Guests in the house : cultural transmission between Slavs and Scandinavians 900 to 1300.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Scholarly texts on Slavic-Scandinavian relations have concentrated on two main areas of interest. During the Viking Age the economic and social contacts between the lake Mälaren district and Rus’ were extensive. However, at the beginning of the Middle Ages, political antagonism between the two expanding realms of the Svear and the Novgorodians is noticeable. In southern Scandinavia, the hostility between the Danes and the Wends in the 12th century has attracted more interest than the common political pattern in the previous centuries. This thesis claims that there is a need for a more comprehensive analysis of Slavic-Scandinavian contacts, to bridge the current artificial academic gap between Prehistoric and Historical Archaeology, and also to investigate the simplified approaches to Slavic identity in the past. By means of archaeological and historical sources it is possible to explore contrasts and analogies and to discern common or disparate cultural patterns and their changes in space and time. The main issue of the thesis concerns the presence of foreign individuals in Scandinavia during the period of study, more precisely Slavic visitors and their relations to their Scandinavian hosts.

Simple everyday pottery is studied as a way of finding evidence for the presence of Slavic foreigners in Scandinavia. The main topic of the thesis concerns the relationship between the so-called Baltic ware (Ostseeware, vendiskt svartgods) and the presence of Slavic people in the area corresponding to modern Sweden during the period 900-1300. The ceramic tradition in this area is clearly of Slavic origin, but why and in what ways was it transmitted to Scandinavian potters? What is the connection between Baltic ware and Slavic identity? Baltic ware has traditionally been regarded as a purely Slavic product, reaching Scandinavia through trade and free-moving artisans or as a result of co-operation between Slavic and Scandinavian potters. Several possibilities suggest themselves and the aim of the thesis is to capture the dynamics in the interaction, to distinguish regional differences between the two traditions and thereby minimise the number of possible interpretations.

The thesis is divided into five chapters. Chapter 1 (The Power of the Past) presents the reasons for choosing the topic, the questions raised and theoretical perspectives used. Issues of cultural and ethnic identity, transformed into material culture through pottery style, are assessed in Chapter 2 (The Meeting). In the third chapter (Preparing the Gift) a comprehensive survey of Slavic pottery from c. 400-1300 is presented and linked to political and socio-economic interpretations. The fourth chapter (The Scandinavian Reception) offers an extensive survey of Baltic ware found in present-day Sweden. Chapter 5 (Slavic Guests in the Scandinavian House) combines the theoretical ideas and empirical data and presents a hypothetical interpretation of the Slavic presence in Scandinavia. Aspects of contrasts and analogies in Baltic ware and late Slavic vessel morphologies, the distribution of different types of ware and historical contexts form the background to the discussion.

Baltic ware can be said to be strongly connected to the Slavic presence on one level and unrelated to it on another level. As a primary inspiration, late Slavic pottery was a vital condition for Baltic ware to emerge. But the wide distribution of the new tradition was carried out by Scandinavian potters, working on a household basis. In this sense Slavs had a deep impact on Scandinavian culture for at least 250 years, but Slavic pottery cannot be used as evidence for a general Slavic presence.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Archaeology
Translated title of the contributionGäster i Huset. Kulturell överföring mellan slaver och skandinaver 900 till 1300
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Anders Andrén, Supervisor
Award date2001 May 23
  • Brill Academic Publishers
Print ISBNs9789004161894
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2001-05-23 Time: 10:15 Place: Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Carlsson, Anders Title: Associate professor Affiliation: Dep. of archaeology and classical studies, Stockholm ---