRAPH] The Vikings are the victims of cultural stereotyping (see e.g. Wawn 2000). In the popular imagination they provide the comic-book archetypal pagans: marauding shaggy war bands living and dying by the sword, with no respect for person or property, and least of all for the hallowed monasteries and clerics of Anglo-Saxon England. They worshipped violent and unforgiving Gods who inhabited the dark places of Northern Europe and they sacrificed animals and humans with complete disregard for Christian ethics. The Viking warrior aspired to the glorious death which would convey him on the journey to Valhalla where he would feast until Ragnorok. On the other hand, the scholarly world, faced with an acute lack of archaeological evidence for Pagan hordes, has created an alternative stereotype of the peaceful immigrant and trader eager to take on all the trappings of the host society, including its religion. In Anglo-Saxon England, within the space of a single generation, pagan warriors had become Christian farmers. Christian burial was rapidly adopted (Wilson 1967), many choosing to be buried in churchyards (Graham-Campbell 1980). By the tenth century their ferocious leaders were commissioning stone crosses and establishing private chapels on their new estates

Publisher: York Medieval Press in association with Boydell & Brewer
Year: 2003
OAI identifier:

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