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In the Darkest of Days (Paperback)

Exploring Human Sacrifice and Value in Southern Scandinavian Prehistory

Ancient History > Prehistory > European Prehistory P&S History > Archaeology > Archaeological Method & Theory

Edited by Sean O'Neill, Edited by Lasse Sørensen, Edited by Matthew J Walsh
Imprint: Oxbow Books
Pages: 176
Illustrations: B/w and colour
ISBN: 9781789258592
Published: 15th December 2023
Casemate UK Academic

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This book collects recent works on the subjects of sacrificial offerings, ritualised violence and the relative values thereof in the contexts of Scandinavian prehistory from the Neolithic to the Viking era. It provides a detailed re-appraisal of key aspects of prehistoric bog bodies using the latest forensic and material culture analytical techniques to examine questions of sacrifice, execution and ritual behaviour.

The volume re-opens investigations into notions of value relating to diverse evidence and suggested evidence for human sacrifice and related ritualised violence. It covers a broad spectrum of issues relating to novel interpretations of the existing archaeological materials, but with a focus on the study of value and value dynamics in these diverse ritual contexts, engaging in questions of identity, cosmology, economics and social relations. Cases span from the Scandinavian Late Neolithic and Nordic Bronze Age, through to the well-known wetland deposits and bog bodies of the Iron Age, to Viking era executions, ‘deviant’ burials and contemporaneous double/multiple graves, exploring the implications for the transformation of sacrificial practices across Scandinavian prehistory.

Each contributor untangles the myriad forms of value at play in different incarnations of human offerings, and provide insights into how those values were expressed, for example in the selection and treatment of victims in relation to their status, personhood, identity and life-history.

The volume builds on a workshop hosted at the National Museum of Denmark in 2018 which inaugurated the beginning of the research project ‘Human Sacrifice and Value: The limits of sacred violence’ and was supported by the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo. It brings together research and perspectives that go beyond the who, what and where of most archaeological and anthropological investigations of sacrificial violence to address both the underlying and explicit forms of value associated with such events.

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About Sean O'Neill

Sean O’Neill studies inter-disciplinary approaches to anthropology, ethnology, archaeology, history and political science. He is currently a consulting researcher with the Human Sacrifice & Value project at the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, Norway.


About Lasse Sørensen

Lasse Sørensen is Head of the Department of Ancient Cultures of Denmark and the Mediterranean at the National Museum of Denmark. He completed his PhD at the University of Copenhagen in 2015. His main research interest is the Mesolithic and Neolithic of northern Europe and the Aegean.


About Matthew J Walsh

Matthew J. Walsh is an anthropological archaeologist whose research focuses on cultural evolution and cultural transmission. He completed his PhD in 2015 at the University of Montana and is currently a senior researcher with the National Museum of Denmark.

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