Session: #288

Theme & Session Format

Interpreting the archaeological record: artefacts, humans and landscapes
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

Comparative Kingship: the Early Medieval Kingdoms of Northern Britain and Ireland in their European Context
The nature of the societies and social, ideological and political frameworks that filled the chasm left by the demise of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD – both within and beyond the Empire’s boundaries – is one of the most contentious debates about late- and post-Roman Europe. The Leverhulme funded Comparative Kingship project at the University of Aberdeen is addressing the nature of kingship and the character of seats of power within three case studies: Pictland, Scotland; Dál Riata, Ireland/Scotland and Muster, Ireland. The project is utilizing archaeological, historical, toponymic and palaeoenvironmental methodologies along with Bayesian-modelled chronologies, to study how these kingdoms took shape. To date the project has produced important new results on the emergence of Pictish power centres and society in the late Roman and early medieval period and is undertaking new survey work in Ireland on sites of royal power. Environmental data through pollen is also being produced to assess the impacts that royal sites had on the landscape and new Bayesian frameworks are being developed to assess the timings and tempos of social and political change.

In this session the Comparative Kingship project will present the early results of the project. As part of our comparative approach we invite colleagues to present studies from Europe that addresses the rise of late and post-Roman polities in the first millennium AD that showcase:

• The materiality and spatiality of power in the first millennium AD
• New archaeological data on first millennium AD seats of power
• How different data sources such as place-name studies and archaeology can be combined
• Critiques of, or models for, state formation
• The impact of new social and political formations on how the landscape and environment was utilised
• Trans-regional or trans-national studies comparing state formation processes
kingdoms, early medieval, first millennium AD, Seats of power, Comparative, post-Roman
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
Session associated with SAfA:
Session associated with CAA:
Session associated with DGUF:
Session associated with other:


Main organiser:
Gordon Noble (United Kingdom) 1
Patrick Gleeson (Ireland) 2
Mads Jessen (Denmark) 3
1. University of Aberdeen
2. Queen's University Belfast
3. National Museum Denmark