Art, symbolism and the expression of group identities in early-Medieval Frisia

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Abstract

Early-Medieval Frisia, like the axis of a wheel, was situated in between the Frankish, Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon worlds. ‘Frisian’ works of art reflect this intermediate position, as a fascinating mixture of cultural influences. In this paper, different ways of expressing group identities within the area defined in Lex Frisionum are investigated, in relation to the shape and decoration of metal objects that circulated among its coastal population. These objects include copper-alloy brooches that were exchanged within family groups, prestige goods that were distributed as gifts among members of the regional and local elites, and items with a (pre-)Christian symbolism that could circulate both within family and among elite groups.
Chronologically, this paper starts with the migration of ‘Anglo-Saxons’ in the late fourth and fifth centuries, leading to the replacement and partial re-shuffling of the original, Roman-period population of the Dutch coastal area. The sixth and seventh centuries saw the rise of regional and supra-regional kingdoms in this area, until Frisia had become part of the Frankish realm during the Saxon Wars of Charlemagne (772– 804). In this four-hundred-year time span, the transition can be seen from ‘Frisian’ communities to a Frankish population, from independent kingdoms to a Frankish district, and from non-Christian belief systems to Christianity – all affecting the way ‘Frisians’ felt related to one or more co-resident, political and religio-ideological groups.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrisians in the Early Middle Ages
EditorsJohn Hines, Nelleke IJssennagger-van der Pluijm
Place of PublicationWoodbridge
PublisherThe Boydell Press
Chapter10
Pages273-309
Number of pages37
ISBN (Electronic)9781800101326
ISBN (Print)9781783275618
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameStudies in Historical Archaeoethnology

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