Michael Neiss

michael@neiss.seMichael Neiss holding an award


My profound interest in crafts has led me into an artefact-oriented line of research, including 3D laser scanning, database development and analytical drawing. Preliminary results are published continuously, and I participate in various research projects. In line with my general interests, my doctoral thesis deals and my postdoc project deals with with Viking Age jewellery, with a focus on production patterns and typology, as well as the cognitive and religious meaning of the ornament covering these items.

POSTDOC PROJECTHAbIT (Handicraft Archaeology based on Intelligent Technology)
Thanks to new possibilities in natural and digital sciences, archaeology is experiencing an unparalleled renaissance in material research. However, in regard to cultural change, some important aspects of ancient metal crafting remain to be explored. HAbIT aims to generate a novel and empirically grounded theory on the materiality of cultural transformation. The project title alludes both to ancient craft processes and the digital solutions of our day and age that help us unveil them. During the course of my project, I will examine how the interplay of three factors – i.e. urbanisation, religious change and the serial production of pictorial art – made Viking Age Scandinavia a part of Western Christendom. Due to its novel set-up, HAbIT will generate method-related and technical innovations with significance beyond the chosen field of study. The idea of spreading pictorial messages through metal casting had been implemented, abandoned and re-invented many times before urbanity finally took root. The catalyst that forged the permanent link between urban settlements and serial production was the Christian ideology. Having entered Scandinavia through newly founded emporia, it established a new set of material anchors that merged domestic and foreign values into something entirely new that would manifest itself within the pictorial domain and beyond. This led to the entanglement of Viking period people into an accelerating spiral that transformed their traditional society into a medieval one.

PhD PROJECT Transformations in Viking Age Animal Art
During the past 150 years, different generations of scholars have been approaching Scandinavian Animal Art with queries that were as multifaceted as the materials that they studied. The focal point of this study are Birka type brooches, which are best likened to interactive sculptures that change shape as the viewer changes perspec­tive. Sculptural brooches do not only breathe new life into traditional research questions, but raise new ones that steer us into uncharted waters. Here, we make field observations which fall outside the established paradigms of archaeology. Following the parable of the six blind men who tried to come to terms with the unknown phenome­non ‘elephant’, this study approaches the sculptural brooch phenomenon from different angles, by combining different methods which have been developed within separate research disciplines such as archaeology, art his­tory, cognitive science and philology. The methodological framework for my multi-method approach is informed GT, i.e. a variant of grounded theory which uses established theories to identify distinct patterns that previously went unnoticed. Contradictions that arise from the mix of methods are not seen as a hindrance, but as a generator for progress that gives rise to a new theory. By combining dynamic typology, Panofskyan hermeneu­tics and multimodal semiotics, my study on sculptural brooches uncovers hitherto unknown parallels between Animal Art and skaldic poetry in regards to context, cognition and imagery. As a result, one is inclined to look for a potential link between those distinct expressions of Viking Age culture. Did objects with Animal Art serve as points of reference for skaldic ekphrasis? Or was Animal Art a material anchor for the same conceptual blends that also transpired through skaldic poetry? The outcome is an empirically grounded theory which links the pictorial language of the smith to the verbal imagery of the skald, more precisely in the context of Old Norse íþrótt ideology.



PHONE: +46/736462991
EMAIL: michael@neiss.se; michael.neiss@arkeologi.uu.se


Awarded with The Mandelgren Medal of 2017 by The Antiquarian Society of Sweden


The 'Allah' finger ring from Viking Age Birka
Digital artefacts – 3D laser scanning and modeling
Emporia crafts &urban origins in early medieval Europe
Experimental archaeology
Metal casting in medieval Ribe
A lost world? – Religious identity and practice in the Lake Mälaren region during the introduction of Christianity
Virtual casting of Viking Age brooches

HAbIT – Handicraft Archaeology based on Intelligent Technology

Transformations in Viking Age Animal Art
(theory & method)

Christoph Kilger, Frands Herschend & Ingmar Jansson





Elected member of The International Saxon Symposion

Coordinator of the junior researcher workshop 59° North 2016 & 2019

Material culture research cluster coordinator (ST 2017)

PhD student representative (AT 2019 – ST 2022) on
The Faculty Board
The Board of Ethics and Research Conduct
The Faculty Committee for the Doctoral Education

UrbNet research partner

Recently featured in UNT & Populär Historia & other media outlets


Viking Age brooch from Vestervang/Denmark, featuring Animal Art and puzzle pictures. Illustration: Michael Neiß
Viking Age brooch from Vestervang/Denmark, featuring Animal Art and puzzle pictures. Illustration: Michael Neiß


Last modified: 2023-05-15