Nanouschka Myrberg Burström

Nanouschka Myrberg Burström

Biträdande lektor

Visa sidan på svenska
Works at Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies
Telephone 08-16 33 79
Visiting address Wallenberglaboratoriet, Lilla Frescativägen 7
Room 319
Postal address Institutionen för arkeologi och antikens kultur 106 91 Stockholm

About me

Born in Stockholm, 1969. PhD Stockholm University, 2008, docent (reader) in 2015. Previous to my doctoral studies I worked at the Royal Coin Cabinet in Stockholm and at the Swedish National Heritage Board. I am now employed at the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.

My areas of interest and research include Iron Age, Viking Age and Medieval subjects and materials, such as Viking Age and medieval Scandinavian coinage, the Iron Age picture stones of Gotland, Norse mythology, Northern European field labyrinths (Iron Age – modern time) and precious metal depositions. One recurrent theme is the integration of the dimensions of object, text and picture. I am also interested in theoretical issues such as the construction of epistemology, the construction of identity and ethnicity, and the concept of "authenticity" (as related to cultural remains). I teach mainly Viking Age, Middle Ages, Historical Archaeology, Theory and method.


Sharing values: creative links, hybridity and innovation in a Viking-Age network

In present-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden a coinage was initiated about AD 995, which imitated contemporary Anglo-Saxon coins. For more than 30 years the English and Scandinavian coinages were closely connected. Individuals (commissioners, moneyers, artisans) as well as objects (e.g. coin-dies) moved between the mints. Coinage is often understood as expressing sovereign rights and the ability to sustain a currency in a certain area. Instead, the Anglo-Scandinavian coinage network was not limited by realms and borders, but cut across kingdoms from west (England) to east (Byzantium) through Scandinavia and the Southern Baltic.

The material underlines how "social" technology is; dependent on choices, cooperative skills, talent, capital, etc. The coin images and inscriptions offer unique and hands-on openings for a close study of a process of change in the past, of different levels and actors in the network, of patterns of movement, and of ideological and historical contexts. The project brings together previous research on the material and a modern theoretical framework in two studies based on the coins. The aim is to analyse and interpret the Viking-Age networks on an elite level as well as on artisan and user levels. Imitations are often depreciated out from our contemporary notions of authenticity. Here, the creative and hybrid character of the material is instead underlined, opening up for a deeper understanding of the wider connotations and meanings of the objects.

The research project runs during 2013-2015 and is sponsored by the Swedish Research Council.


Funds or foundations? Medieval depositions of precious metals in Swedish churches.

The phenomenon of hoarding precious metal is in Scandinavia well explored regarding the Viking period and a number of explanations have been suggested, such as savings stored away, bride-wealth, and the marking out of estate boundaries. Studies including the context in which the Viking-age hoards were found have demonstrated different patterns, such as a close relation to farmsteads and living houses on Gotland in the Baltic Sea, or to the boundaries between farms in Uppland in Eastern Sweden. In the medieval period (starting in the 11th-12th centuries), new patterns may be distinguished, in which many hoards are placed in the context of older graves or of early churches. This project will explore the phenomenon of depositing precious metal in medieval churches focussing on hoards and departing from finds from the Swedish area. The aim is to increase the understanding of why this category of medieval hoards, consisting largely of domestic coins deposited in a period with a supposedly monetary economy, and upholding a supposedly “pagan” practice within a post-conversion and Christian context, were deposited. Were they “funds” to be retrieved at a later point, or “foundations” for the family or local society, intended to stay hoarded? Are they to be regarded as “sacrifices” or “investments”? And what can the finds and the continued depositional practice tell us about new and old thinking concerning money, coins and precious metals in medieval Scandinavia?

The project forms part of the project Religion and Money: Economy of salvation in the Middle Ages which runs during 2013-2015 and  is sponsored by the Norwegian Research Council (manager Prof.  Dr Svein H. Gullbekk, Oslo). The project combines scholars from Anthropology, Archaeology, History, History of Religion, Linguistics, Numismatics and Theology in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S.A.

Hoarding the Dead. Hoards as biographies from the Scandinavian late Iron Age (2009-2011)

This post-doc project reconsiders the Scandinavian hoards of precious metals from the Late Iron Age (c. 700-1000 AD). Previous studies of this important and spectacular archaeological and historical source have tended to fall into either strongly functionalistic or exclusively ritualistic interpretations regarding the existence and contents of the hoards. The project aims to forward new interpretations, out of an understanding of the hoards as life biographies and the material result of different aspects of a person, of phases and events during a person’s life.

The project in particular studies hoards with “anomalies” in terms of very long chronological spans, of chronological clusters (or lacunae) of coins, and of the inclusion of other objects than coins. Special attention is given to the internal structure of the hoard, as well as to the surrounding contexts. Well-documented hoards and in particular such as were excavated in the laboratory were selected for the study. This project draws on both archaeological and numismatic understanding and expertise. The hoards are regarded as expressions of both the economic and functional terms of life of the humans in the Late Iron Age, and of the specific ways they dealt with cosmology and the creation of the self. Thus the project fills the space between functionalism and ritual interpretations.

Articles within this project:
The Hoarded dead (2009) Rethinking Numismatics (2011), Things in the Eye of the Beholder (2014), Things of Quality (in print, 2015).

Coining the crusades: a political strategy of the 13th century (2008 -)

The 13th century inhabitants of Gotland (island in the Baltic Sea) issued coins with strong connections to crusader iconography. At the same time they refused to participate in the crusades themselves, and sold horses and weapons to the “heathens” on the eastern side of the Baltic Sea, thereby much annoying the representatives of the Christian Church. How come?
The project departs from this conflict between old and new networks and loyalties, and between what one says and one does. How was the material culture used to signal political affiliations and influence the agenda of everyday reality?
Departing from these coins, the political and religious movements of the time may be illuminated from a new angle, through a discussion of people, ideology, politics and propaganda, with bearing on both history and the present day.

Articles within this project:
The Colour of Money (2010), The Hatched Cross (2012).

A Worth of Their Own. The earliest coinage of Gotland, c. 1140-1220 [Ett eget värde? Gotlands tidigaste myntning, ca 1140-1220. Stockholm Studies in Archaeology, 45. Doctoral thesis, publ. 2008]

Coin production began on Gotland, an island off the eastern coast of Sweden, at the beginning of the 12th century. The coins were struck to a standard that was different from that of other coinages of the Scandinavian area, and were modelled after coins from north-western Germany and Frisia. The Gotlandic coins were subsequently used in a large area around the Baltic Sea, and in south-eastern Sweden were preferred over the royal mainland coinage well into the 13th century. That they later became the standard for the newly initiated coinages of the Baltic countries is a further measure of their success. But why was this coinage undertaken at all?

The thesis seeks the answer not simply in the economic needs of trade, which existed long before and thrived without an indigenous coinage, but rather in a deliberate strategy on the part of the Gotlanders to create as much political independence for them as possible. They did this by building a strong identity, a political platform and a trading hub in the Baltic Sea area. The geographical position of the island between several strong powers made it both possible and necessary for the inhabitants to define themselves. Through their success in this the islanders achieved a worth of their own both philosophically and in a true material sense. The production of local coins and providing a safe harbour for visitors were essential parts of that strategy.

The thesis investigates the early medieval coinage of Gotland through numismatic, archaeological and historical sources. It sheds light on the iconography, chronology, function and meaning of the coinage, as well as on the relationship between Gotland and the surrounding areas in terms of politics, economics, religion and culture. Running through this are also reflections on the role of archaeology as a mediator - but also creator - of history, and on how humans and things relate to, affect, and are affected by each other.

Articles within this project
Ett eget värde (2008), Pax Porta Ny (2009), A Worth of Their Own (2010), Botulf - Saint or free mover? (2010).

Falska Fornlämningar? Om fornlämningar och autenticitet. [False Monuments? On antiquity and Authenticity] (2002)

What is a true monument of the past? Many ancient monuments have been reused through centuries, rebuilt, added to or copied. They are part of the historical, traditional, social and mental landscape of individuals. Should their use or even construction in the present be considered less meaningful than their use or even construction in, say, the 18th century or the Neolithic?

The demands made by Swedish legislation, for instance, that cultural remains should be “old” and “abandoned” expresses a decontextualizing and conservative view that is based in a conception of cultural remains as monuments, representing a specific event or time. Opposite views are expressed in the fields of arts and architecture, where deliberate additions and a living tradition are seen as valuable elements in their own right.

The project dealt with the matter of authenticity in cultural remains and heritage, through a case study of a 20th century stone labyrinth on the Swedish archipelago. Questions concerning authenticity, heritage management and archaeological views on cultural remains are raised. Is the age and date of construction really the most important aspect of cultural objects or could there be other attributes that tell us just as much of their previous use and the thoughts that have been associated with them?

Published as:

False Monuments? On antiquity and authenticity. Public Archaeology 2/2004 (151-161) (2004)
Falska Fornlämningar? Om fornlämningar och autenticitet. Reflektioner kring fornlämningar i samhället 1. Stockholm: Riksantikvarieämbetet (2002, monograph).

For full CV, please contact Nanouschka directly via e-mail.



A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • Book (ed) Divina Moneta
    2018. Nanouschka Myrberg Burström, Gitte Tarnow Ingvardson.

    This edited collection analyses the phenomenon of coin use for religious and ritual purposes in different cultures and across different periods of time. It proposes an engagement with the theory and interpretation of the ‘material turn’ with numismatic evidence, and an evidence-based series of discussions to offer a fuller, richer and fresh account of coin use in ritual contexts. No extensive publication has previously foregrounded coins in such a model, despite the fact that coins constitute an integrated part of the material culture of most societies today and of many in the past. Here, interdisciplinary discussions are organised around three themes: coin deposit and ritual practice, the coin as economic object and divine mediator, and the value and meaning of coin offering. Although focusing on the medieval period in Western Europe, the book includes instructive cases from the Roman period until today. The collection brings together well-established and emerging scholars from archaeology, art history, ethnology, history and numismatics, and great weight is given to material evidence which can complement and contradict the scarce written sources.

  • 2015. Nanouschka Myrberg Burström. Myntstudier, 226-230

    In 1940 a man decided to take some precautionary measures to protect his savings against the imminent threat of the Battle of Britain. To avoid being left without means in the event of a German invasion, prevent devaluation of his savings and possibly also to speculate in rising silver prices he bought two large silver ingots, worth £250 and weighing about 90 kilograms, loaded them into a pram, and went out to bury them in a small wood nearby. The man was Alan Turing (1912–1954), famous for his wartime success in breaking the German Enigma code with his team, and for his groundbreaking work on electric machines which were to develop into the first real computers. Turing is also well-known to many who work with coins as one of the scholars behind the Good-Turing frequency estimation formula, used within numismatics to calculate the number of coins of a specific type produced from an identified number of dies. This paper meanders from Alan Turing's hidden treasure on to his scientific work and to his various connections with numismatics: the Good-Turing formula, Joan Clarke, and commemorative coins.

  • 2015. Nanouschka Myrberg Burström. Own and be owned, 23-48
  • 2014. Nanouschka Myrberg Burström. Norwegian Archaeological Review 47 (1), 65-82

    The object-biographical approach is popular and well-established in archaeology, providing useful structures for conducting investigations and creating historical narratives. The approach is attractive because it encourages the consideration of many different angles like networks, embodiment and memory. It also facilitates the appreciation of objects as agents and allows for multivocality and the treatment of multiple time layers. Still, the approach suffers from a built-in risk of constructing cumulative and pre-determined narratives, describing objects rather than providing an understanding of past worlds. These problems result from an archaeological eye which is directed mainly to the objects themselves' and the bio- (life) part, while little attention is paid to the -graphy (writing). Material aspects and scientific method are often carefully considered, while humanistic theory and methodology are little reflected upon. Here it is suggested that more weight should be given to humanistic traditions, where biographical writing as such has its own theory and strategies, one example here being object biographies in the shape of It-narratives'. The object-biographical field of archaeological study needs to be revitalized by renewed theoretical input, in particular with attention to the different strategies and myriad possibilities for writing object lives.

  • 2012. Nanouschka Myrberg Burström. Matters of Scale, 75-89
  • 2011. Nanouschka Myrberg, Fleur Kemmers. Archaeological Dialogues (2), 87-108

    This paper sets out to re-member coins into archaeological discourse. It is argued that coins, as part of material culture, need to be examined within the theoretical framework of historical archaeology and material-culture studies. Through several case studies we demonstrate how coins, through their integration of text, image and existence as material objects, offer profound insights not only into matters of economy and the ‘big history’ of issuers and state organization but also into ‘small histories’, cultural values and the agency of humans and objects. In the formative period of archaeology in the 19th century the study of coins played an important role in the development of new methods and concepts. Today, numismatics is viewed as a field apart. The mutual benefits of our approach to the fields of archaeology and numismatics highlight the need for a new and constructive dialogue between the disciplines.

Show all publications by Nanouschka Myrberg Burström at Stockholm University

Last updated: October 23, 2018

Bookmark and share Tell a friend