Tom Horne, MA (Oxon.), MLitt (Glasgow) firstname.lastname@example.org Ph.D. Candidate (Glasgow) Supervisor: Dr. Colleen Batey
The Most Praiseworthy Journey: Market and Trader Networks in the Viking Age The Research Islamic silver coins (dirhams) from Central Asia are found across Northern Europe, and entered Scandinavian regions of the British Isles between c. 870970. However, beyond mapping their Insular distribution, and suggesting the most common route of entry (i.e., via the Baltic and Southern Scandinavia), relatively little has been done in British and Irish studies to assess the mechanisms behind this movement, or to place them in a wider (market) network or (bullion) economic context. This is in stark contrast to recent work from the Scandinavian homelands and Eastern Europe, where interest in longdistance network structures and economic practice within them is wellestablished (e.g., Bately & Englert 2007; Englert & Trakadas 2009). Working on the understanding that the distribution of dirhams in Britain and Ireland represents just part of a suite of eastern imports (cf. Sheehan 1998), this study seeks to gather further evidence for the transfer of trade goods. Such goods include Baltic amber and objects such as bullion weights, hacksilver, and traders’ personal accoutrements, all of which were derived from those regions through which the dirhams passed. It is suggested that the long-distance travel of this package, combined with deposition in probable market exchange contexts (e.g., hacksilver hoards; trading sites with hacksilver, bullion weights) represents use of transactional mechanisms outside socially-embedded gift-exchange. Moreover, that this network flow was bi-directional is suggested by the shared development of some Danish and Hiberno-Scandinavian types of silver arm-rings (Brooks & Graham-Campbell 2000), and the spread of Hiberno-Scandinavianstyle copper alloy ringed pins into Scandinavia and the Baltic (Fanning 1994). Within the British Isles, concentrations of these long-distance ‘economic’ objects in the trade and productive sites at York and Dublin, and lesser, but notable, distributions on the routeways linking them, led to several hypotheses, supported by network and economic anthropology theory from Scandinavian Baltic studies. Thus, the ‘urban’ concentrations seemed to support ‘nodal market’ network theories, where exchange traffic gravitates to certain ‘hubs’ characterised by sustained import and use of long-distance commodities (Sindbæk 2008). That York and Dublin specifically were key importers also suggested that the Uí Ímair dynasty attempted to operate a ‘network kingdom’ predicated on control of the dirham-bearing trade routes, like those suggested for the Danes, Swedes, and Rus (Blomkvist 2009; cf. Downham 2007). Beyond this, the spread of ‘Islamic’ bullion weights popular in the Baltic and Southern Scandinavia (where dirham import was highest) suggested associated import of more market-orientated forms of exchange; ones which, it seems, were aided by the unique social circumstances in network-structured nodal markets (Gustin 2004; Skre 2008). That this market practice then spread to non-urban market or ‘primitive’ rural regions via visits to these hubs is suggested by the spread of items associated with a long-distance bullion economy to other parts of Britain and Ireland (Sindbæk 2011), and fits with the idea that, beyond the first-tier nodal markets, ‘historically invisible’ second-tier trading sites (e.g., longphuirts, beach markets) were key mechanisms for redistribution of finished products, like amber beads, made from imported raw materials at the hubs (Sheehan et al. 2001; Griffiths 2010; Carlsson 2013).
A Barium Meal for Scandinavian Long-distance Trade and Economic Networks? Using dirham distribution in Northern Europe and the British Isles as a guide to market network parameters Routeway of dirhams towards the British Isles (Steuer 2009: 295)
Storr Rock, Skye
Beyond the Dirhams: Associated with the dirham influx into the Baltic and Southern Scandinavia, small weights for use in regular (market?) transactions are also found in Britain and Ireland Islamic-style Bullion Weights
Cubo-Octahedral (‘Polyhedral’) Scale Weights
Scarborough (PAS: NLM687)
Rügen, Germany, author
Truncated-sphere (‘Barrel’) Scale Weights
Note the correlation between the single/sitefind dirhams and the Islamic-style weights in the eastern Danelaw (cf. Jane Kershaw/PAS), something mirrored in Southern Scandinavia and the Baltic, where these weights were produced after Islamic prototypes. Adoption in Viking Age Scandinavian Scotland, as at Cleat (Orkney, see right), might suggest spread of hacksilver-bullion economic practice via contacts with dirham-using regions linked to nodal markets.
Cleat, Orkney (Maleszka 2003)
Gotland (Mikkelsen 1998)
Beyond the Dirhams: Were the coins and weights accompanied by traded commodities and marked by the personal accoutrements of long-distance node-to-node market traders like Wulfstan? Hacksilver currency? ‘Permian’ silver spiral arm-rings
Storr Rock, Skye (NMS 000-190-004-106-C)
Summary My research represents an understanding of the Insular distribution of dirhams and associated imports, whether hacksilver bullion currency (e.g., ‘Permian’ spiral-rings); traders’ personal possessions (e.g., ‘Islamic’ weights; Baltic armrings); or high-value commodities (e.g., amber), in the context of network theory and economic anthropology transposed from those Scandinavian regions with a lead on their study. The role of interlinked nodal markets, waterborne-centric network polities, and network agents (e.g., Ohthere, Wulfstan), is considered key, as is a post-substantivist appreciation of the market aspect of exchange, even in Viking Age economies, and even in ‘primitive’, violent, regions.
Single/site-find dirhams from the British Isles
British and Irish Viking Age hoards containing dirhams
Long-distance commodity? Amber
Fragments (in hoards, trading sites) suggest similar use to dirhams as a type of bullion ‘currency’ of recognised form and quality. Originally made in Eastern Europe, a variant was produced in Southern Scandinavia, where dirhams were a frequently-used source for the silver. Probably accompanied dirhams into Britain and Ireland.
References Bately, J., & A. Englert 2007 = Ohthere’s Voyages Brooks, N. & J. Graham-Campbell 2000 = Reflections on the Viking-Age silver hoard from Croydon Blomkvist, N. 2009 = Traces of a global economic boom that came and went Carlsson, D. 2013 = Paviken research project 2013-2016 Downham, C. 2007 = Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of ĺvarr to AD 1014 Englert, A., & A. Trakadas 2009 = Wulfstan’s Voyage Fanning, T. 1994 = Viking Age Ringed Pins from Dublin Griffiths, D. 2010 = Vikings of the Irish Sea
Gustin, I. 2004 = Mellan Gåva och Marknad Maleszka, M. 2003 = A Viking Age weight from Cleat, Westray, Orkney Mikkelsen, E. 1998 = Islam and Scandinavia during the Viking Age Naismith, R. 2005 = Islamic coins from Early Medieval England Sheehan, J. 1998 = Early Viking Age silver hoards from Ireland and their Scandinavian elements Sheehan, J., Stummann Hansen, S., and D. Ó Corráin 2001 = A Viking maritime haven (Beginish) Sindbæk, S. 2008 = Local and long-distance exchange Sindbæk, S. 2011 = Silver economies and social ties Skre, D. 2008 = Post-substantivist towns and trade AD 600-1000 Steuer, H. 2009 = Principles of trade and exchange: trade goods and exchange
Traders’ items? Knobbed Penannular Brooches The volumes in York and Dublin suggest significant, if irregular, import into these networked first-tier Uí Ímair nodal markets. The distribution outwith these might point to a second-tier ‘tramping’ sphere, and/or local travel to the hubs. Raw amber was generally imported from the eastern Baltic, with subsequent distribution following the line of the dirhams (see Steuer map). With thanks to: Dr. Colleen Batey Ryan K. McNutt (GIS map assistance)
Isle of Man
Gogar, Edinburgh (NMS: 000-100-102-435-C)
Originally a Baltic type (versions of which spread westwards), the presence of these brooches might show the physical movement of traders, but could also show the spread of a ‘trader style’ adopted by that group involved in the longdistance trade of amber (etc.) who used dirham and spiral-rings as hacksilver currency, and who weighed it with Islamic weights.