Courtyard sites in western Norway. Central assembly places and judicial institutions in the Late Iron Age

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Author
Asle Bruen Olsen

This paper presents four western Norwegian Iron-Age courtyard sites, of which three
have been investigated during the last ten years. By comparing functional and contextual
aspects of these sites it is argued that they represent central assembly sites in local
communities. The coherent similarity of such complex physical structures across time is
seen as an expression of strong social and ideological continuity in Iron-Age society from
the Roman period until the process of territorial unification under kings with national
ambitions that started in the late 9th century. With reference to the Icelandic analogy
and the historical connection between Iceland and Western Norway in the Viking period
it is also argued for the courtyard sites as an important institution (þing) in the pre-state
judicial and political system.