Kvinner og kristendom på Vestlandet. En undersøkelse med utgangspunkt i graver fra yngre jernalder i Sogn
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The subject of this thesis relates to the latest phase of paganism in Norway. My aim is to trace possible Christian impulses in the archaeological record, by analysing the burial practices in the region Sogn in western Norway in a long time perspective, stretching from the latter part of the 6th century to around 1100 when the Church organisation was more firmly established. My over all aim has, however, been to shed light on the early Christianisation in this part of the county from a gender perspective. It has been claimed that women played an important role in the early Christianisation of Scandinavia, and that women harboured a more positive attitude towards the new religion than men. Is this true also in Norway? Except one analogue study of burials from the neighbouring county Hordaland from 1997, no previous attempts has been made to shed light on this question in Norway. By analysing the region to the north, Sogn, a broader picture of this process in central parts of western Norway may emerge - an area that played an important role in the unification process of the country and Christianisation of in the transition phase from the Viking Age into the Middle Ages. The analysis included a total of 230 graves from Sogn from this period, of which 200 could be identified as for gender, and have constituted my research material. 49 of the burials were female and 151 male. The study showed an interesting spatial and chronological pattern whereas most of the graves throughout the whole of the period were found in the middle and innermost regions of Sogn. By dividing the graves that could be dated within whole centuries into groups, I found that there was a significant increase in the number of graves in the 9th century compared to previous time periods. There was also an additional increase in the number of typically pagan" graves marked with mounds or cairns compared to the number of Christian" graves with no visible marking above ground in the 10th century. Combined with the absence of grave finds at the turn of the 11th century, my investigation showed that the practice of pagan burial customs was in decline, and may even have been abandoned altogether at the end of the Viking Age in Sogn. By using criteria such as cremation versus inhumation, the outer form of the graves, the orientation of the graves, the amount of grave goods placed in them and the occurrence of objects that might be interpreted as Christian symbols, I found that only twelve late Iron Age grave finds in Sogn could possibly be discussed as signs of Christian rituals or symbols. Interestingly, ten of the twelve graves were women's graves. This clear overrepresentation of possible Christian elements in female burials, does not seem accidental and may, although the number is small, serve as an indication that women found the new religion more appealing than men in the earliest phase of the conversion. As the same trend also appeared in the grave material from Hordaland, where as many as eighteen out of nineteen grave finds with possible Christian elements belonged to women, this view is further supported. Although I also stress and point out the methodological weaknesses connected to the problem of interpreting the often ambiguous criteria commonly used for tracing possible Christian influence in prehistoric graves, I find it hard to neglect these tendencies that appear in the grave material from both Hordaland and Sogn. Hopefully, they will prove fruitful in opening up new exciting perspectives and also inspire further research on the subject in Norway.I en sum er målet for denne studien å undersøke det arkeologiske gravmaterialet i Sogn med sikte på å belyse spørsmålet om eventuell kristen påvirkning i dette området for om mulig å kaste lys over kvinners rolle i kristningsprosessen. Det innebærer samtidig at jeg må ta stilling til dette ut fra både teoretiske innsikter og metodiske krav. Ikke minst metodisk byr problemstillingene på store utfordringer og innbyr til en kritisk diskusjon av kildenes bærekraft. For å diskutere kjønn kreves også en relasjonell tilnærming, der kvinnegraver og gravmaterialet må vurderes i forhold til mannens.
PublisherThe University of Bergen
- Archaeology 79