Nanouschka Myrberg Burström
Born in Stockholm, 1969. PhD Stockholm University, 2008, docent (Reader, Associate Professor) 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 a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies and Course Coordinator for education within Archaeology.
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, precious metal depositions, Norse mythology and Medieval society. 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, and supervise students on all levels.
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 was sponsored by the Swedish Research Council and was accepted for publication (Routledge, 2020).
Viking-Age hoards and coin finds from Närke
The project investigates the Viking-Age hoards and coin finds from the historical province of Närke, Sweden, with the objective of finding out more about the hoards per se, about their relation to hoards in adjacent areas, and about their contemporary role. Why were they deposited? Where did the objects come from? What was the origin for the surplus that could generate a treasure?
The province of Närke has produced some of Sweden’s most spectacular Viking-Age treasures, in particular the sites in Eketorp and Sandtorp. Other hoards exemplify different aspects through their composition, such as one from Råsta which only contains a selection of jewellery. In general, the finds from Närke contain a remarkably high proportion of Islamic coins. Altogether, the finds from this province provide a concentrated foundation for analysing the variation within the category “hoard” and how coins and other artefacts have moved from their area of origin.
The project runs 2018–2019 and is funded by the Allan Wetterholm Foundation. Project group: Nanouschka M. Burström (PI) and dr Florent Audy, in collaboration with Örebro County Museum.
Audy, F. & Burström, N.M. 2020. Närkes vikingatida skatter och mynt: elitnätverk och unika föremål. In: Ljunge, M. (ed.) Metalldetektering inom Arkeologi och Forskning. Örebro (67-93).
Burström, N.M. 2019. The Chair. Situating knowledge and authority in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia. In: Ljung, Cecilia et al. (eds), Tidens landskap. En vänbok till Anders Andrén. Stockholm: Stockholm University (157-9).
Burström, N.M. 2020. A Treasured Persona. Current Swedish Archaeology Vol. 28.
 Audy, F. Tracing Elite Networks. Viking and Medieval Scandinavia.
Building for Glory
This project focuses on two general issues of relevance for research on coin finds in church buildings based on case studies of two Swedish medieval parish churches, Arby and Gränna. Firstly, the relationship between coin use in churches and ownership of the church, which could be in the hands of either private patrons or of parish congregations. What differences in coin use might have resulted from the different ways a church was managed? Can the coins help us to see such changes? Central for this line of investigation is the notion that coins reflect and are part of their historical context, but also affected people’s everyday and religious lives (e.g. used for indulgences, masses, embellishment of church space, opening up interior space and power relations).
Secondly, the relationship between coin-finds from churches and general coin use in society. How should we interpret differences in coin-find patterns and fluctuations in the intensity of deposition? To what extent are patterns from coin-finds in churches useful for extrapolating and for interpretations of the role of coins outside of that specific context? Here, evaluations of the depositional processes and of the composition of the coin finds are of great consequence. This line of inquiry seeks to push beyond the common view that the church is ‘a society in miniature’, partly accepting it, but also underlining the unique character of the ecclesiastical context and of the events taking place in it, and thus the particular conditions for artefacts found there.
The project forms part of the larger project Religion and Money: Economy of salvation in the Middle Ages (Norwegian Research Council 2013-2015, PI Prof. Dr Svein H. Gullbekk, Oslo). The project brings together scholars from Anthropology, Archaeology, History, History of Religion, Linguistics, Numismatics and Theology in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S.A. http://www.khm.uio.no/english/research/projects/religion-and-money/
Publications:  Building for Glory. The House of the Lord in Gränna and Arby, Småland. In: Gullbekk, S., Kilger, C., Roland, H. and Kristensen, S. (eds), The use of money in religious and devotional contexts: Coin finds in churches in Scandinavia, Iceland and The Alpine Region. London: Routledge.
Hoarding the Dead. Hoards as biographies from the Scandinavian late Iron Age (2009-2011)
This post-doc project (Dept of Archaeology, Stockholm University) 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.
The Hoarded Dead (2009), Rethinking Numismatics (2011), Things in the Eye of the Beholder (2014), Things of Quality (2015), A Treasured Persona (2020).
Coining the crusades: a political strategy of the 13th century
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.
Publications: The Colour of Money (2010), The Hatched Cross (2012).
A worth of their own. On the earlies coinage of Gotland, c. 1140-1220 [Ett eget värde? Gotlands tidigaste myntning, ca 1140-1220]
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.
Publications: Ett eget värde (Doctoral thesis, monograph, 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].
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?
False Monuments? On antiquity and authenticity (2004). Falska Fornlämningar? Om fornlämningar och autenticitet (2002, monograph).
For full CV, please contact Nanouschka via e-mail.
A selection from Stockholm University publication database
Money, Coins and Archaeology
2018. Nanouschka Myrberg Burström. Money and Coinage in the Middle Ages, 231-263Chapter
The chapter focuses on three themes: conceptions of "money" and "coins" within archaeology, coins as archaeological material, and coins as part of archaeological research history. The argument builds on many illuminating cases and examples from old and recent research within archaeology and numismatics, and theory and method are emphasised.
2018. Nanouschka Myrberg Burström, Gitte Tarnow Ingvardson.Book (ed)
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.
Things of quality
2015. Nanouschka Myrberg Burström. Own and be owned, 23-48Chapter
Things in the Eye of the Beholder
2014. Nanouschka Myrberg Burström. Norwegian Archaeological Review 47 (1), 65-82Article
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.
A Study of Punctuality
2012. Nanouschka Myrberg Burström. Matters of Scale, 75-89Chapter
2011. Nanouschka Myrberg, Fleur Kemmers. Archaeological Dialogues (2), 87-108Article
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.
A Treasured Persona
2020. Nanouschka Myrberg Burström. Current Swedish Archaeology 28, 247-278Article
The theory and practice of the object-biographical approach is the backdrop for this reinterpretation of the celebrated precious metal deposition from Eketorp in central Sweden.This example serves to demonstrate the potential of the approach for assemblages as well as single objects. The Eketorp hoard is one of a category of thematically composed Viking-Age precious metal depositions and contains an exceptional number of miniatures andpendants, jewellery, and some unusual coins. This paper presents new findings from excavations in 2017 and 2019, contextualises the hoard, reinterprets a number of the artefacts and points towards possibilities for further interpretation.
Show all publications by Nanouschka Myrberg Burström at Stockholm University