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Discussion and Conclusion

The centres and domains discussed above are the physical expression of an important early phase in the development of a hierarchic society and of early statehood. There are both consider-able parallelism and striking dissimilarities in the details. The very special sites discussed here have, generally speaking, two different kinds of location. The most frequent is the very central location of the site in a wide settled region. This type of location is found both in the case of high level centres and lower level centres. Examples of places with this type of location are certainly Gudme, Järrestad, Uppåkra, Uppsala and Slö-inge. Probably also Jelling should be placed in this group, although its situation is more defensive than the others. This group of centres and their inhabitants want to say : look at us ; obey us or try to oppose us if you can. A distal location at the border of settled and non-settled land is however also met with. Certainly the cen-tre at Lejre occupies a position of this kind.

Another example is Vä pulled back from the shore of the Holy Lake, which is the optimal central location. Although perhaps not realised at first glance, there are certainly advantages with this type of location. With a position well pulled back risks of surprise attack are minimised and control of a region is easy. Neither of the locations of Vä and Lejre provide a commanding view of the surrounding landscape. However there are ex-cellent vantage points very close by. The distal location on the border between open farmland and woodland (in Southern Scandinavia mainly consisting of beech forest or mix ed oak forest) is an optimal location for an economy where swine pasturing and big game hunting were important.

As we have argued big game hunting (deer and elk) may have been an exclusive but very attractive pastime for the uppermost strata of society already in the late Iron Age. It should however be noted that these arguments are mainly simple functionalist arguments. The

location of Sorte Muld from some points of view is also a distal one. Topographical factors and the distribution of settlement make a location in the middle of the island unfavourable. The fäet that Bornholm is an island makes comparison with other regions difficult.

The size of the central settlements involved is often remarkable although in many cases it is still very insufficiently known. The size of the domains postulaled h re including large and in some cases complex villages and outlying1minor torp-or by-settlemenl i varying. In the ca e of U ppåkra the territory of the central domain may have reached more than 40 q. km. Uppsala a a complex estate domain may bave reached a sim-ilar size. Other d main were smaller, the majority at between 10 and 20 sq. km. In the case of domains on a lower level the size is of course further reduced like in the case of the Norwegian examples and of Slöinge.

These size relationships should however not be seen statically but dynamically. The traces we can study are in the case ofthe place names only a reflection of a system at the end of a long development and perhaps a system in decay.

The formation of a centre and its domain was a process involving an a ending central power.

In this process the political power was confronted with other and sometimes completely contrary ambitions. Was it perhaps also in this respect easier to establish a centre in a distal position like at Lejre or at Vä where expansion without much restriction was possible, rather than in the centre of a plain or where the ambitions to recreate the settlement structure were hemmed. For example, as we have seen, the establi hment of the royal seat with its domain at Jelling could only directly include land to the west, south and east of the centre. To the north old structures remained without much changes. Along similar lines we may consider the structure at Vä, where there to the north is a compact group of intact settlements. When possible the centre would expand and the regularity at Uppåkra and Järrestad are only the results of a prolonged process of pressure on and conflict with locally based small scale power. Perhaps only Gudme was the result of a rather rapid process.

The temporal framework into which we have

lo put the forn,ation of these cent:res and domain · probably encompa ses a period from tbe Early or Late Roman Jron Age up lo the tenth century.

It has already been stressed that our knowledge of these centres is very incomplete to say the least and thus especially relates to the beginning and to the early phases of a centre i.e. a period when perhap the centre had not yet developed a total patial and qualitative uperiority in rela-tion to other settlements. Although an early start could be attributed to some domains like Gudme, Uppåkra, Yä and Sorte Muld it is likely that some other domains did not develop until the Migra-tion Period like Slöinge and in a few cases only ca. AD 600 like Lejre.

The dates we can suggest for the eclipse of these centres with their domains give a more consistent picture. But there are exceptions like Gudme with an early eclipse in the 6th century. In most cases the old structure is changed only in the late 10th century or in the first half of the 11 th. There is considerable variation in the further development of the domains. For the relatively low level centre of Slöinge there is a total collapse. Also the centre (and the domain?) of Bornholm at Sorte Muld sinks into oblivion and that perhaps even earlier. The domain at Lejre is divided and sold and the old centre tums into a rather ordinary manor. At Uppåkra the settle-ment is reduced and the land divided into two village territories, one of the villages however essentially occupying the old site. The land was however probably kept in the hand of the Dani h king until it was bestowed a .a botb symbolic and sub tantial gift to the cathedral ofLund. Not dissimilar is the fate of the domain at Uppsala, deserted as residence both by the king and the bi hop in the 12th century. Parts of lbe compJ x domain were kept as official royal property and some probably quite early given to the cathedral.

At Vä the complete domain was first given away by the king to the church as a monastic found-ation and then later taken back. Järrestad is also a royal property donated to a monastic foundation and a royal urban centre established nearby. Al Jelling the old high leve! centre changed i_nto a lower leve! cen11·e within the royal adrnini tration in the 1 llb century. The e development albeit of cour e of individual

character in many cases have strong elements of exclusivity when compared with " the ordinary village".

The societal background for the development of the centra and the adjoining domains is the formation of a socio-political hierarchy of a much higher complexity than ever earlier beginning in the Late Roman Iron Age. The concentration of political and economical power was only possible through the creation of domains adjoining the residences of the emerging elites. Only a domain could provide the economical basis for the maintenance of a sufficient retinue to maintain the desired domination and, to some extent, control over people and territory. The establish-ment of alliances was certainly important but to be successful it was, as we have stressed, equally important to secure a domain as a power base.

That meant to keep a group of warriors provided with housing and food. If these warriors were economically completely improductive we can-not tel1. The life style of warriors of the North-european Late Iron Age is probably incongruent with the role of an ordinary farmer. The warriors must have time to practise their skill with weapons and supporting each other because this core of experienced warriors was indeed the difference between success and disaster in military con-flicts. Prosaically this all means that the agricultural surplus must be increased correspondingly. The ruling family could expect certain contributions from the households in the region under its dominance but these deliveries must have been limited and perhaps often irregular. Possibly the membership in the cult-community and its close connection with the dominating family was the main motivation for these contributions. We must remember that we have to do with a developing political and economical system . At the far end was a Medieval taxation system but at the other end it was something different and less structured.

The presence of warriors must often also have meant the presence of their families as well. A further strain on the agricultural basis was the keeping of a sufficient number ofhorses of good breed when mounted combat becomes increas-ingly important in the Migration and Mero-wingian Periods. To keep this retinue going there was also need fora number of specialists. Not

only smiths but also workers ofleather and wood were much needed. Some of these persons could occasionally join the agricultural work force but there were however also other persons of a strictly economically improductive character. The concentration of people at these sites con-sequently tended to be considerable. Of course the lord could not keep a whole army close by himself but the ratio between his own retinue and dependants and allies with their followers together forming his host must, as stressed above, be kept at a reasonable lev el. A numerous and well trained retinue must have been the op-tion of every ruler aspiring on an extended power position.

The structure of the domain was a way to solve some of these problems. The concent-ration of people around a leading family at one locality would soon make the running of the supporting farming economy difficult to organ-ise. Here Iron Age reasoning may have pro-ceeded along lines similar to those of von Thunen and his contemporaries. The necessary expan-sion of fields worked from the centre with its farm could only reach a cer:tain extension before distances began to tum problematic. The same problems are connected with animal husbandry.

The rational solution would be first to establish outlying farms and then satellite settlements.

The preconditions for this is fertile and unclaimed grounds to expand on. This was of course not available in the plain districts already with a concentration of population. The development was only possible in some sections as we have seen. The formation of the centres and their domains is however also a period when an Early Iron Age settlement structure is changing into a Late Iron Age structure. The dynamics of this process may have facilitated the development of domains.

This optimal solution


la von Thunen of a domain organised according to the solar system model was of interest only in a period of emerging centres of political power. The domain became obsolete when political ambitions by far outgrew regions and above all when direct control of distant territories was preferred to distant allies.

Although some far flung hegemonies were esta-blished already in the 6th century it is perhaps

only in the eighth century that I arge scale stable systems of dominanc emerge which ultimately make the domains ob, olete in this form. In the 10th century the Jeading political groups organise themselves on a supraregional leve! also in matt-ers of estates and domains. The size of the territories held have increased and the need for an ambulating exertion of office has been recognised. The consolidation of legal systems also contributes to the decline of centralised holdings without regard to their being small or big. That means that dispersed holdings become a priority and some old centres can be sold or given away to followers or to the church.

Like von Thunen's and his contemporaries' ideal disposition of the landscape never or only very seldom could be realised in its complete and full grown form. Most of them are incomplete and we have suggested reasons for this but Uppåkra isa very impressive and well developed example. Also like von Thunen's ideal system the domains of the Late Iron Age certainly resulted in a special type of landscape. The high pressure on wo dland ressources probably leads to a complete defore tation of the surroundings of centrally located domains. In the case of domains with a distal location the pressure on the woodland was considerable (need for fuel, building material and wood pasture. In the case ofLejre it is not unlikely that the domain must be seen as the initiator of clearings in the woodlands to the west. The intensive consumption of ani-mal and plant resources as well as the concent-ration of domestic animals contributed to the accumulation of cultural layers and phosphates still extant. The character of these soils has been kept to this day. It is also likely as we have suggested above, that the outlying settlements initially had an economical profile different from that of the centres.

The discussion above could be criticized for loosing the human perspective and adopting a mechanistic approach. In contemporary research it is often emphasized that the important political and economical networks did not connect places but people. This is of course a truism. What is important is to what extent archaeology can contribute directly to the study of these persons and their doings.It may be suggested that the

study of institutions - like estates - and their structure is as important and perhaps as re-warding. With the formation ofthe early domain an institution was created which often had a life much longer than human life and thus they brought a relative stability with them on the local leve! not known before.

A precondition for the discussion of the data above is i.a. the historical strncture of place names.

This chronology has been used in a very general way here without going into details and is more or less unproblematic. Only in the case of the torp-names the use of onomastics could be contro-versial. The argumentation given here is founded on a somewhat lon ger history of some of the torp-names than generally supposed. There has however been a Jong discussion in Scandinavian onomastic research on a differentiation - partly chronological - of the torp-names. Seen in a continental perspective a longer history for the -torp suffix seems to be acceptable.