Crafters of kingship: smiths, elite power, and gender in early medieval Europe

Wright, D.W. (2019) Crafters of kingship: smiths, elite power, and gender in early medieval Europe. Medieval Archaeology, 63 (2). pp. 271-297. ISSN 0076-6097

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In the earliest centuries of the Middle Ages, skilled metalsmiths were greatly valued by cult leaders who required impressive objects to maintain social links and the loyalty of their retainers. Despite their clear importance, smiths were peripheral characters operating on the fringes of elite communities. Such treatment may reflect an attempt to limit the influence of metalworkers, whose craft was seen as supernatural and who themselves were probably spiritual figureheads; archaeological evidence associates smiths and their tools in symbolic processes of creation and destruction, not only of objects but also of buildings and monuments. The Church clearly appropriated these indigenous practices, although conversion eventually saw the pre-eminence of the sacred smith and their practice wane. Anthropological study provides numerous comparators for skilled crafters acting as supernatural leaders, and also suggests that as part of their marginal identity, smiths may have been perceived as a distinct gender.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2019 Taylor and Francis. This is an author-produced version of a paper accepted for publication in Medieval Archaeology. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Divisions: School of Humanities
Depositing User: Dr Duncan Wright
Date Deposited: 23 Aug 2019 08:53
Last Modified: 21 May 2021 02:40

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