|Viking house of Fyrkat – photo by Västgöten / Wikimedia Commons|
By Minjie Su
The longhouses built in the Norse world were more than just simple structures that served as places of shelter. In many ways they had a life of their own.
Dr Marianne Hem Eriksen spoke on the topic of Longhouses in the Iron and Viking Ages last month at the University Oxford. Currently a visiting research fellow at the University of Cambridge, she is a Norwegian archaeologist researching houses with burial mounds. Erikson argues that the commemorative activities attached to the buried longhouses are not just for individuals who lived there or for those of higher ranks, but they could also be for the houses themselves. After all, the social life and the people who lived in them also make the place full of meaning.
It is these meanings that Dr Eriksen aims to reveal. She is particularly interested in the longhouses’ lives and temporalities, as well as the image of the houses in people’s mind. Her research can be divided into three areas: first, she studies the houses as objects that are related to human personhood and agency; here she also considers the architectural form and materials. Second, she unearths the lives in the house, especially moments of tension and change. Third, she places the longhouses in wider, more networked landscapes and takes into full consideration their roles as part of larger social and political schemes.