Colonization, decolonization, re-colonization

HistoriedagWhen I started to study Iron Age on Åland, I soon realized that substantial part of our understanding about the settlement development in this archipelago lies in the concepts of colonization, decolonization and re-colonization. Colonization has been suggested for the beginning of the Late Iron Age, sudden population movement to the islands is argued to have happened in the middle of the 6th century. Decolonization – total depopulation of the Åland Islands – has been suggested to have happened during the 11th century. And after 150 years, in the beginning of 13th century, rapid re-colonization of Åland is stated to have taken place. The ideas of the colonization in the middle of the first millennium are based on the combination of empirical material, but the ideas of decolonization and re-colonization in the beginning of the medieval times are pretty much solely based on the domination of medieval place names on Åland.

The idea of total depopulation and rapid re-colonization after 150 years of nothingness is one of the most well-known statements made in regard to prehistoric Åland, and has been without any major alterations and repeatedly expressed. In my experience, the statements of depopulation emanating from place-name research are just assumed to be true and even though increasingly questioned, still generated all over and over again. I do not question the medieval character of the major part of the place-names on Åland. But I do wonder why the change in place-names needs to entail a discontinuity of settlement?? And let me be very clear that there is absolutely nothing from the archaeological point of view that would support the idea of decolonization of the Åland Island.

This Saturday, on 3rd of October, I will discuss the claim of the early medieval depopulation from the archaeological perspective in the Mariehamn City Library. My presentation is a part of an event dedicated to the debate on the subject. Presentations will be also given by art-historian Åsa Ringbom, linguist Erik Andersson, plant biologist Carl-Adam Haeggström and historian Olle Sjöstrand. And the event will have its final in the panel discussion. The city of Mariehamn will treat you with free coffee and buns in case you intend to come to listen 😉 The academic part of the event starts at 14:30 and I am the last one to have a presentation (at 16:50) before the panel discussion that is scheduled to start at 17:30.

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