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Title: "Few know an earl in fishing clothes" : fish middens and the economy of the Viking Age and Late Norse earldoms of Orkney and Caithness, Northern Scotland
Author: Barrett, James Harold
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 1995
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This thesis studies the origin and role of wealth in the Viking Age (late 8th to 11th century) and Late Norse (11th to 15th century) earldoms of Orkney and Caithness, northern Scotland. It has four aims. Firstly, it attempts to elucidate the key sources of wealth in the earldoms and, more specifically, the possible economic role of fish trade. Secondly, it investigates how control of these sources of wealth may have been distributed within Viking Age and Late Norse society. Thirdly, it attempts to isolate chronological trends in the utilisation of different sources of wealth and the social relations surrounding them. Finally, it was hypothesised that a consideration of these issues might illuminate the character and causes of the transition of Orkney, Caithness and Shetland from a semi-independent and non-Christian Viking Age polity to a periphery of medieval Christian Europe. Part 1 is a geographical and protohistorical survey of Viking Age and Late Norse Orkney, Caithness and Shetland. It discusses available evidence and establishes the considerable wealth of the earldoms. Part 2 investigates the possible sources of this wealth. It concludes by highlighting circumstantial evidence for an export trade in cured fish. Zooarchaeological and archaeobotanical data receive particular attention. New methodological tools for interpreting the weight of zooarchaeological assemblages are also discussed. In Part 3, the possibility that medieval fish middens (at sites such as Robert's Haven, Caithness) represent waste from the production of cured fish for export is considered in detail.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: D051 Ancient History ; HF Commerce ; D111 Medieval History ; DA Great Britain ; CC Archaeology