The age of the thing institution in Scandinavia as indicated by archaeological evidence and place name studies – correspondence or discrepancy?
The age of the legal assemblies in Scandinavian, the Old Norse thing, is obscure. The sources, which best can shed light on the prehistoric situation, are archaeology and place names. To discuss this, two analytical categories are defined, «the archaeological thing site» and «the place name thing site» and whether the two categories affirm, supplement or contradict each other. Different thing-sites are discussed, especially those that are most recently argued to be thing sites from the early Iron Age. It is argued that archaeology and place names cannot individually shed light on the age of the thing institution, but with comparative use, where all available material is included, it has been shown to be probable that the thing, as an institution, extends back to the Early Roman Iron Age. Archaeological traces in their wider context can extend the thing institution further back in time than place-name research has been able to do for the time being. Nevertheless, to throw light on the age of the thing, both place names and archaeology are dependent of and complementary to each other.
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