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‘Death in a Dread Place’: Belief, Practice, and Marginality in Norse Greenland, ca. 985-1450

‘Death in a Dread Place’: Belief, Practice, and Marginality in Norse Greenland, ca. 985-1450


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‘Death in a Dread Place’: Belief, Practice, and Marginality in Norse Greenland, ca. 985-1450

By Jess Angus McCullough

PhD Dissertation, University of Leicester, 2017

Abstract: This thesis examines and analyzes the extant archaeological, historical, and literary evidence for the beliefs and practices of the Greenland Norse, their influences, and their evolution over time. By critically examining previously held assumptions about the cultural, climatic, and religious conditions of Greenland during this time the available data is placed in its proper context and reveals the geoconceptual world of the Greenlanders and their place in it.

This interdisciplinary approach illustrates the extent to which the physical environment and location of Greenland played a role in the transition from a collective of enterprising colonists to an established Christian community over the course of almost 500 years.

Specific questions addressed within include: 1 ­ How does archaeology challenge, support, or augment the historical and literary narrative of Greenland’s transition into a Christian place?; 2 – What are the physical correlates of the Greenlanders’ beliefs and practices, and how have they been interpreted? This thesis finds that the development of Christianity was driven by the Greenlanders’ increasing perception of their place in the world as one of marginality and spiritual danger.


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