Innovations and actor-networks in Viking Age towns
Innovations in culture or technology are moments, which offer extraordinary insights into the working of societies. The ways in which new practices or things are adopted by groups or individuals, or encounter resistance or rejection from the same, trace a section through the social topography of communities and their life world. Transcending technology, cultural dispositions and social relations, the study of innovations invites an actor-networks approach, which considers the heterogeneous nature of human-material relations. The archaeological record is potentially a rich source of evidence on innovations. Mostly, however, the time-resolution of archaeological data is too coarse-grained to allow us to grasp this potential to the full. In the period c. AD 790-850 a distinctly new artistic motif, the Gripping Beast, emerged in Scandinavia. A series of narrowly dated contexts provide anchor points, which allows us to chart this innovation process and to point out some of the locations where this development took place; the reception of the mew motif is traced in grave finds across Scandinavia. This allows us to follow an early medieval innovation through the human-material interactions of an actor-network.
Bar International Series: Proceedings of the 10th Nordic Tag Conference at Stiklestad, Norway 2009, 2012, p. 129-135