Monthly Archives: October 2012

What makes a priest write a charter?

Looking at the next week, I can already see that there will be no time for reading or writing or anything but marking, teaching and form-filling. Let me just first write some more about what I was working on over the summer, then, and then I’ll admit I’m too busy to blog for a short while. You’ve heard how I had something of an achievement blank patch and then got a hold of myself and read a lot of charters and came away with a new project (to add to all the old ones). This post is going to take one example of the kind of question that I found myself asking, robbed freely from my crazy notes files described in this earlier post. The questions that it raises, for me, are not maybe that new, but answering them would be, especially for this area, and I may have a way in.1 For now, however, the set-up.

The volumes of Calaixs 6 & 9 of the Arxiu Episcopal de Vic

Most of the tenth-century charters of the Arxiu Capitular de Vic, on a table in front of me in 2007.

There was a priest called Joan who appears in documents now at the cathedral of Vic dating from 951 to 962, and perhaps later though I doubt it. He always appears there as scribe. He does not appear with the cathedral chapter when they transacted, and I haven’t found him with any degree of certainty I’m willing to trust in any other archive’s documents from the county concerned.2 There were plenty of other scribes active in the cathedral at this time, and even more in the wider area, and so the first question that arises from this for me is what it was about these transactions that meant that Joan was called on to write them. What I really want to know, of course, is for whom he wrote, but I’m prepared to take any kind of association that will help explain how he got chosen.

Firstly I should admit that I haven’t actually seen all the originals of these documents and so I can’t be sure that all the Joans featured are in fact the same guy, but I have some hope, for reasons I’ll discuss in a minute.3 Secondly, I have to put aside the obvious association that these documents do have, which is that they’re all in the Arxiu Capitular de Vic; firstly, as I say above, there’s the problem that Joan seems not to have appeared with the chapter of Vic, but secondly and more seriously, not all of these transactions passed land to the cathedral, so there is some other motive for the association and also, presumably, some other step before they came to the archive, dictated perhaps by that as-yet-uncaught common factor.

Ruins of Sant Martí de Sentfores

Ruins of Sant Martí de Sentfores, one of the places in the county of Osona where Bishop Guisad bought land in a charter that Joan wrote

Now a common factor does leap out at one quite quickly, and that is Bishop Guisad II of Urgell. For complex genealogical reasons Guisad turns up in the Vic archive quite a lot, and still more so in that of the abbey of Sant Benet de Bages which a cousin of his had founded (that being the complex genealogical reason, the complexity lying in proving it, which I won’t do here).4 His bishopric may have been up in the Pyrenees but his heart, or at least his property, was in the lowlands too. Three of the transactions Joan wrote were actually purchases by Guisad, and indeed if one goes and pokes at the Urgell cathedral documents there is a priest Joan who turns up there at least once during Guisad’s pontificate.5 But he doesn’t turn up with the chapter either, he’s not associated with Guisad in that document and though it only exists in a later copy, I bet that if we had it and I’d looked at that as well we’d find that the handwriting doesn’t match; I think that is likely to be a different guy, because after all it’s only three times he appears with Guisad; there are five and maybe six more to explain. So, OK, now we get serious and make a table. Just for completeness I’ll put the Urgell one in too. Dates are UK-style, months in the middle.

Date Charter Place concerned Actors Witnesses Notes
951.i.20 CC4 668 Sentfores (Moià) Guibert Sunifred to Bishop Guisad Adulf, Ingilbert, Savaric Church of Santa Eulàlia appears on boundary
951.ii.28 CC4 670 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Belasquina and son Bradilà to Bishop Guisad Sendred, Ennegó, Ermeniscle pr[esbiter]., Ennegó pr.
951.v.12 CC4 674 Sant Julià de Sassorba Lleopard, Belascuda, Bonefaci & Medira to Samuel Sthetulf, Savaric, Bellelo Samuel is a big-deal local notable6
951.v.24 CC4 675 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Ramio to Bishop Guisad Ennegó, Asner, Ermeniscle pr.
959.iv.2 Urgell 132 Ennegó to Urgell cathedral Mesla, Seu d’Urgell Bellelo, Nemvolendo, Joan pr. A priest Ramio wrote
960.i.20 CC4 837 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Miró to Vic cathedral Donat, Sesgut, Franco
960.ii.15 CC4 840 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Agobard and wife Sàlvia to Langovard Igilà, Pere, Ennego lev[ita].
960.iv.3 CC4 849 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Bella, Galí, Tensemon, Sunifred & Borrell with Bishop Ató of Vic Teudefred, Sunyer, Dacó Not that Borrell, though weirdly he is a neighbour
960.v.31 CC4 863 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Vidal with Bishop Ató Asner, Eico, Ennegó lev.
962.ii.9 CC4 897 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Ennegó and wife Adalvira with Bishop Ató Guisad, Oriol, Guifré Presumably not that Guisad
962.iii.23 CC4 899 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Godmar and wife Faquilo with Bishop Ató Guifré, Sunifred, [...]
954×867 CC4 1499 [...] Esteve with [...] [...], [...], Guitizà No scribal signature survives here, but its editors were happy that the scribal hand is the same

With this done, we have some kind of an answer: the obvious common thread is the term of Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer, one of the odd areas of this county which were centred not on a castle although several fortifications and a comital estate were nearby, but on a church.8 Of the documents here that don’t involve land there, we might guess that the last one did if we only had the place-name, and Sassorba is only a few miles more or less due north, though in country like this that’s still a tough climb and they probably went round the valley ends to get there (if indeed the transaction wasn’t done at Santa Eulàlia for some reason we’re not going to be able to recover). The Urgell one is interesting: one would assume it’s a different guy, as I did above, except that the transactor and one of the witnesses, as well as a priest Joan of course, can all be paralleled in the Riuprimer documents. Could this be a guy who knew Joan and had some land two counties away (an inheritance? the copy doesn’t say) that he didn’t want to keep and was therefore giving to God for his soul’s sake, and he brought along his local priest as a witness? Given that Joan presumably knew some of the Urgell chapter from the sales to Guisad, and that the Urgell crowd probably frequently had people in the Riuprimer area to pick up renders and so on, this doesn’t seem too improbable. So OK, then, this Joan was presumably a priest at Riuprimer and when the locals wanted a charter written, they come to him. It’s not to do with whom he knew, but where he was. Case closed?

View of Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer

View of Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer

Well, it’s worth checking two more things. Firstly, was he the only priest there? This guy Ermeniscle cropped up twice there… In fact, however, those are his only two certain appearances. (He doesn’t show up at Urgell.) There’s too many possibilities there to make one worth choosing so let’s leave it; we can at least say that Joan seems to have been the obvious writer even when both were there. Nextly, are these all the Santa Eulàlia sales for this period? And that gets funnier, because no, they’re not; in fact they’re not even all the Riuprimer deals with the relevant bishops from the period, there’s a sale to Guisad here from June 959 in which a deacon Ermemir did the scribing and an exchange with Ató from 960 in which a priest called Fruià did.9 The people involved here turn up in the witness groups we’ve already seen, so it’s strange that for these ones somehow Joan was unavailable, given that at other times he was deemed worthy even when the recipients were these, well, worthies. Some explanation probably exists that we’ll never recover. There’s also a sale to Guisad where we don’t have a scribal name and a gift to Santa Maria de Ripoll where we do (unusually) and it was Narulf sacer, and the actors were unknowns-to-us living on the edge of the zone at la Guàrdia.10 I’m slightly happier saying that either they just didn’t know Joan very well or else they went to the monastery to make their gift and he didn’t come with them.

Close-up of Arxiu Capitular de Vic, calaix 9, episc. I, núm 50

Remember why this Vic charter is tricky? Click through if not

So, at the end of this we have a picture in which when people here had a transaction to make they enlisted their local priest to write it for them. That doesn’t sound terribly surprising in those terms, I know, but it is still slightly strange given two things about these transactions. They are, substantially, with churchmen. That in itself is not surprising, we should expect that simply because of whose archives get preserved as has often been said here, but the churchmen were high-ranking people. They did not travel without other churchmen in support, we might expect, and yet it’s the local guy who writes the documents, even when it’s a donation to the relatively-nearby cathedral. Our usual picture of early medieval diplomatic is one in which the recipients of the gifts usually write the charter, especially when they’re ecclesiastics and when we might expect the donation to have been made actually at the cathedral, and perhaps by placing a document on the altar there.11 But it looks here as if either Joan wrote that document (in which case one assumes he did so beforehand, and in that case how much input into it did the recipients even get?) or else, perhaps even weirder, the transaction was actually done in Santa Eulàlia whoever the recipient was. That’s weird because we’re so often encouraged to see this kind of transaction as a negotiation of a relationship with a saint and his familia; not going to his house to do it seems stand-offish, especially if you’re actually staying in the house of a different saint to do it.12 And of course, not all these are pious donations, even if they all wound up in cathedral archives. Presumably, at some point, and at different times, the property was passed on and wound up with the cathedral anyway, all relevant charters coming with. I presume this, because the alternative would be that anything Joan wrote was being archived at Santa Eulàlia and that at some point the whole church archive got swooped up into the cathedral one. I’ve posited something like that at Sant Andreu de Gurb, very nearby, but that’s not least because it, unlike Santa Eulàlia, appears to have been staffed by clergy working out of the cathedral (which was even nearer).13 I don’t quite like it here: the recipients must have had copies! why do we have Joan’s and not theirs, even when the recipient was usually a bishop or cathedral? But there doesn’t seem to be any way to count up these documents that doesn’t give both Joan and the documents he wrote a considerable importance to the people who wanted them made. It’s that importance I’m now after…


1. For example, I was just re-reading Rosamond McKitterick’s The Carolingians and the Written Word (Cambridge 1989), and chapter 3 turns out to be one of those things I should have been citing more in almost everything I’ve written but had internalised too deeply to recognise the debt. Other work asking similar questions would be Wendy Davies, “Priests and rural communities in East Brittany in the ninth century” in Études celtiques Vol. 20 (Paris 1983), pp. 177-197, repr. in Davies, Brittany in the Early Middle Ages, Variorum Collected Studies 924 (Aldershot 2009), V, or Carine van Rhijn, “Priests and the Carolingian reforms: the bottle-necks of local correctio” in Richard Corradini, Rob Meens, Christina Pössel & Philip Shaw (edd.), Texts and Identities in the Early Middle Ages, Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 13 (Wien 2006), pp. 219-237. Wendy has similar work forthcoming on the priests in her newer study area of Asturias-León, which is also influential on me.

2. The references are given below in sigillar form, but all but one come from Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica 53 (Barcelona 1999), 3 vols, and the numbers in the table below are those in this edition, though the documents are also printed in Eduard Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic (segles IX i X), ed. Ordeig (Vic 1980-1996), nos 265, 267, 269, 270, 318, 320, 325, 329, 342, 344 & 527.

3. It is some comfort to me that Junyent or Ordeig (or both! the way that edition was produced leaves no clarity over whose words were put onto any given page) say in Junyent, Diplomatari, p. 448, that the writer of docs 325, 329, 342 & 344 was the same person.

4. If you need it, it is done in Manuel Rovira i Solà, “Noves dades sobre els vescomtes d’Osona-Cardona” in Ausa Vol. 9 no. 98 (Vic 1981), pp. 249-260.

5. Cebrià Baraut (ed.), “Els documents, dels segles IX i X, conservats a l’Arxiu Capitular de la Seu d’Urgell” in Urgellia: anuari d’estudis històrics dels antics comtats de Cerdanya, Urgell i Pallars, d’Andorra i la Vall d’Aran Vol. 2 (Montserrat 1979), pp. 78-143, doc. no. 132.

6. Jonathan Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (Woodbridge 2010), pp. 108-109.

7. The left-hand side of this charter is destroyed and all that’s left of the dating clause is that the king was Lothar III, who ruled during these years.

8. Something which is fairly easy to check thanks to the excellent Jordi Bolòs & Victor Hurtado, Atles del comtat d’Osona (798-993), Atles dels comtats de la Catalunya carolíngia (Barcelona 2001), where pp. 28-29, Q9-11 are the most relevant. It’s reference works like this and decent printed editions that make it possible to do a summary like this in the sort of time that’s reasonable to dedicate to a blog post, and of course thus enable far larger projects, I’d make so many mistakes without this volume because of not being able to be in the actual places very much.

9. Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. nos 826 & 848 (= Junyent, Diplomatari, nos 314 & 324).

10. Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. nos. 771 & 1813.

11. See e. g. Reinhard Härtel, Notarielle und kirchliche Urkunden im frühen und hohen Mittelalter, Historische Hilfswissenschaften (Wien & München 2011), pp. 212-213.

12. Classically, Barbara H. Rosenwein, To Be the Neighbor of Saint Peter: the social meaning of Cluny’s property, 909-1049 (Ithaca 1989); more local resonances in Wendy Davies, Acts of Giving: individual, community and church in tenth-century Christian Spain (Oxford 2007), esp. pp. 113-134.

13. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled, pp. 122-123.

Seminars CXXX: a woman in a high castle

Seminars in both London and Oxford have now restarted, and I haven’t even reached the summer term yet with the reports, but what is to be done but carry on? And, by a curious coincidence, just as the term in London opened with a paper by none other than Professor Dame Janet Nelson, or Jinty as it is well-documented she would prefer to be known, a paper moreover to which I could not go drat it, so I now find myself with one of hers in Oxford to blog.1 This was a paper before the Medieval Church and Culture Seminar on the 6th March, entitled “Putting Dhuoda in Context”.

Supposedly a illustration showing Dhuoda, wife of Marquis Bernard of Septimania

There are no contemporary illustrations of Dhuoda and when I’ve searched for later depictions, before as now, this is all that comes up, which appears to be from something like a Unicorn Tapestry; if anyone knows more about it, I would love to… The page it’s from reprints a 1930 biography of Dhuoda in French.

Dhuoda is (as many of you will know) one of the very very few female authors known to us from the early Middle Ages, and extra interesting for me as the wife of one of the first Marquises of Barcelona, the unlucky but tenacious Bernard of Septimania. We know of her largely because she wrote a handbook of advice for their eldest son William, who like his father ended up dead in a rebellion against King Charles the Bald, and of whom I have often said that it could justly be said that he should have listened to his mother.2 As Jinty said, in what was throughout an entertainingly personalised paper, she has spent much of her lifetime reflecting on this person, whom the historian Pierre Riché’s wife apparently knew as “that woman” with whom she had to share her husband, who was similarly afflicted.3 The trouble is therefore finding new things to say about her, but this is less hard than it should be because she has not often been looked at as we might look at a male noble of the period, in terms of ancestry, property, influence and so on. She does certainly have one important distinction that most of our medieval writers do not, that of being a parent (which helps us deal with silly ideas about indifference to children and so on—when your source-base is primarily generated by celibates, well, what might you expect?). But, because what we mainly know of Dhuoda is that she loved her husband and son and encouraged the latter to loyalty whereas he got into trouble despite her advice, it has been kind of assumed that she was powerless. Not so! She wrote her book at William’s coming of age, when he was leaving the fold, over a period of fourteen months, and largely it seems in Uzés, where in Bernard’s absence she was more or less acting as countess between time, or rather, writing the book in what were probably precious few idle hours. During the hours of business, however, she was running a decent chunk of the Spanish March for Bernard and fund-raising for his campaigning. Furthermore, she was on the border in several ways: Uzés would soon be shunted into the Middle Kingdom of the Franks by the Treaty of Verdun that brings me so much of my search traffic here, and she dates the book, “Christo regnante” and regem spectante”, two clauses which sing straight out of a great many of my Catalan charters to me; these are the dating clauses you use when you do not know who the king is, or, significantly, have decided he’s not legitimate.4

The high castles of Uzés (tours de duché, de l'évêque, and two others)

The high castles of Uzés, all rather later than Dhuoda but giving you an idea of how she might have surveyed the town

To see Dhuoda as anything less than a political player in a sensitive position, therefore, is to miss a major trick. This added an extra dimension for Dhuoda for me that I hadn’t previously got, though since it’s due to Jinty that I know enough to think of queens as not getting much time to sit down when the king’s away, perhaps I should have thought it this far through.5 Typically also for Jinty we got a discussion of the other family who were in the area, the wider networks of which Dhuoda was part and through whom she got and sent her news, and which sometimes, indeed, included Bernard; he was not always absent. Jinty also pointed out that they presumably met at court, and that Dhuoda was not writing advice on how to handle yourself there from a position of ignorance.

A Nîmes MS of Dhuoda's Manuelis pro filio meo

The Nîmes manuscript of Dhuoda’s Manual

Looking back at this paper, therefore, apart from the affection that Jinty brought to her subject and which the capacity crowd demonstrated for her, what stands out for me is that if all we had was the career pattern, some kind of itinerary (which in fact we don’t have) and the odd reference in other texts, except for being married to a man this career would look like a respectable one for any courtier of the period: get educated at court, marry someone you met there, wind up with an administrative position for which you’re partly qualified by your ancestry in a difficult position during a time of civil war that ultimately costs you most of your family… I mean, there are male relatives of Bernard’s about whom we cannot say as much or even demonstrate them as important.6 Just because the title of countess was not yet used by powerful women of the Midi as it would be a century later doesn’t mean that we’re not looking at one of them when we read this text, and that is important because it reminds us that powerful people of all stamps could probably also suffer loss and enjoy affection, even if only one of them for this period really cared to write about it.


1. It’s documented, for example, in Paul Fouracre & David Ganz, “Dame Jinty Nelson… An Appreciation” in eidem (edd.), Frankland: the Franks and the world of the early middle ages : essays in honour of Dame Jinty Nelson (Manchester 2008), pp. 1-6 at p. 1. It’s important to get it in early on you see!

2. The most relevant translation, though there are many, is probably Marcelle Thiebaux (ed./transl.), Dhuoda: Handbook for her warrior son, Cambridge Medieval Classics 8 (Cambridge 1998). There did also come up in questions the rather poignant reflection that one of the manuscripts of the Manuel is now in Barcelona, where indeed it has been studied by none other than Cullen Chandler, in “Barcelona BC 569 and a Carolingian programme on the virtues” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 18 (Oxford 2010), pp. 265-291, and one possible explanation for the text having been preserved there is that perhaps William did in fact listen at least to his mother’s injunction to keep the book with him, and so it wound up in a Barcelona library when he was killed there…

3. Lately accumulated in Janet L. Nelson, “Dhuoda” in Patrick Wormald & Nelson (edd.), Lay intellectuals in the Carolingian world (Cambridge 2007), pp. 106-120.

4. Jinty offered the former interpretation, and the latter is not something I’d quite want to attribute to Dhuoda, but it’s certainly how one needs to read the later charters: see (with all the usual cautions) Michel Zimmermann, “La datation des documents catalans du IXe au XII siècle : un itinéraire politique” in Annales du Midi Vol. 93 (Toulouse 1981), pp. 345-375.

5. I suppose that my default reference here is Janet L. Nelson, “Kingship and Royal Government” in Rosamond McKitterick (ed.), The New Cambridge Medieval History volume 2: c. 700-c. 900 (Cambridge 1995), pp. 387-430, but it probably ought to be Nelson, “Medieval Queenship” in Linda E. Mitchell (ed.), Women in medieval western European culture (New York City 1999), pp. 179-207.

6. Starting with Bernard’s brother, and sometime co-Marquis, Gaucelm, if you want someone to research (please…). This is not the first time that I have expressed amazement that there is so little literature on such a crucial figure of the Carolingian period, given some of the people who’ve had monographs: there is, quite simply, no focussed study of Bernard of Septimania other than Lina Malbos, “La capture de Bernard de Septimanie” in Le Moyen Âge Vol. 76 (Bruxelles 1970), pp. 5-13, which is, you know, not a lot. More can be added via Martin Aurell, “Pouvoir et parenté des comtes de la Marche Hispanique (801-911)” in Régine Le Jan (ed.), La Royauté et les élites dans l’Europe carolingienne (début IXe siècle aux environs de 920) (Villeneuve d’Ascq 1998), pp. 467-480 or Josep María Salrach, El procés de formació nacional de Catalunya (segles VIII-IX), Llibres a l’Abast 136-137 (Barcelona 1978), vol. I, but this is somewhat of a local historiography.

Gold and fool’s gold strained from the web

Ordinarily I do links-posts when I have little other content to post, and I save up links against that day so that I’m sure I shall have something interesting to show you all. The way this goes wrong, of course, is the current situation where I have forty-odd posts that I hope will be interesting existing in some state, and also a whole bunch of saved-up links getting increasingly out of date. So, let me clear some decks with some commented things for you to look at and then resume more autocthonous programming.

Digital Treasure

  • Page 185 of the Cartulaire Générale de CíteauxFirst and foremost in this, periodically an update arrives in my INBOX from the Chartae Burgundiae Medii Ævi project of which I’ve made mention here before, the guys who finally indexed the Cluny charters for the greater good of the world. Though they have fewer big goals now their progress is still considerable and ongoing, and more and more stuff is coming online. For me the most exciting thing in the recent batches is the cartularies of Dijon and Pérrecy, now online as facsimiles both of the manuscripts and of the edition, but for many others, I’m guessing that the star attraction will be the General Cartulary of Cîteaux, and indeed its other cartularies too. All of this, as far as I can see, is also included in the searchable database that was the starting point of the whole project. Really, one just wishes Burgundy had been bigger (though of course `one’ is not the first to do that…)
  • Newly-cleaned sword pommel from the Staffordshire HoardMore locally, although it’s almost old news now, conservation efforts on the Staffordshire Hoard are still continuing and new information about it keeps becoming available. One of the good things about that project is how keen they have been to keep the non-academic population in on the loop, and in this day and age of course that involves social media. An example of this, featuring some pictures that were new when I stored the link, and are still shiny, can be found here along with the input of one of this blog’s more important supporting characters, on whose work more soon.

Physical treasure: notable finds

  • Saxon woman cow buried at Anglo-Saxon Oakington cemeteryObviously we can’t have a Staffordshire hoard every year, it’s not like we’re in Gotland or something, but this was pretty good anyway, a burial from the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Oakington in which the remains found were an apparently-wealthy woman and a cow, a weird anti-pairing to the warrior-and-horse combo with which we’re more familiar from Sutton Hoo and Lakenheath. Worth a look even if bodies aren’t your thing; as for me, I have to build this lady into a lecture now…
  • Monastery of BenedkitbeuernThen, across the Channel, and in fact really quite a lot further, about as far as possible really. But we start across the Channel, at the monastery of Benediktbeuern, where in the fifteenth century a rather fancy Bible was made, in four volumes. This we know because it is now in Auckland, New Zealand, where recently investigations have revealed at least eight strips from a much older Bible, from the time of Charlemagne (whom the story calls “the French and German emperor” – better than choosing just one I suppose?), that were reused as binding material. The survival of ancient manuscript material as linings and joints for newer ones is not unusual, but the distance of travel involved here rather is; as the Waikato University researcher who found them is quoted as saying, “these little pieces of manuscript have travelled further than any other piece of Carolingian manuscript as far as we know”. Slightly amazing!
  • Portrait denarius of Charlemagne as Emperor (812x814)Nonetheless, in some ways more amazing is another find from the era of Charlemagne, although this, a portrait denarius of Charlemagne from an unidentified mint and dating from the short space of his reign in which he was acknowledged as Emperor by his counterpart in Constantinople (812-814), is a find made a long time ago; it’s amazing because in March it sold for 160,000 euros, making it one of the highest-price medieval coins ever sold.1 (The estimate had been a mere 30,000…) We all know, of course, that very little if anything is worth more than Charlemagne but evidence of this is usually harder to quantify!
  • I got the first of these from Antiquarian’s Attic and the latter two from News for Medievalists, so hats duly tipped to them.

Finds more controversial

Site of the prehistoric temple at Ranheim, NorwayThere were two stories I wanted to comment on in this kind of category, but I don’t think I’m quite up to doing more with this one, which isn’t medieval in the slightest, than to say, can you imagine how this knowledge would have been used 150 years ago? We have, after all, seen on this blog the kinds of fight that can break out over who was where first… So, more interesting and relevant perhaps is news of the discovery of a pagan temple site at Ranheim in Norway, with a sequence of dates running from a fire pit in the lowest layer whose charcoal radio-carbonned to the fourth or fifth centuries BCE and a last-used date of 895×990 AD, after which the building was apparently carefully dismantled, pulled down and levelled, thus explaining the remarkable preservation. Now, this is an amazing site if that’s all correct, but the story has been presented in a very odd way. Admittedly, I have sourced this information from a site called Free Thought Nation (by way of Archaeology in Europe), so it’s perhaps unsurprising that it is down on Christianity, but it’s the way it’s down, which it supports with alleged quotes from the excavator, that surprises me: they read the site as having been dismantled and levelled to hide it from the forces of Christianization at loose in Norway at the time, probably prior to the faithful emigrating to more tolerant pastures like Iceland. Why, though, should we not suppose that the temple was taken down as part of Christianization? Because it’s not violent enough, or something? More probably, I suppose, because it was not subsequently re-used for a Christian site of worship, implying that no population needing one remained, but it’s still a bit odd, as is the effort the article goes into to establish that this religion, whatever it was, predated Christianity, but does not demonstrate any settlement nearby. So okay, pre-Christian religion, yes! How does that help? and whom?

Links involving me

More humbly and mundanely, there are two things I could point you at that reflect on my various endeavours, though only one of these involves Vikings I’m afraid.

  • The one that doesn’t is that I lately updated my personal academic webpages, so if you want to be up-to-date with my publications list (on which more here too before long), to see which of my various projects I’m admitting to working on currently or simply to get the latest on my hair, they’re here. Now I just have to get all my institutional ones similar…
  • Dunnyneil Island, Strangford Lough, Ireland, from the airAnd secondly, and more excitingly, back in May I got an e-mail from someone at BBC Ireland asking for comment on the excavations at Dunnyneil Island in Strangford Lough. This is only the second time I’ve been asked to be a media mouth, and the first time I didn’t realise how tight the timescale was and so missed out; this time I answered mail with unparalleled alacrity and as much help as I could be. I was, however, fully expecting this to be cut about, abbreviated and misused and I was completely wrong: quite a lot of what I wrote is now part of this story by Laura Burns, and all the quotes from me, modulo typos, are actually what I sent her. I’m rather pleased with it, and I wish all medievalist journalism was as good. You may like to have a look.

And finally…

Also, for those with problems with Oxford (including simply not being here), there’s this, which the Naked Philologist sent me and which I offer without comment…


1. In this dating I follow the view of Simon Coupland, and before him Philip Grierson, that Charlemagne only began to issue these coins once recognised as emperor by the eastern one (see S. Coupland, “Charlemagne’s Coinage: ideology and economy” in Joanna Story (ed.), Charlemagne: Empire and Society (Manchester 2005), pp. 211-229, repr. in Coupland, Carolingian Coinage and the Vikings: studies on power and trade in the 9th century, Variorum Collected Studies 847 (Aldershot 2006), I, but the auction house in question, Künker’s, have used a more cautious/less precise date.