RMN Newsletter 14

Ex­plor­ing Cir­cum-Baltic Cul­tures and Beyond

Special issue:

Interdisciplinary and Comparative Methodologies: Exploring Circum-Baltic Cultures and Beyond

Guest Editors: Joonas Ahola and Kendra Willson


Editor’s Column 6


Interdisciplinary and Comparative Methodologies: An Introduction 7

Frog, Joonas Ahola and Kendra Willson

Abstract: The core of this special issue engages with the constructedness of ideas and understandings rooted in the discourses of scholarship. This introductory article explores perspectives on discourses and practices of interdisciplinarity. The discussion of topics related to these issues develops in dialogue with individual contributions to the collection in ways that make their interconnections and complementarity apparent.

Theory and Methodology for Assembly Site Identification and Analysis 17

Alexandra Sanmark

Abstract: This article presents a new interdisciplinary methodology successfully developed for the identification and detailed analysis of Viking-Age outdoor assembly sites. This methodology draws on archaeological evidence, topographic information and a wide range of written sources, from laws to eddic poetry. It is hoped this approach will inspire a new way of thinking, leading to the identification of outdoor assembly-sites in areas of the world where they are not yet known.

Thegns in the Social Order of Anglo-Saxon England and Viking-Age Scandinavia: Outlines of a Methodological Reassessment 25

Denis Sukhino-Khomenko

Abstract: The article addresses the possibilities for a methodological reassessment of the phenomenon of the thegns in England and Scandinavia in the late Viking Age (ca. 900–1066). The historiographical overview reveals that the thegns have never been examined for their own sake, and that the recent developments in source studies open new methodological prospects in anthropological research. The case study of the thegns hopes to outline some of them.

Castrén’s Lectures on Finnish Mythology: Methodological Reflections 51

Joonas Ahola and Karina Lukin

Abstract: M.A. Castrén’s Föreläsningar i finsk mytologi [‘Lectures on Finnish mythology’] represents an important phase in the study of mythology and religion. It is the first comparative study on Finnish and related mythologies that draws on contemporary international scholarship. The Lectures are here reviewed critically both as an emblem in the history of the discipline and as a case study on challenges in combining methodologies from different disciplines and approaches.

Great Goddess Theory in Ancient Germanic Studies 70

Joseph S. Hopkins

Abstract: The present article discusses a historical tendency among scholars to focus on male-gendered deities in the Germanic corpus, a boom period of goddess studies in the 1990s under the influence of Marija Gimbutas, and the place of Great Goddess theory in the field of ancient Germanic studies today. Great Goddess theory is proposed to remain an influence in ancient Germanic studies, particularly in the field’s tendency to identify goddesses as extensions of a single entity.

Runo Revisited: Borrowing and Semantic Development 77

Kendra Willson

Abstract: The Finnish and Karelian word runo [‘poem’] has been viewed as reflecting a loan from Proto-Germanic *rūnō, the ancestor of Old Norse rún [‘rune’]. However, given its limited distribution in Finnic and the meanings attested in Germanic and Finnic languages, the word was more likely borrowed at a later stage, from Early Norse near the start of the Viking Age, probably in the meaning of ‘incantation, verbal charm’ and in connection with incantational magic.

On the Analogical Comparison of Performance Environments: Lament Poetry’s Soundscape as a Case Study 91

Eila Stepanova and Frog

Abstract: This paper confronts the research tendency to treat a performance tradition as a semiotic phenomenon in isolation from its performance environment. Karelian funeral lament offers an example of a tradition with a customary soundscape that contextualizes and reinforces the performance arena, while performance participates in the soundscapes of additional ritual activities. The case’s analogical value is illustrated through comparison with Old Norse examples.


Scandinavian–Finnic Language Contact and Problems of Periodisation 112

Johan Schalin

Abstract: This paper explores the periodisation of pre-documentary Scandinavian language and its synchronisation with that of Finnic, the era in focus being the first millennium CE. Stratification of loanwords is discussed both as a means to refine periodisation and as an aim in itself. The problems as concerns the latter half of the first millennium are highlighted. The account is built on dissertation research defended in September 2018.

Archaeological and Lexical Relevant Indicators of South Sámi Prehistory 123

Minerva Piha

Abstract: This paper complements my model for combining archaeological and lexical material with relevant indicators, a discipline-neutral tool that provides information on cultural processes enabling comparison of research results of different disciplines. It shows how the model is applied to South Sámi material, and how relevant indicators should be used in the data. I suggest that a degree of probability be added to the concept, distinguishing strong and weak relevant indicators.

In the Hollow of Tursas? – An Overview of an Archaeological Work-in-Progress in Southwest Finland 131

Sami Raninen

Abstract: Since 2012, an archaeological excavation has continued on a Late Iron Age (AD 800–1050) settlement site and a medieval and early modern village plot of Tursiannotko in Pirkkala (near Tampere). The very well-preserved materials found at the site give a lot of information regarding the modes of subsistence, building techniques, material culture, ritual practices and trade contacts of a relatively wealthy farmer and hunter community.

Jómsvíkinga saga – Recent Research: Focus on Genre 136

Sirpa Aalto

Abstract: This report offers an overview of recent research being conducted on Jómsvíkinga saga.

Russian Laments of the Vologda Region in Modern Records: Distinctiveness and Relations to Other Traditions 140

Elena Jugai

Abstract: This article introduces Russian laments of the Vologda region in relation to other lament traditions of the Baltic Sea region. The tradition of this region and lament collection there are briefly introduced as well as the Russian Lament database developed and used in connection with the current research. The language and poetics of the laments are outlined followed by a rhythmical analysis and comments on parallelism, alliteration and practices.

New Research on Skolt Saami Laments 151

Marko Jouste

Abstract: This report briefly presents on evidence of a lament tradition among the Skolt Saami. The lament tradition was recognized when documented by earlier scholars but has never entered discussion of lament traditions and has remained generally unrecognized in discussions of lament traditions in the Baltic Sea region.


Conference Report – Austmarr VI: Religion, Language, Practice, with a Workshop on Late Iron Age Mortuary Behaviours 154

Kendra Willson

Conference Report – Austmarr VII: Crossing Disciplinary Borders in Viking-Age Studies: Problems, Challenges and Solutions 156

Joseph Ryder

Conference Announcement – Austmarr IX: Genius loci in the Prehistory of the Baltic Sea Region 160

Vykintas Vaitkevičius

Conference Report – Folklore and Old Norse Mythology 161

Jesse Barber

Conference Report – Network of Early Career Researchers in Old Norse: Trends and Challenges in Early Career Scholarship Workshop 166

Luke John Murphy

Conference Announcement – Methodology in Mythology: Where Does the Study of Old Norse Religion Stand, and Where Can We Go from Here? – The 2019 Aarhus Old Norse Mythology Conference 168

Eldar Heide


Contacts and Networks in the Baltic Sea Region: Austmarr as a Northern Mare nostrum, ca. 500–1500 AD 169

Maths Bertell, Frog and Kendra Willson (eds.)

Atlantic Outlooks on Being at Home: Gaelic Place-Lore and the Construction of a Sense of Place in Medieval Iceland 170

Matthias Egeler

Viking Law and Order: Places and Rituals of Assembly in the Medieval North 173

Alexandra Sanmark


Communicative Registers, Enregisterment and Indexicality in Viena Karelian Kalevala-Metric Poetry (working title) 176

Tuukka Karlsson


Óðinn: A Queer týr? A Study of Óðinn’s Function as a Queer Deity in Iron Age Scandinavia 178

Amy Jefford Franks


The Formula in Oral Poetry and Prose: New Approaches, Models and Interpretations 179