Ship and Society : Maritime Ideology in Late Iron Age Sweden
Abstract: This thesis analyses the relation between ship and society against a background of ideological and technological changes in Late Iron Age Sweden. It discusses the factors behind the development of ‘a maritime society’, why ships and seafaring came to play an important role that was also reflected in the use of the ship as a symbol and a metaphor in a military context, as well as in religion, administration, jurisdiction and social life. The author argues that this society is disappearing when it is first encountered in the Early Middle Ages, because of a fundamental ideological change. There is a myth about the appearance of the ‘Viking ship’ and the Iron Age seafarer. The ships are supposed to be big and wide. An analysis of the archaeological material presented here shows that this picture is not correct. Instead the ships of the Svear were quite small and built in a way that made them very light. This was a result of shipbuilding methods introduced in the Late Iron Age, and it had consequences for the trade communication network as well as for naval operations. Because of the light ships, it was possible to land on any shallow shore and navigate the shallow rivers in the East.The ship became a key symbol used by the authorities to structure the society for administrative and military purposes, using a terminology based on the Late Iron Age warship.In the Middle Ages, ideology, shipbuilding and seafaring changed. New key symbols were introduced, and they were used by an increasing royal power to consolidate what would become a united Sweden, inspired by feudal Europe.
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