According to Marianne Hem Eriksen, it is striking that the three-aisled longhouse persisted for nearly 3000 years of Scandinavian prehistory – especially when considering the major upheavals that occurred throughout this period.
‘Many have pointed to architecture as a fundamental expression of the ideology prevailing in a specific culture. Especially in societies that have no written language, architecture takes on special importance as a collective expression of the organization and mindset of a culture,’ she points out.
The period from the early Bronze Age to the Medieval period was characterized by huge and fundamental social, political and religious upheaval. Towards the end of the Bronze Age the chieftains ruled, before the bronze networks of that age collapsed. The centuries preceding the birth of Christ are said to be characterized by equality and egalitarianism. This period was followed by the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and the Age of Migration with its great movements of migrant populations – this could indeed be described as ‘Europe on the move’. In addition, we have the Vikings and their raiding and colonization towards the end of the first millennium AD.
‘Throughout this period, people in Scandinavia continued to build their houses in more or less exactly the same way as before. That’s really intriguing,’ the archaeologist says.
Think of the hall of Heorot in Beowulf, a place of light, comradeship and safety amidst the stormy, monster-haunted world.