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Animal-Human Relations on the Household-Farm in Viking Age and Medieval Iceland

Evans, Harriet Jean (2017) Animal-Human Relations on the Household-Farm in Viking Age and Medieval Iceland. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Studies of animal-human relations in the Old Norse world have often focussed on symbolic or economic relations with animals. In contrast, this thesis investigates relationships between domestic animals, humans, and the household-farm as expressed in laws, sagas, and material culture from Iceland. It demonstrates the complexity of animal-human relations in forming and sustaining the household-farm, and in shaping the admiration and anxieties expressed towards animals and animal-human relationships in narratives about the creation and operation of these home-places. Chapter 1 analyses narratives constructed around the settlement of Iceland, examining Landnámabók and stories about settlement in the Íslendingasögur, as well as modern archaeological interpretations of the Aðalstræti house. It argues that medieval Icelanders presented settlement as a tripartite exchange between humans, domestic animals, and the land; a representation at odds with recent archaeological interpretations. Chapter 2 reconstructs the legal regulation of animal-human relations in Grágás. It demonstrates that these laws encourage a demarcated legal landscape, in which domestic animals were to be controlled, protected, and punished; though these animals were not a homogenous category, and different animals had different status under the law and required differential treatment. Chapter 3 trials an experimental method to depict the areas of the farm, and to map how associations between animal and human spaces changed over time. It argues that relations between animals and humans shaped, and were shaped by the spatial organisation of the household-farm, and that such interactions constituted the past communities with which the Íslendingasögur sought to engage. Chapter 4 examines the concept of home in medieval Iceland, and the close relationship between the home, humans, and domestic animals in the Íslendingasögur. It argues that these sagas emphasise commonalities between certain men and domestic animals, and portray these animals simultaneously as animals, and actors in human social networks.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Centre for Medieval Studies (York)
Depositing User: Ms Harriet Jean Evans
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2018 16:15
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2018 16:15
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19139

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