Postmedieval Issue - Hoarders and Hordes: Responses to the Staffordshire Hoard

A forthcoming issue of postmedieval on the Staffordshire Hoard is calling on the community for crowd review. The issue, edited by the Material Collective, will be published spring 2016. The edition will utilize Crowd Review instead of the more traditional peer review making this issue of postmedieval a community project, and redefining scholarly review in the process. From their website:

Selections from the Staffordshire Hoard. Image from Wikimedia Commons. 

Selections from the Staffordshire Hoard. Image from Wikimedia Commons. 

“In the spirit of our collaborative process, we now ask contributors–and the broader public–to respond to one another’s work in the form of a crowd review. We ask for comments, queries, suggestions, and ideas for new direction. As a reviewer, you are charged with being part of the collaboration, part of the Hoard/Horde. Our goal in this open review process is not to change the form of these experimental contributions, but rather to collaborate to expand, clarify, and refine. The crowd review mirrors the dialogic and collaborative form of the volume itself, and so we have generated an interface that allows for threaded comments in which readers can respond to one another as well as to authors directly. Our hope is that a lively month-long discussion will become its own kind of response to the Hoard, and we intend to archive the threaded comments on the Material Collective website. Authors may also incorporate suggestions into individual essays before final publication of the volume in summer of 2016.

If you are interested in the Staffordshire Hoard, feel free to contribute, even if you are not a traditional academic. This special issue follows postmedieval’s efforts to redefine academia and include all interested parties, no matter your education level or scholarly discipline.

Viking Age Sword Found by Hiker in Norway

A hiker in Haukeli, Norway has discovered a Viking Age sword. The grip has decomposed, but the sword otherwise remains in fantastic condition. A future excavations is planned at the site. As reported by

A 19th century illustration by Johannes Gehrts depicts a scene from the Old Norse Völsunga cycle, in which the god Odin plunges a fateful sword into the tree Barnstokkr. The Völsung family and their guests are shocked by the sight. From Wikimedia Commons.

“Jostein Aksdal, an archeologist with Hordaland County said the sword was in such good condition that if it was given a new grip and a polish, it could be used today. 
‘The sword was found in very good condition. It is very special to get into a sword that is merely lacking its grip,’ he said. 
‘When the snow has gone in spring, we will check the place where the sword was found. If we find several objects, or a tomb, perhaps we can find the story behind the sword,’ he said. 
He said that judging by the sword’s 77cm length, it appeared to come from 750-800AD.”

The sword is to be sent to the University Museum of Bergen, where the artifact will be preserved. Now on Twitter

Less of a tweet, more of a caw. Detail from manuscript SÁM 66, 18th century via Wikimedia Commons. now has a Twitter account. The Twitter account is primarily administered by J. H. Roberts (University of Georgia), a new contributor to the site.

Along with the Twitter account, viewers may follow updates from on Tumblr and on Facebook.

Interview with Sociologist Jennifer Snook at

A chart from a page of Emilé Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912, originally published in French as Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse). Durkheim (d. 1917), mentioned by Snook, was a founding sociologist.

Karl E. H. Seigfried published a three-part interview on with sociologist Jennifer Snook (formerly University of Mississippi, now Grinnell College) focused on matters relating to her recent book, American Heathens: The Politics of Identity in a Pagan Religious Movement (July 2015).

Notably, while also an academic, Snook is herself a Heathen, and the interview focuses on both her research on Heathenry and her personal experiences as a Heathen in the United States.

A sample from the interview:

KS – There is a ritual element to your academic work. In 2003, you made an oath at a blót [Heathen ritual] that you “would honor the time that others had sacrificed to help me by publishing my work.” Throughout the book, you refer to “our faith,” “our strengths,” “our weaknesses,” and so on.

How do you think this open identification as a believer in the minority faith tradition you write about will impact reaction from the wider academic community?

JS – There’s a conversation going on in Pagan Studies circles right now about how insider-scholars who write about their own groups are too apologetic and not critical enough of their own experiences and observations. And certainly this has been a problem with some insiders, or anthropologists “going native” in the field, losing their ability to be “objective” about their subject.

However, at the same time, social science has gone through somewhat of a shift where we now recognize that objectivity, in the old positivist use of the term, isn’t a concrete thing. We can’t really achieve 100% objectivity in this work, because we ourselves are products of our socialization into cultural and social “realities.”

But there’s also a push for more critical analysis of gender, race, privilege, and other aspects of society – studying “up” to the elite, rather than simply focusing on the disadvantaged. My training and the influences from which I draw inspiration are in this critical tradition.

I think that scholars who read my work will have the common language of this critical perspective and understand that my insider status gave me insights that outsiders may not have had, but that the work is ultimately a critical examination highlighting both the subjectivities of Heathens, but also the context in which they practice.

A Swedish Island, Witchcraft Folklore, and Stone Age Excavations

An illustration of the Swedish island of Öland and some of its neighboring shores from Olaus Magnus's Historia de gentiles septentrionalibus (1555). To the top right of the island is a small island with a crown upon it, representing Blå Jungfrun.

Off the southeastern coast of Sweden is a small island once known as Blåkulla (Swedish ‘blue hill’). Today the island is known as Blå Jungfrun (Swedish ‘blue maiden/blue virgin’) and is home to a Swedish National Park. In Swedish folklore, the island has had an association with witchcraft since at least the mid-16th century, yet the island may have had a particular folk associations of peculiar danger long prior (a location called “Blaakulla” is referenced in such a manner in 1410—for more on this, see, for example, Stephen Mitchell’s 1997 “Blåkulla and its Antecedents: Transvection and Conventicles in Nordic Witchcraft” in Alvíssmál 7 pp. 81-100).

With that background in mind, a team of archaeologists that have been excavating the site since 2014 have made some interesting assessments of the site, including that the site may have attracted particular religious activity during the Stone Age. According to a recent Livescience article on the topic:

“The results are astonishing and reveal extensive human activities on the island in the Mesolithic Stone Age,” the archaeologists wrote.

People who travelled to the island may have practiced various rituals inside the two caves, archaeologists say. One cave contains what may be an altar where offerings could have been made to deities. Meanwhile another cave has an area that could have been used like a "theater" or "stage."

"In two caves, distinct ritual features were identified," wrote the team members, who hail from Kalmar County Museum and Linnaeus University, both in Sweden.