Public defence: Serving and cooking in the Iron and Viking Age. The meal as a source to socio-political development

Cand.philol Grethe Bjørkan Bukkemoen at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History will defend her dissertation An Archaeology of Commensal Spaces. Crafts, culinary practice and the household in the transition from the Early to the Late Iron Age in Norway for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD).

Doctoral candidate Grethe Bjørkan Bukkemoen, wall with text "det humanistiske fakultet"

The dissertation takes as its point of departure the central role of meals and cooking technology for social relations, and demonstrates how a long-term perspective on meals offers important contributions to understand the socio-political processes of the Iron and early Viking Age in Norway.

Food traditions are often perceived as static and conservative. Bukkemoen, however, emphasises such traditions as active and embedded in social practices. Meals are rather social memory constantly negotiated to maintain relevance, and may also be used for political ends.

The deposition of culinary equipment in graves from Norway during the period c. 350−900 AD is the focus of research. Bukkemoen demonstrates that a significant change in the use of materials in the 6th and 7th century, from ceramic to iron and soapstone, simultaneously implies an altered focus within the meal: from an emphasis on serving to cooking. Large cauldrons, frying pans and roasting spits appear. Macroscopic analysis and contextual studies bring forth a new interpretive framework for culinary equipment. Changes in the meal structure are tied to increased centralisation and a new social structure with emphasis on the household at the expense of communal gatherings. Moreover, the changes were shaped by processes several centuries before 500s AD. The introduction of new cooking equipment underline the forging of new identities and connections with north-western Europe and especially Sweden. These developments are essential in understanding the emergence of the industrious soapstone production of the Viking Age.

Grethe Bjørkan Bukkemoen successfully defended her dissertation on February 4, 2022.

Trial lecture

Designated topic: “What is a household in Iron Age Scandinavia and how can we study it archaeologically?”

Evaluation committee

Senior Lecturer Ben Jervis, Cardiff University (first opponent)

Senior Lecturer Fredrik Ekengren, Lund University (second opponent)

Associate Professor Julie Lund, University of Oslo (committee administrator)

Chair of the defence

Head of Department Jon Vidar Sigurdsson


Professor Per Ditlef Fredriksen, University of Oslo

Published Jan. 10, 2022 2:30 PM - Last modified July 19, 2022 11:09 AM