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Scandinavian Blacksmithing in the Iron Age On the Edge of the World: History - Weapons - Grave Materials Mentality and Ideology - Myths and Sagas Tools and Metal Smiting - Tools and Wood Working

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«A man can make his own power only by disdaining power over other men […] he can become more than other men by gaining power over things which are not men, for thus he goes beyond men» The transition period between the Early and Late Iron Ages in Scandinavia, dated to about 500 CE, has brought about a number of conspicuous changes in the archaeological record. At this poi «A man can make his own power only by disdaining power over other men […] he can become more than other men by gaining power over things which are not men, for thus he goes beyond men» The transition period between the Early and Late Iron Ages in Scandinavia, dated to about 500 CE, has brought about a number of conspicuous changes in the archaeological record. At this point in time it is possible to observe an almost complete replacement of technologies and changes to the technology of metalworking have been described as being especially prominent. The custom of depositing tools in graves was practiced on a modest level during the Early Iron Age, but intensified in the Late Iron Age. In relation to this, the appearance of the so-called «smiths' graves» has gathered much attention in archaeological research. These observed changes in grave material are sometimes argued to indicate social and ideological changes within a society where the face of the smith has previously been more or less absent. The deposition of tools in lakes, bogs and mountains in the Viking Age speaks of further changes, often linked to the onset of Christianity. While tool deposition outside of graves is only very scarcely touched upon in this book, all of these elements can be argued to signify that certain smiths have held special positions in society. This tendency must have remained ideologically strong over a period of 500 years, where we are able to directly observe their presence in archaeological and mythological material. The search for signs that can elaborate on smiths' roles within Late Iron Age society will thus be the focal point of this book. The definition of «smiths' graves», as a category of graves identified by the presence of hammers, anvils, files, tongs, and other tools related to the profession of metalsmithing, has been extensively criticised. While some question whether the rich goods of many of these graves serve to symbolise actual smiths or some sort of ownership over smiths and smithing, others have turned to questioning the typology of tools. One reason for this can be found in that archaeologists Oluf Rygh (1885), Sigurd Grieg (1922), and Jan Petersen (1951) have all classified certain kinds of objects, like hammers, as smiths' tools regardless of other possible uses. Another reason is that the combination of smiths' and carpenters' tools in both graves and deposited tool chests, like that of the Mästermyr find (Arwidsson and Berg 1983; Lund 2006), has brought about the knowledge that some crafters may have operated within more than one profession. There is, for example, reason to ask whether the richly ornamented weapons from the Bygland find can indicate a weaponsmith able to decorate the weapons they produced. New research on mythological material has provided further support for the idea of what, in this book, has been named the multicrafter. Building upon the problem of definition is the knowledge that the Old Norse word smiðr, rather than being exclusive of other crafts, may hold meanings more closely connected to creating or crafter, and a more precise definition has proven difficult to pin down. Danish archaeologist Lotte Hedeager has explained that our modern western understanding of knowledge cannot unproblematically be related to modern western conceptions, connecting smithing to notions of transformational actions and skilled craftmanship, as previously done by American anthropologist Mary Helms (1993). I therefore wish to ask: If the Old Norse word smiðr holds so many meanings, why do we keep trying to force it into a box where it is obviously refusing to fit?


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«A man can make his own power only by disdaining power over other men […] he can become more than other men by gaining power over things which are not men, for thus he goes beyond men» The transition period between the Early and Late Iron Ages in Scandinavia, dated to about 500 CE, has brought about a number of conspicuous changes in the archaeological record. At this poi «A man can make his own power only by disdaining power over other men […] he can become more than other men by gaining power over things which are not men, for thus he goes beyond men» The transition period between the Early and Late Iron Ages in Scandinavia, dated to about 500 CE, has brought about a number of conspicuous changes in the archaeological record. At this point in time it is possible to observe an almost complete replacement of technologies and changes to the technology of metalworking have been described as being especially prominent. The custom of depositing tools in graves was practiced on a modest level during the Early Iron Age, but intensified in the Late Iron Age. In relation to this, the appearance of the so-called «smiths' graves» has gathered much attention in archaeological research. These observed changes in grave material are sometimes argued to indicate social and ideological changes within a society where the face of the smith has previously been more or less absent. The deposition of tools in lakes, bogs and mountains in the Viking Age speaks of further changes, often linked to the onset of Christianity. While tool deposition outside of graves is only very scarcely touched upon in this book, all of these elements can be argued to signify that certain smiths have held special positions in society. This tendency must have remained ideologically strong over a period of 500 years, where we are able to directly observe their presence in archaeological and mythological material. The search for signs that can elaborate on smiths' roles within Late Iron Age society will thus be the focal point of this book. The definition of «smiths' graves», as a category of graves identified by the presence of hammers, anvils, files, tongs, and other tools related to the profession of metalsmithing, has been extensively criticised. While some question whether the rich goods of many of these graves serve to symbolise actual smiths or some sort of ownership over smiths and smithing, others have turned to questioning the typology of tools. One reason for this can be found in that archaeologists Oluf Rygh (1885), Sigurd Grieg (1922), and Jan Petersen (1951) have all classified certain kinds of objects, like hammers, as smiths' tools regardless of other possible uses. Another reason is that the combination of smiths' and carpenters' tools in both graves and deposited tool chests, like that of the Mästermyr find (Arwidsson and Berg 1983; Lund 2006), has brought about the knowledge that some crafters may have operated within more than one profession. There is, for example, reason to ask whether the richly ornamented weapons from the Bygland find can indicate a weaponsmith able to decorate the weapons they produced. New research on mythological material has provided further support for the idea of what, in this book, has been named the multicrafter. Building upon the problem of definition is the knowledge that the Old Norse word smiðr, rather than being exclusive of other crafts, may hold meanings more closely connected to creating or crafter, and a more precise definition has proven difficult to pin down. Danish archaeologist Lotte Hedeager has explained that our modern western understanding of knowledge cannot unproblematically be related to modern western conceptions, connecting smithing to notions of transformational actions and skilled craftmanship, as previously done by American anthropologist Mary Helms (1993). I therefore wish to ask: If the Old Norse word smiðr holds so many meanings, why do we keep trying to force it into a box where it is obviously refusing to fit?

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