5. Past Mirrors: Thucydides, Sahlins and the Bronze and Viking Ages
Comparative Perspectives on Colonisation, Maritime Interaction and Cultural Integration - Lene Melheim
Zanette Tsigaridas Glørstad [+]
University of Oslo
Lene Melheim [+]
University of Gothenburg
This article explores the potential of the archaeological analogy, by contrasting and comparing two formative periods in Nordic prehistory: the Early Bronze Age and the Viking Age. While admitting the historical differences between the two periods, an attempt is made to assess the structural basis for the apparent similarities in the material record, i.e. to identify whether there are universal parameters behind the particularities of the two historical trajectories. In other words, we approach the crux where history meets the model. Leaning on Thucydides’ report from the Peloponnesian War, Marshall Sahlins’ analysis of the Athenian sea empire and Kristiansen’s previous comparison of the Bronze and Viking Ages, we argue that the material similarities between the two ages were not based on equifinality, but reflect congruent cultural structures that arose as responses to comparable situations, yet with different degrees of social integration.