Neil Price

I am one of the most recent appointees to the Uppsala department, having taken up the established Chair of Archaeology late in 2014. Its roots can be traced back to 1662, when Olof Verelius was awarded the rather wonderful title 'Professor of the Fatherland's Antiquities', the first time ever that an academic post was devoted to prehistory: the Uppsala Chair is thus one of the oldest archaeological jobs of its kind in the world. There have been long gaps in its tenure since Verelius' time, but it has been continuously filled since 1914.

Career in brief

I grew up in southwest London, and in 1983 it was there I began my archaeological career by working on Roman and Medieval urban excavations for the Museum of London. I completed my BA in Medieval Archaeology at University College London's Institute of Archaeology in 1988. Alongside continued fieldwork in Britain, Germany, Malta and the Caribbean, I then conducted postgraduate research at the University of York, working with the archive of the excavated Anglo-Scandinavian tenements at 16-22 Coppergate.

In 1990 I visited Scandinavia for the first time, as a recipient of the generous scholarships set up for foreign researchers on the excavations at the island Viking town of Birka. The experience was so positive that I emigrated here in 1992, initially working on archaeological rescue projects for the National Heritage Board and subsequently as a senior manager for the Arkeologikonsult consultancy practice.

In 1997 I returned to academia and began my formal relationship with this department, writing my doctorate here at Uppsala. After finishing my PhD in 2002 I taught for several years at Uppsala, before moving to the University of Oslo, where I made a fond and lasting acquaintance with Norwegian archaeology. In 2007 I began work in a research position at Stockholm University, but after only a few months an exciting opportunity arose back in the UK when the University of Aberdeen announced the creation of an entirely new Department of Archaeology, the first time this had happened at a major institution in several decades. I was fortunate to be appointed as the inaugural established Chair of Archaeology there, tasked with building the new department and guiding its development as an internationally leading centre for the study of the Northern past. I stayed for seven years, during which time the Aberdeen department expanded to some 21 full-time staff and postdoctoral researchers and 18 PhD students, offering 10 single and joint honours degrees together with postgraduate programmes; in the British government's Research Excellence Framework of 2014, our research output was ranked 9th in the UK (out of 27 departments) and 7th using the Times Higher's GPA measures of research intensity; overall we were ranked 1st in Scotland. To have attained this result from a standing start after only seven years is a tribute to the team efforts of all my colleagues there, and my own part in that process is one of my proudest achievements.

Coming back to Uppsala in 2014 was an academic homecoming. I am honoured to have been entrusted with responsibility for the discipline here, and humbled by the long line of my predecessors that include some of Scandinavia's most celebrated archaeologists going back more than three centuries. Following our 2013 merger with the former University College on Gotland, where archaeology was a flagship subject, we now have some 70 teaching and research staff, postdocs and PhD researchers, and are thus one of the largest Departments of Archaeology, Classical Archaeology and Egyptology in northern Europe. Over the coming years, I'm looking forward to working with all my colleagues as we together take Uppsala into new arenas of international excellence in teaching, research and outreach.

External appointments

From 2006 to 2010 I was a Consultant Professor at Harvard University, co-directing their annual Scandinavian Summer School in Viking Studies. In addition to my regular duties, over the years I have also held several visiting positions at the Rock Art Research Institute in the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and have been an honorary Senior Research Fellow there since 2006.

I am happy to remain an Honorary Professor of Archaeology at Aberdeen, as I do not wish to lose touch with the department that I helped to build. I also hold an Adjunct Professorship of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada; I am a member of the Laboratory for Past Disaster Science (LaPaDiS) at Aarhus University, Denmark; and I am a registered International Collaborator of the Núcleo de Estudos Vikings e Escandinavos (NEVES) Network in the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, Brazil. The academic and research contacts represented by all these positions will of course be mobilised in my new post at Uppsala.

Research interests

My research interests fall into two broad categories, embracing the early medieval North c. 400-1100 CE, especially the Viking Age, and the historical archaeology of the Asia-Pacific region from the 1700s to the present.

I developed a fascination for the culture of the Vikings and their world during my early teens, and began to work seriously with this period during my undergraduate studies in London; my BA dissertation was published the year after I graduated as my first book, The Vikings in Brittany (1989). I continue to work with Scandinavia and the Viking world - especially Brittany and Frankia, Iceland, England, Russia and the Caliphates - and with the archaeology of Sápmi, the homelands of the Sámi people. My specific interests include Scandinavian and Germanic pre-Christian religion, ritual, sorcery and magic; Viking Age mentality and world-view, what could called be the ‘Northern mind’; Viking Age mortuary behaviour and funerary drama; Sámi archaeology and religion; early medieval ideology, identity and power; early medieval sexuality; Scandinavian-native interaction; and the socio-cultural impact of natural disasters and climate change. Over the last twenty-five years or so I have lectured and travelled widely in the Viking and circumpolar world, and directed research projects in France, Iceland, Russia and Sápmi, besides several here in Sweden.

Probably still my most significant work is the book of my doctoral thesis, published in 2002 as The Viking Way, which examined what was then the little-explored subject of magic and sorcery, its complex gender codes, its relation to warfare and ritualised aggression, and its place in the Norse world-view. In part this involved a comparative study of Viking spiritual practice in the context of circumpolar shamanism, and particularly the religion of the Sámi. This latter research involved long stays in Sápmi and a scholarship at the Ájtte Sámi Museum in Jokkmokk, which ultimately developed into fieldwork at Sámi sites on the White Sea in Russian Karelia. My work with the Sámi was a particularly happy time, and one that also marked the beginning of my collaborations with indigenous and descendant communities. This early comparative research was collected in my edited volume on The Archaeology of Shamanism, published in 2001.

At this time my interests in the pre-Christian religions of the North also began to take on an explicitly global character, not least as my archaeological horizons continued to expand beyond the circumpolar belt. A major part of this was inspired by the work of Uppsala's section for Global and Comparative Archaeology (as it was then called) under the direction of Paul Sinclair, a model for the truly international study of the past. Although my current Chair has a traditional focus on Scandinavian prehistory, in fact I believe we all are (or should be) global archaeologists. My work on traditional belief systems and ancient shamanism led to close collaborations with South African scholars working on rock art, and also to engagements with the archaeology of Namibia, Botswana, Japan, the Pacific Northwest Coast and the southern Californian desert. 

Over the past decade or so, these global interests have crystallised into a more formal specialism in early modern and historical archaeology, with a focus on the Pacific (especially Micronesia), the China Seas (especially the Pearl River delta region) and the Indian Ocean. More specifically, my research in these areas encompasses archaeologies of the colonial encounter; the archaeology of slavery; early globalisation and the social biography of commodities; the archaeology of the Maritime Silk Road; and cognitive urbanism and urban peripheries.

More generally, my research also addresses three overarching themes: the social archaeology of conflict (colonial-indigenous warfare and other cross-cultural conflicts; the archaeology of the Holocaust and its reflections in contemporary art; the archaeology of the Pacific theatre in World War II); the comparative archaeology of piracy (material signatures of piracy; hydrarchy and pirate utopias; pirate polities and state interactions); and the archaeology of shamanism and traditional belief systems (shamanism in Scandinavia and the early medieval North; spiritual belief and practice in the circumpolar culture area; shamanism and rock art, especially in southern Africa).

Among my theoretical and methodological interests are cognitive approaches to material culture, post-colonial approaches to material culture studies, archaeological ethics, the integration of archaeology and textual scholarship, and archaeological biographies (artefactual, commodity, social and collateral).

Current research

My short-term research concerns finishing a long-overdue second edition of The Viking Way and a book on funerary rituals, Odin's Whisper: Death and the Vikings, which is due for submission in mid-2015. The latter forms part of the outputs from my recent Leverhulme Trust-funded project on burials, mortuary drama and the origins of Norse mythology. Together with a Viking volume in the Routledge Peoples of the Ancient World series, these will form my primary publications for 2015.

Beyond this I am currently engaged in three main research strands:

Imperial Addictions: Collateral Archaeologies of the Opium Trade

Imperial Addictions

Nearest completion is a project on the opium trade of the eighteenth- to mid-twentieth centuries in the Indian Ocean and the China Seas. This focuses on the concept of 'collateral archaeologies' - not the core of the trade itself, but the world that opium touched and changed, and the myriad human impacts that resulted. This has involved research throughout the region, including Guangzhou (Canton) and the Pearl River Delta, Mauritius and Australia. A tangent of this work involves study of the lesser-known European actors in the China Trade, such as the Swedish East India Company, a strand of the project that links to the wider international research network GlobArch that engages with the long afterlives of the Scandinavian colonial powers. Bringing together a broad range of independent research programmes, the project will result in two major edited volumes (see Selected Publications below) on the Indian Ocean and the Chinese diaspora respectively. Publication is scheduled for late 2016.

The Viking Phenomenon

Secondly, my new role in Uppsala is finding expression in a large-scale project on the roots of the artificial historical construct that we call the Viking Age. This is an umbrella programme that shelters several sub-strands, with a principle focus on the polities of eastern Scandinavia in the mid-eighth century. A primary objective is the final, full publication of the Valsgärde cemetery - Uppsala's most prominent archaeological excavation over the years - to be undertaken by a team coordinated under my direction. This will be supported by an international collaborative arm with an Estonian team, conducting detailed post-excavation research on the extraordinary twin boat graves discovered at Salme on Saaremaa, which seem to represent the casualties of a raid on Estonia launched from Swedish Uppland, perhaps even by the Valsgärde people themselves. This view of a raiding society at 'home' and 'away', and the early date of the finds during the Vendel-Viking transition when the fledgling polities of Scandinavia were still emerging, can provide unique perspectives on this critical period of cultural development in the Northern world. This work will be dovetailed with a wide-ranging study of Viking economics (in the proper sense of the 'Viking' term), encompassing comparative paradigms of piracy, the role of slavery in the Viking Age economy, and the archaeology of the camps and winter quarters associated with the great Viking forces of the ninth century. All this work is in its early stages, but an ambitious programme of research and publication is planned for the period 2015-25.

War of the Worlds: the Present Past on the Island Battlefields of the Pacific, 1941-45

The third strand of my current research has its origins in previous and ongoing fieldwork, co-directed with Rick Knecht at Aberdeen, on the 1944 Battle of Peleliu in the Republic of Palau, Micronesia, as detailed in the publication list below. The Second World War was arguably the most traumatic complex event in human history, with troubled legacies that in the Pacific include today's unresolved tensions between Japan, China, Korea and other former combatant nations. The island battlefields of the region formed a zone of cultural interaction and conflict for all the peoples of the Pacific and many from outside. Both directly and thematically, causal links can be traced back from the War to the colonial contact period, and literally underlying the wartime landscapes (but often overlooked) are the earlier settlements and sacred sites of the indigenous islanders. The properly contextualised study of the conflict therefore involves a chronological range and complexity that extends from the 1500s to today. The War of the Worlds project has a dual base in Uppsala and Aberdeen, represented by myself and Rick respectively, with research planned in Palau, the Marianas, the Solomons, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii and elsewhere in the Pacific. It includes a strong participatory involvement of Japanese and Korean researchers, and particularly a close partnership with Pacific Islanders and traditional knowledge bearers. Themes of death and memory naturally take centre stage, and the project focuses on the preservation of the battlefields as places of reflection and commemoration, with an innovative role of archaeology as a medium of reconciliation. Our fieldwork on Peleliu began in 2010, and this broader extension is planned to continue for at least ten years.


Shorter research papers currently nearing completion concern the contested image of the 'female Viking', in the literal sense of the woman with weapons; wedding rituals in the Viking Age and their reflection in mortuary behaviour; the interaction of archaeology and contemporary art in the negotiation of the Holocaust; and the archaeological impact of the theories of 'ruin value' proposed by the Nazi architect Albert Speer.

Selected publications

book covers

Over the past 25 years I have published 6 books and edited volumes, and around 100 journal papers and book chapters, in addition to 31 excavation and archive reports, plus reviews and minor pieces. My research has been published in 13 languages. Major works are listed here together with a selection of recent papers.


1989. The Vikings in Brittany. Viking Society for Northern Research, London.

1994 (with Colleen Batey, Helen Clarke and R.I. Page, ed. James Graham-Campbell). Cultural Atlas of the Viking World. Andromeda, Oxford. Also published in 10 foreign language editions.

2002. The Viking Way: Religion and War in Late Iron Age Scandinavia. Uppsala University Press, Uppsala. Second edition forthcoming 2016, Oxbow Books, Oxford.

Forthcoming 2015. The Vikings. Routledge, London & New York.

Forthcoming 2015. Odin's Whisper: Death and the Vikings. Reaktion Books, London.

Edited volumes

2001. The Archaeology of Shamanism. Routledge, London & New York.

2008 (with Stefan Brink). The Viking World. Routledge, London & New York. Includes 4 chapters by me.

2013 (with Mark Hall). Medieval Scotland: a Future for its Past. Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF). Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Forthcoming 2016. Imperial Addictions: Collateral Archaeologies of Opium in the Indian Ocean World. For submission to Ohio University Press, Columbus, OH [tbc].

Forthcoming 2016. Eating the Smoke: Historical Archaeologies of Opium in China and its Diaspora. For submission to Uppsala University Press, Uppsala [tbc].

Recent excavation reports from Peleliu, Republic of Palau, Micronesia

2012 (with Rick Knecht and Gavin Lindsay). World War II battlefield survey of Peleliu Island, Peleliu State, Republic of Palau. US National Park Service, American Battlefield Protection Program. 320pp.

Selected recent peer-reviewed journal papers

2010. Passing into poetry: Viking-Age mortuary drama and the origins of Norse mythology. Medieval Archaeology 54: 123-156.

2012 (with Rick Knecht). Peleliu 1944: the archaeology of a South Pacific D-Day. Journal of Conflict Archaeology 7/1: 5-48.

2012 (with Bo Gräslund). Twilight of the gods? The ‘dust veil event’ of AD 536 in critical perspective. Antiquity 86: 428-443.

2013 (with Rick Knecht). After the Typhoon: multicultural archaeologies of World War II on Peleliu, Palau, Micronesia. Journal of Conflict Archaeology 8/3: 193-248.

2014. Nine paces from Hel: time and motion in Old Norse ritual performance. World Archaeology 46/2: 178-191.

2014 (with Paul Mortimer). An eye for Odin? Divine role-playing in the age of Sutton Hoo. European Journal of Archaeology. 17/3: 517-38.

Selected recent book chapters (from 26 published and 13 in press since 2010)

2010. Beyond rock art: archaeological interpretation and the shamanic frame. In Blundell, G., Chippindale, C. & Smith, B. (eds) Seeing and knowing: understanding rock art with and without ethnography. Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg: 280-289.

2010. ‘James his towne’ and village nations: cognitive urbanism in early colonial America. In Sinclair, P., Nordquist, G., Herschend, F. & Isendahl, C. (eds) The Urban Mind: cultural and environmental dynamics. Uppsala University Press, Uppsala: 471-497.

2011. Shamanism. In Insoll, T. (ed.). The Oxford handbook of the archaeology of ritual and religion. Oxford University Press, Oxford: 983-1003.

2012. Mythic acts: material narratives of the dead in Viking Age Scandinavia. In Raudvere, C. & Schjødt, J-P. (eds) More than Mythology. Narratives, Ritual Practices and Regional Distribution in pre-Christian Scandinavian Religions. Nordic Academic Press, Lund: 13-46.

2013. Wooden worlds: individual and collective in the chamber graves of Birka. In Hedenstierna-Jonson, C. (ed.) Birka nu: pågående forskning kring världsarvet Birka-Hovgården. Historiska Museet, Stockholm: 81-93.

2013. Viking Brittany: revisiting the colony that failed. In Reynolds, A. & Webster, L. (eds) Early Medieval Art and Archaeology in the Northern World. Brill, Leiden: 731-742.

2013. Belief and ritual. In Williams, G., Pentz, P. & Wemhoff, M. (eds) Vikings: Life and Legend. British Museum Press, London: 162-195.

2014. Ship-men and slaughter-wolves: pirate polities in the Viking Age. In Müller, L. and Amirell, S. (eds) Persistent piracy: historical perspectives on maritime violence and state formation. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke: 51-68.

2014. The Lewis ‘berserkers’: identification and analogy in the shield-biting warriors. In Caldwell, D. and Hall, M. (eds) The Lewis chessmen: new perspectives. National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh: 29-44.

2015. From Ginnungagap to the Ragnarök: archaeologies of the Viking worlds. In Pedersen, U., Moen, M., Axelsen, I., Berg, H. & Eriksen, M.H. (eds) Viking worlds: things, spaces and movement. Oxbow Books, Oxford: 1-10.

In press. Being dead in the late Scandinavian Iron Age. In Andrén, A., Schjødt, J-P. and Lindow, J. (eds) Pre-Christian religions of the North: histories and structures. Brepols, Turnhout.

In press. Pirates of the North Sea? The Viking ship as political space. In Glørstad, H., Glørstad, Z. & Melheim, L. (eds) Moving on: interdisciplinary perspectives on past colonization, maritime interaction and cultural integration. Equinox, Sheffield.

In press (with Bo Gräslund). Excavating the Fimbulwinter? Archaeology, geomythology and the climate event(s) of AD 536. In Riede, F. (ed.) Volcanic eruptions and human vulnerability in traditional societies past and present. Aarhus University Press, Aarhus.

In press (with Rick Knecht and Gavin Lindsay). The sacred and the profane: souvenir and collecting behaviours on the WWII battlefields of Peleliu, Palau, Micronesia. In Carr, G. & Reeves, K. (eds) Heritage and memory of war: responses from small islands. Routledge, London & New York.


I believe that as academics we all have clear obligations to share the results of our research through an active engagement as public intellectuals, and to thereby offer our work for more participatory debate. Over the years I've contributed regularly to radio and television programmes in several countries, either as a consultant on content or presenting my own research. I've made several live radio broadcasts, including appearing on BBC Radio's In Our Time (with an audience of 3.5 million) and on public radio in South Africa. In 2014 I appeared in the live-broadcast film Vikings Live from the British Museum accompanying the exhibition there, which was transmitted in 400 UK cinemas and later worldwide. Recently I've filmed documentary material to support the DVD releases and website of the History Channel's TV drama series Vikings.

Museum are a primary forum for the public dissemination of our research, and I have contributed to numerous exhibitions and their accompanying catalogues in Scandinavia, Europe, the US and South Africa, including the British Museum and several national museums. Most of this work has concerned the Viking Age, but other topics include Sámi religion, shamanism, and the cultural history of sexuality. I regularly give public lectures and publish in popular science magazines, and my online presence includes the YouTube recordings of the series of Messenger Lectures that I held at Cornell in the fall semester of 2012, on the theme of The Viking Mind.