The Soapstone of Norse Greenland
Chapter, Peer reviewed
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The article presents an overview of Norse Greenlandic portable objects of soapstone, based on the author’s Ph.D. dissertation (2009). An analysis of 1168 artefacts from six Norse sites and their comparison with soapstone artefacts from other parts of the Norse world is presented. The majority of the artefacts were vessel sherds and the analysis suggests that most vessel types of Norse Greenland have parallels in known types from Norway, Shetland and Hedeby. Two vessel types, one with straight vertical sides and one trapezoid, as well as one rim shape appear to be unique to Greenland. The analysed material also comprises e.g. spindle whorls, loom weights, mending patches, architectural details and even moulds for casting. Most of these artefact types are also paralleled in soapstone finds elsewhere in the Norse world. One area in which the Greenlandic material stands out is in the high frequency of various types of ornamentation on all types of soapstone artefacts. It is suggested that the Norse Greenlanders may have reproduced traditional motives in order to stress continuity with the past and the cultural connection with Scandinavia.