AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractThe hogbacks of northern England and southern Scotland have long been seen as a distinctive category of tenth- and early eleventh-century early medieval stone monument resulting from Hiberno-Norse influence and settlement. This chapter reviews previous research and suggests a new foundation for their interpretation, arguing that hogbacks were an effective commemorative media because of the mnemonics of their materiality. Specifically, I focus upon the skeuomorphic allusions inherent in the ornamentation and form of hogbacks. Combined with their solidity and lithic weight, hogbacks cited a multi-scalar network of architectural material cultures and buildings already established within Britain and Ireland prior to, as well as during, the Viking Age. Rather than exclusive translations of secular halls into stone as often portrayed in both popular and scholarly research (e.g. Stocker 2000; Eriksen 2013), hogbacks cited a complex network of buildings (including secular halls but potentially also churches) and small-scale architectures (from biers and coffins to caskets and reliquaries) which were distilled into a solid lithic architectural form in various fashions. In this regard, hogbacks operated as elite commemorative monuments because their form connected to this shared elite network of architectural ‘things’ and implied the presence of the dead as inhabiting, or at least accessible through, the monument. Endbeasts and other themes of conflict were apotropaic in this context. The monstrous, sometimes ursine, beasts threaten to engulf some hogbacks – although sometimes they are demonstrably curtailed by their binding and muzzling. The emphasis upon bound beasts reveals the significance of sealing and fixing the tomb in place through its hogback design.
CitationWilliams, H. 2015. Hogbacks: the materiality of solid spaces, in H. Williams, J. Kirton and M. Gondek (eds) Early Medieval Stone Monuments: Materiality, Biography, Landscape. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, pp. 241-68.
SponsorsLeverhulme Trust Research Project Grant. Speaking with the Dead: Histories of Memory in Sacred Space. F00144BV.
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