The ship as symbol in the prehistory of Scandinavia and south-east Asia
Ballard, C., Bradley, R., Nordenborg Myhre, L. and Wilson, M. (2004) The ship as symbol in the prehistory of Scandinavia and south-east Asia. World Archaeology, 35 (3). pp. 385-403. ISSN 0043-8243
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/0043824042000185784
The ship is the dominant element in the visual culture of the South Scandinavian Bronze Age, appearing in several different media, including rock carvings, decorated metalwork and above-ground monuments. Discussion has divided between those scholars who interpret this imagery in terms of long-distance exchange networks and those who emphasize its more local significance, including its deployment in mortuary ritual. A strikingly similar system is identified in Southeast Asia and part of Melanesia and can be interpreted through archaeological and ethnographic sources, but in this case there is no need to distinguish between 'practical' and 'symbolic' interpretations of the depictions of ships. This paper summarizes the evidence from this region and suggests that it can offer a fruitful source of comparison for archaeologists working in northern Europe.