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Chronospecificities: Period-Specific Ideas About Animals in Viking Age Scandinavian Culture

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Abstract The archaeology of animals is often unhelpfully split between pure symbolism and pure economy. This paper will examine Viking Age Scandinavian religion as one sphere where the two overlapped and where symbolism was manipulated for economic ends and vice versa. Scandinavian Viking Age culture reasoned and understood animal symbols in a way that was internally coherent, yet it was very different from anything in modern science. The paper asks how, or if, this made any difference in the lives of real animals in Viking Age Scandinavian society. Viking Age Scandinavia is a particularly appropriate case study because art and literature suggest a great interest in thinking with animals. Like modern culture, it had a lot of animal references. Yet, unlike modern culture, most people also lived in everyday contact with economically important animals.

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