Northern worldviews in post-medieval Orkney: toward a more holistic approach to later landscapes

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Abstract

This article proposes a new theoretical approach to understanding postmedieval landscapes in Orkney, Scotland. Although this period has received considerable attention from economic and political historians and from ethnologists, these approaches have not adequately represented the worldviews and cosmologies of local historical communities. A more holistic approach must be employed, emphasizing the unique northern-ness of Orkney in terms of its Norse legacy, folklore and multiperiod remains. Folk beliefs, specifically those associated with prehistoric mounds, provide an example of how complex dialectical relationships between people and the world around them, past and present, are manifested. Taskscapes of the seasonal round and the expansion of the
hill dikes are examples used to examine the interconnection between communities and significant places in the landscape. In addition, Norse phenomena, such as Udal law (Norse law) and the Scandinavian concept of utmark, provide new analogies for landscape interactions within this context. A case study at Quandale, on the island of Rousay, is used to discuss these themes, allowing the reconceptualization of a more richly textured historical world in a northern context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-148
Number of pages22
JournalHistorical Archaeology
Volume49
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015

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