View Full Version : Scandinavian "Central Places" in a Cosmological Setting

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017, 06:56 PM

The South Scandinavian settlement structure in late Iron Age was hierarchical with respect to size and function. New excavations have revealed magnificent places as Gudme and Tissø, classified as multi-functional ’central places’. Traditionally we focus on concepts such as long-distance trade, economy, political control, production, richness and sacredness to explain their functions.
Although these concepts are relevant, they are never brougt together in a coherent explanation. In this paper I wish to employ Northern mythology and the world af the sagas to present a hypothesis of ’central places’ as a reconstruction of the pre-Christian universe, contextualizing the archaeological and the written record as different expressions of a single cosmological model.


The concept ‘central places’ has been developed in Scandinavian archaeology during the last decades to classify rich settlement sites from the late Iron Age. These sites have mainly been understood in terms of ‘longdistance trade’, ‘economy’, ‘control’, ‘production’, ‘gold’, ‘hall’, ‘richness’, ‘gods’, ‘sacred’, and ‘power’ in different variations and combinations. Although these keywords are significant, they have never been included in a coherent model of explanation.

The most spectacular of these central places hitherto found in Scandinavia is Gudme/Lundeborg on the Danish island of Funen (Fig.1) It was excavated during the 1980s and early 1990s, and has been interpreted as a unique trading and production site that flourished from the third to the sixth/seventh centuries (Thrane 1987, 1998, 1999; Nielsen et al. 1994; Sørensen 1994 b). In some respects, Gudme/Lundeborg fits the general model of a ‘central place’, but in others, it diverges.

First, Gudme is among the earliest of these places, and may even be the earliest, for it already gained its central position during Late Roman Period.
Second, Gudme is bigger and the settlement area more extended than that of any of the other central places hitherto found in South Scandinavia (Jørgensen 1995 b); its great hall, situated in the centre, is unique because of its size and its construction (Sørensen 1994a, 1994b).
Third, the sheer amount of archaeological finds from the area is overwhelming; this goes especially for the number of gold finds and superb jewellery produced by skilled craftsmen.
Fourth, the evidence of place names connected with the sacred is more persuasive in Gudme than anywhere.

This paper deals with Gudme/Lundeborg as a place that has been constructed, maintained and transformed over centuries, for purposes other than strictly economic and political ones. Gudme was a ceremonial centre, where ancient beliefs were articulated in rituals and performances.
In this paper, I will discuss Gudme as a place where foreign objects from the outside world were acquired (‘trade’) and transformed into ‘prestige objects’ (‘production’) embedded in the cosmological order [religion/ mythology].

Using data from anthropological research as an explanatory framework, I will pay special attention to the importance of skilled crafting - and skilled metal work - as an activity fundamental to the process of transformation. To broaden the context, I will also look at the role of smiths and the significance of gold in Old Norse sources. All this will reveal that metallurgy, skilled metal work and gold were crucial concepts in northern cosmology.

Finally, I will focus on Gudme and the surrounding landscape as a sacred place - a representation of the ‘centre of the world’ along the lines of northern mythology.

Continue Reading (http://projekt.ht.lu.se/uploads/media/1._Hedeager.pdf)

Thursday, January 4th, 2018, 12:22 AM
Since the link in the original post is dead and I can't edit it properly for some reason, here's another link to the same paper:
Scandinavian ‘Central Places’ in a Cosmological Setting (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=EE1A878E3DBF49B225AC F0AC42199EAA?doi=

One of the sources for this paper is also interesting in its own right. Early Germanic power centers are fascinating:

Gudme-Lundeborg on Funen as a model for northern Europe?

By Lars Jørgensen, Copenhagen

The settlement complex from the Iron Age at Gudme on Funen is one of the largest in Scandinavia. Through its long existence from AD 200 and into the Medieval Period the settlement can be divided into three main phases reflecting the social and economic development of the site.

Phase 1 – 200 – 600 AD a manorial residence with indications on religious activities is surrounded by a large number of smaller workshop farms characterized by large amounts of Roman gold, silver and bronze objects. A number of sacral place names perhaps reflect the important religious function of the site during the period.

Phase 2 – 600 –1000 AD the manorial residence seems to disappear and is perhaps moved to another site in the area. At the same time the number of farms is radically reduced. However, the workshop activities are still present at the site in a more limited scale.

Phase 3 – in the 11th century the settlement area is abandoned and the farms probably moved to the present day village of Gudme.

Continue Reading (http://vikingekult.natmus.dk/fileadmin/user_upload/temasites/Forkristne_kultpladser/pdf/Tissoe_pdf/Gudme_Jorgensen-libre.pdf)