The Four Petty Kingdoms of Upplǫnd: Equestrian Graves and the Political Integration of the Norwegian Highlands in Late Viking Age Norway


  • Frode Iversen



In continental and north-western Europe armed cavalry – aided by the introduction of the stirrup – was closely linked to the emergence of feudalism but was this also the case in Scandinavia? Were the resulting military specialists linked to the growing national kingdoms, or to local and regional power spheres ruled by petty kings? I will investigate this in the  historical region of Upplǫnd – the last Norse area to be integrated into the Kingdom of Norway by Óláfr Haraldsson  around AD 1020. Two thirds of Norway’s 51 known equestrian graves are located in this inland area and I will employ a  novel way of investigating their relationship to local administrative units, such as þriðjungar (thirds), herǫð (hundreds), and not least fjórðungar (fourths), as well as travel routes and settlements. There is little that suggests that these graves were linked to an early national aristocracy, and its ruling Scandinavian dynasty – Ynglingene – as has been argued in previous research. Equestrian grave traditions survived longer in Upplǫnd than elsewhere in Scandinavia, which was not Christianised until the 11th century, and it is unlikely that the buried had served the uniting and converting King Óláfr. It is also difficult to establish links between historically known lendr menn (the most prominent retainers of the king) families, and such graves. However, a new revelation is that the farms where such graves were located, were situated along the  boundaries between local fjórðungar, which were judicial districts, as well as subsidiaries of local military administration in the herǫð. This suggests that these locations had important warning and supervision roles in local military systems. 






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