The Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings

Neil Price. Basic, $35 (624p) ISBN 978-0-465-09698-5
Archaeologist Price (The Viking Way) leaves no stone unturned in this exhaustive chronicle of the ancient Scandinavian peoples collectively known as the Vikings. Drawing on discoveries made at archaeological digs and burial sites across Europe, as well as medieval sources including the Icelandic sagas of Snorri Sturluson and the observations of Arab traders, Price pushes back against romanticized notions of Viking culture that originated during the Enlightenment. He focuses instead on more material concerns, delivering extended discussions on jewelry found in graves, shipbuilding, alcohol consumption, and gender roles, including an unexpected queer reading of Viking relationships. The infamous Viking funeral (not nearly as prevalent as popular culture imagines, according to Price) is described in horrifying detail, as are raids on the English and Irish coasts that left monasteries and villages devastated. Price also documents Viking exploration of Iceland, Greenland, and Canada, and notes that some warriors made it as far east as Constantinople, where they served as guards to the Byzantine emperor. Though the writing occasionally falters under the weight of accumulated archaeological minutiae, the breadth and thoroughness of Price’s research impresses. Readers interested in Viking culture should consider this monumental history a must-read. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 03/26/2020
Release date: 05/05/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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