What is a hogback?

coming to you from beyond the final


it's archaeo death

hey you what is a hog back stone

you don't know have you ever been in a

classroom where someone's asked you what

a hog back is

and you haven't known the answer have

you ever

woken up late at night thinking what is

a hog back

and you haven't got the answer have you

ever been in a life and death situation

that relied on you knowing what a hog

back stone is

and you didn't know the answer well

i have a solution for you because all

the information you need

to survive in a world that will mock you

ridicule you

and simply laugh in your face if you

don't know what a hogback stone

is contained in this book which is going

cheap with boydell press

early medieval stone monuments

materiality biography and landscape

edited by myself

together with joanne curtin and megan

gondeck this book contains the answers

that you need

to survive in the world of viking age


and in this little video i want to

introduce you to the last of the

chapters in the book

which is written by me and it's called

hog backs the materiality of solid

spaces hmm sounds a bit intriguing

well it's very intriguing i can't read

it all out to you here but i can give

you a brief introduction

to some of the key concepts that will

equip you with that basic

state-of-the-art understanding for in

the field

understanding and identification

recognition and survival

in the world of viking research um

especially if you need to know what a

hog back is

so i introduce in this article hog vac

stones these northern british

recumbent stone monuments that are

intriguing and enigmatic because

hardly any of them in fact nearly almost

all but one

have been found out of context reused in

later stone

sculpture in stoner building work uh

therefore displaced from their original


and i introduce and survey hog


often called viking hog backs um

including their

um evocative end beasts these sort of


biting beasts some dragons mostly though

bears of different forms and shapes

these great bears and sometimes small

little bears

are biting at the ends of this

house-like or shrine-like structure

often with very complex decoration and

they've long intrigued scholars

and been the focus of inquiry into the


and settlement of the vikings in uh

northern britain areas where viking nor


hibernate settlers um were populated

took over various territories and

occupied the land

so they're found on the east coast

particularly in north yorkshire

and um we find them up into central


and have a few outliers heading up even

into orkney um

we also find them on the west coast on

the irish sea zone in in lancashire

and on the rural peninsula

and they tend to be dated to the early

10th century

and they tend to be seen as evidence of


norse uh insular interactions the

conversion of

um immigrant pagans to christianity and

their adoption of stone sculpture

for the commemoration of their elites

but there's much more to it than that as

i explore in my chapter

and indeed in the chapter i survey other

research produce

a new distribution map showing you

where you can find these monuments as

they're traditionally understood

i make arguments uh that build on the

work of jim lange

including the fact that i think they are

actually part of composite monuments

we've lost

uh the other bits of uh including in

some cases

are crop small crosses and i even

suggest that they may have functioned

not simply

as individual grave markers but perhaps

marking the grave plots of families of

larger households groups

and i particularly raised two

issues i talked about how hog backs

would have worked as

skewer morphic citations and that's a

very different idea from the traditional

approach to hog backs

which has regarded them very much as

monuments that

are skewer morphs of one thing other

only perhaps shrines perhaps halls and

often you'll see them sound bited as

oh they're stone versions of a of a

viking hall

well i suggest it's more complicated

than that and actually the idea of the

hog back

is that it was drawing on a wide range

of associations

materials big and small playing with the

ideas of scale

and shape and drawing wood leather

metal and other materials into a stone


they would have originally been vividly

painted and therefore they would have

served as a house or home for the soul

of the dead

um in a prominent location in an

ecclesiastical landscape

symbols of status power and perhaps

myths and legends of origin

and claims to land and claims to


and so they they through those citations

to other materials

they they were very powerful statements

by those commemorating the dead

but i link that to a second idea and the

idea i have is one of solid spaces

that these hog backs are playing with

the idea of an accessible

mediated space that you can

perceive but you can't get access to

and this is very much developing on the

late antique idea of the

the saints shrine the idea that you can

access in to get access to the remains

of the dead

but here in these hogback stones you're

closed off you can see that there's a


you can see that there's a protective

beasts you can apprehend and perhaps

even touch the surface

but it's solid stone so the materiality

of the hog back is important the choice

of stone

as a material is not arbitrary it allows

you to perceive

an architectural canopy a space in which

the dead

might be seen as residing or beneath

which they're being protected but by

but you cannot access it so they're all

about protection

and control and commemoration in

from that idea of control and protection

of a solid

space so now you're equipped now you're

not open to ridicule now you can hold

your head up high

as you waltz around northern britain

identifying these hog backs and going


i know all about them now because i


i read the chapter by professor howard

williams in this book

so consider me your savior if you like

um in hog bat research

now i'm not the only one that's

addressed these monuments and i

obviously i'm being a bit

um deliberately silly in in promoting it

in that way

and there's some other really important

work that's been done by a range of

other scholars over 30 40 years into

these monuments

and most recently the work of others

such as jamie barnes mark hall

uh victoria thompson so there's other

people who've done ongoing research

on these monuments but i think my 2015


is a good place to get yourself up to

date uh i've got further

further chapters on this topic that i've

published and

further research i'm doing on these 10th

early 11th century recumbent stone


and how they work to commemorate the


for relaxing times make it archaeo death