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Ecological Globalisation and the Medieval Trade of Walrus Ivory

Lecture by UrbNet Visiting Professor James Barrett (NTNU University Museum)

Info about event


Tuesday 11 October 2022,  at 14:00 - 15:00


Centre for Urban Network Evolutions, Aarhus University, Moesgård Allé 20, 8270 Højbjerg, Denmark (Building 4230-232)


Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet)

Ecological Globalisation and the Medieval Trade of Walrus Ivory 

James H. Barrett
Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Ecological globalisation, the incremental expansion of our interface with nature, can have profound social and environmental consequences while also linking resource-extraction experts with centres of consumption across vast distances. The archaeological visibility of this process varies according to the distinctiveness of the resource extracted, and the methods that can be employed to elucidate the origins of traded objects. Finds of walrus ivory and bone in medieval Europe provide a particularly illuminating case study. They can be identified with confidence and unambiguously relate to harvesting in circumpolar areas associated with sea ice. Through the application of zooarchaeological, ancient DNA and stable isotope methods, the origins of the material can be further refined, and the impact of hunting revealed. Yet single products were not extracted in isolation from wider socio-economic processes. This lecture will also revisit how the trade of walrus and elephant ivory intersected, and evaluate the extent to which emergent globalisation and the “resource curse” contributed to the abandonment of Norse Greenland.