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Human sacrifice in Viking Age Britain and Ireland


McLeod, S, Human sacrifice in Viking Age Britain and Ireland, Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association, 14 pp. 71-88. ISSN 1449-9320 (2018) [Refereed Article]

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Human sacrifice, as part of pre-Christian religious rites, is one of a number of violent attributes commonly associated with the Vikings both in post-Viking Age medieval written and visual sources and in popular imagination, the latter perhaps best exemplified by the 'blood eagle' as performed on Jarl Borg and King AElle of Northumbria in the popular television show Vikings. But is there any unequivocal contemporary evidence for human sacrifice? This paper will briefly discuss the problems of interpreting the evidence for human sacrifice, before concentrating on the evidence from Britain and Ireland. Despite the silence of contemporary insular written sources, it is found that there is one certain and other probable examples of human sacrifices in the archaeological records of England, Scotland, the Isle of Man, and Ireland. Amongst the probable examples is a new suggestion that human sacrifice occurred at Whithorn, the site of a Northumbrian bishopric and monastery, but now in southern Scotland. Discussion of Whithorn will be the focus of the article. The evidence for human sacrifice will be briefly discussed with regard to the active practice of Norse religious beliefs in Britain, and in the Scandinavian acculturation to indigenous practices, including Christianity, in the ninth and tenth centuries CE.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Vikings, Medieval, burial, sacrifice
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:British history
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Understanding past societies
Objective Field:Understanding Europe's past
UTAS Author:McLeod, S (Dr Shane McLeod)
ID Code:134625
Year Published:2018
Deposited By:Office of the School of Humanities
Deposited On:2019-08-22
Last Modified:2019-09-16

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