Cecilia Ljung

PhD, Postdoctoral researcher, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University, Sweden

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Research interests: Early Medieval stone sculpture, Early Christian grave monuments, Rune stones, the Christianisation of Scandinavia, death and afterlife, memory, gender.

Marjolein Stern

PhD in Viking Studies, research coordinator at Henri Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies, Ghent University, Belgium.

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My thesis was entitled ‘Runestone Images and Visual Communication in Viking Age Scandinavia’. The aim of this thesis is the visual analysis of the corpus of Viking Age Scandinavian runestones that are decorated with figural images. The thesis presents an overview of the different kinds of images and their interpretations. The analysis of the visual relationships between the images, ornamentation, crosses, and runic inscriptions identifies some tendencies in the visual hierarchy between these different design elements. The contents of the inscriptions on the runestones with images are also analysed in relation to the type of image and compared to runestone inscriptions in general. The main outcome of this analysis is that there is a correlation between the occurrence of optional elements in the inscription and figural images in the decoration, but that only rarely is a particular type of image connected to specific inscription elements.

In this thesis runestones are considered as multimodal media in a communicative context. As such, visual communication theories and parallels in commemoration practices (especially burial customs and commemorative praise poetry) are employed in the second part of the thesis to reconstruct the cognitive and social contexts of the images on runestones and how they create and display identities in the Viking Age visual communication on the runestones.