Theme description ARK122

Metal and Technology: Metalworking in Iron-age Scandinavia

Marie Amundsen, IAKH, UiO

Main content

In Scandinavia, the period from about 500 BCE to 1050 CE is named “the Iron Age”. In this part of prehistory, iron had an enormous impact on social development. The introduction of the new metal resulted in power changing hands and society changing alongside new power structures, ideas and norms. Still, iron was not the only metal in the Iron Age: precious and semi-precious metals of the Bronze Age were still present, such as bronze, brass, silver, gold, pewter and copper. The metals were transformed into objects, such as weapons, jewellery, and tools. They were present in everything from the chieftain’s magnificent sword and women’s oval brooches to the rivets of the Oseberg ship, the carpenter’s hammer and the thrall’s chains. The metal technology was very significant for the Iron-age society – and for present-day archaeologists. Of all the things prehistoric people produced, it is the metal objects which most often survive, for which reason they have been of central importance to the history and development of archaeology.

This course is an introduction to the metalwork of Iron-age Scandinavia and will explore some important questions, such as: What was the influence of metals on society? What kind of status and position did the smiths have? How did the smiths produce metal objects? And: How can we as archaeologists study the craft of prehistoric metalworking?

Over six lectures the course will discuss metalworking from the Pre-Roman Iron Age to the Viking Age, as well as theoretical concepts and methods. The course will also consist of two practical seminars where students will take part in bronze casting and extraction of iron with the use of Iron-age methods. The examination will be a five-day written home exam.