Contacts, Identity and Hybridity: objects from South-western Finland in the Birka Graves

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The study concludes that there were contacts between Birka and western Finland throughout more or less the whole existence of the town. The earliest evidence of these contacts is from the 760s and the latest from the middle of the tenth century. Unlike other eastern material in Birka, which became much more frequent during the second half of the ninth century the contacts with Finland were constant through time. However, the contacts might not have been very extensive compared to contacts with regions even further east. The study shows that, of the roughly 1,100 graves on Björkö, 13 contained costume details from Finland and 34 pottery of Baltic Finnish ware. The number of graves with objects from Finland amounts to roughly 4% of all the graves in Birka. However, it should be pointed out that this is the minimum amount since there might be pottery, especially coarse ware for cooking and storage, and objects with provenance from the Finnish mainland that cannot be singled out from local material or material from other regions.
Interestingly enough, Finnish objects were most frequent in cremation graves under a mound, a form of grave that was very common in the Mälaren valley, and it is likely that the people who performed the funeral ritual followed local customs.
However, a large share of objects from Finland occurred in chamber graves as well. This type of grave is believed to represent an elite of warriors and merchants with long-distance contacts. Some of the chamber graves with artefacts from Finland are also among the richest in Birka as regards the amount of grave goods. This shows that members in the leading circle in the town, men as well as women, were part of a network that had direct or indirect contacts with groups on the Finnish mainland.
It is generally held impossible to identify ethnic groups based on the grave material in Birka. It is therefore suggested that migration to Birka as well as encounters taking place in the town prompted a dialogue in which different cultural elements were put together in an eclectic way and where local elements became entangled with foreign ones. It is likely that ethnic identities were played down in the town in favour of the construction and negotiation of new identities and affiliations.
Titel på värdpublikationIdentity Formation and Diversity in the Early Medieval Baltic and Beyond
Undertitel på värdpublikationCommunicators and Communication
RedaktörerJohan Callmer, Ingrid Gustin, Mats Roslund
ISBN (tryckt)978-90-04-29217-8
StatusPublished - 2017 jan. 24


NamnThe Northern World
ISSN (tryckt)1569-1462

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Historia och arkeologi


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