ahrc-logo-forwebox brandDirhams for Slaves
Dirham hoards from Northern Europe, trade in Slavic slaves, and the emergence of Medieval Europe (800-1000)

Archaeology of the early medieval slave trade in Northern Europe: looking for the material evidence

11 Sep 2014 – Marek Jankowiak and Felix Biermann held a session on the Archaeology of Slavery at the 20th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists.

Session programme

With much delay, compared to the archaeology of Africa or of the Americas, the imprint of slavery and slave trade in the archaeological material begins to be conceptualised for the early medieval Europe. Recent studies shed new light on the role of the slave trade in the economic revival of Northern Europe in the early Middle Ages (McCormick 2001). But the emerging historical consensus has so far found little echo among the archaeologists, who only start to show awareness of the significance of slavery and of its potential material traces. We think that time is ripe to bridge this divide. We propose to gather, for the first time, archaeologists and historians working on early medieval slavery, and to lay foundations for a more comprehensive approach to what seems a seriously underestimated, yet crucially important, phenomenon of the European history. We intend to survey geographical areas from the British Isles to Russia looking for material evidence of slave trade, such as enclosures, shackles, specific burial types and, on a more general level, evidence for sudden population movements and increasing insecurity; we will also reach to specialists in other slave trade systems, Ancient and African, for inspiration and points of comparison.