Dr Eva Thäte

Visiting Research Associate

My curiosity in the past was ignited when looking for fossils in the forests of south Germany - or was it the Egyptian mummy in a museum in my hometown Bremen?




This curiosity led me to the University of Münster where I started my studies in archaeology (Pre- and Protohistory, Classical Archaeology and Ancient History). Different from my childhood interests I became very interested in Early Medieval archaeology in northwest Europe and in burial archaeology.

I did my MA thesis on the re-use of monuments in Lower Saxony and Anglo-Saxon England in 1993 with a first degree (Supervisor Prof. Dr. Dr. hc. T. Capelle). Later, I worked for several years at museums in northwest Germany and also for a newly founded heritage trust.

In 2001 I started my PhD thesis ‘Monuments and Minds. Monument Re-use in Scandinavia in the Second Half of the First Millennium AD' at the University of Reading (Supervisor Dr. H. Härke) with the support of several funding bodies. I finished my PhD in December 2004 and graduated in July 2005.

After my graduation, I worked as a Sessional Lecturer at the University of Reading (School of Continuing Education and Archaeology Department), published several articles, and recently my PhD thesis with financial support of a Swedish funding organisation: the Berit Wallenbergs Stiftelse in Stockholm.

I also did research in cooperation with the Arkeologisk museum, Universitetet i Stavanger (AmUiS) in Norway on the re-use of stone artefacts in graves.

Last year I was invited to Oregon by the Archaeological Institute of America to give presentations on Viking Age burial rites. I took part in various excavations in Germany and in Norway.

At the moment, I am looking for research positions and funds to enable me to start a project on boat graves in Scandinavia in cooperation with the AmUiS.


Key interests

I am interested in north/ northwest European archaeology, particularly Scandinavian archaeology, burial and landscape archaeology, the re-use of monuments and artefacts, the Early Medieval Period (equalling the Scandinavian ‘Late Iron Age') the Viking Age in particular, and religion and beliefs.

Monument Re-use

In 1991 I started my MA thesis on the re-use of monuments in northwest Germany and Anglo-Saxon England not knowing at that time that this would lead to an even larger research project. My PhD project started in 2001 focusing on the three Scandinavian countries Denmark, Sweden and Norway in the so-called ‘Late Iron Age' (c. AD 500 / 600 - AD 1000).

The major aim was to find out about the mental background of the re-use custom and about possible differences in the perception of monuments in the various Scandinavian countries.

I analysed 162 re-use sites with over 1000 graves and also various topographical features in order to identify how significant ancient monuments were for burial compared to locations on high ground or near water, roads and boundaries. The re-use of ruined houses raises the question of what made people choose a particular place for burial.

Chronological, spatial and social analyses were carried out simultaneously using a comparative approach. I also included historical sources such as the Norse Sagas which were helpful for finding explanations of the evidence. I have also explored how cognitive and psychological factors might explain burial location and landscape perception in the Scandinavian Late Iron Age.

Artefact Re-use

In cooperation with O. Hemdorff (Arkeologisk museum, Universitetet i Stavanger) I have conducted preliminary research in 2007 into the re-use of stone artefacts in (mainly) Viking Age graves in Scandinavia. The inspiration for this research was the discovery in 2005 of a Mesolithic stone axe in a Viking Age grave next to Avaldsnes church on the island of Karmøy (SW Norway).

It has become apparent that this was not a singular find since similar evidence is known from other sites in Norway, Denmark and Sweden. The use of these ancient stone artefacts was not limited to graves, they were also found in houses which predominantly date to the Early Iron Age. The aim of this research was to establish theoretical approaches to find explanations for this phenomenon. Results were published in October 2009 in the Norwegian series AmS-Varia.


New Research Project:

The Boat on the Hill. Topography, symbolism and new interpretations of boat burials in Viking Age Scandinavia

One of the most significant objects linked to the Vikings is the boat - and not least in the Viking-Age burial rite. The boat was an important symbol in pre-Christian Scandinavia that designated the transition from life to death.

No detailed research on boat burials has been done for the last 30 to 40 years and new evidence from recent excavations in Rogaland (Norway) - a region where boat burial was common practice - demands a re-assessment of outdated results and statements.

The Arkeologisk museum, Universitetet i Stavanger (AmUiS) in Norway is an important research centre for archaeology. Over the last 25 years, the museum has conducted extensive and thorough excavations of burial sites of the Late Iron-/Viking Age in Rogaland. These burials provide the basis for a new discussion of the significance of the boat as an important mortuary symbol in Late Iron-/Viking-Age Scandinavia.

Some preliminary research has already been undertaken in October 2008 and June/July 2009 with financial support of the AmUiS. I am looking for research positions and financial support to be able to implement this project.

Published work


Thäte, E.S. 2007. Monuments and Minds. Monument Re-use in Scandinavia in the Second Half of the First Millennium AD. Acta Archaeologica Lundensia series in 4° No 27. Lund: Dept. of Archaeology.

Chapters in Books

Thäte, E.S. 2009: Barrows, Roads and Ridges: Or Where to Bury the Dead? The Choice of Burial Grounds in Late Iron-Age Scandinavia. In: H. Williams & D. Sayer (eds) Mortuary Practices & Social Identities in the Middle Ages. Essays in Honour of Heinrich Härke. Exeter: Exeter University Press. pp. 104-122.

Thäte E.S. & Hemdorff, O.H. 2009: Økser, amuletter og overtro: En steinalderøks i jernaldergrav på Avaldsnes, Karmøy. (Axes, Charms and Superstition. A Stone-Age Axe in an Iron-Age grave in Avaldsnes, Karmøy. A case of Re-use of Prehistoric Artefacts by the Ancestors?). AmS-Varia 49. Stavanger: Arkeologisk museum, Universitetet i Stavanger; transl. by N. Armstrong, AmUiS. pp. 43-52.

Thäte, E.S. 1998. Die Zinn- und Irdenware. Das Eßgeschirr vom Lande? (Pewter and Earthenware: The Tableware of the Countryside?), in Musealog (ed.) Eten un drinken. Aspekte des Essens und Trinkens in Nordwestdeutschland zwischen 1650 und 1850. Ausstellungskatalog / Exhibition Catalogue. (Veröffentlichungen des Ostfriesischen Landesmuseums und Emder Rüstkammer, H. 3; Kataloge und Schriften des Museumsdorfs Cloppenburg, H. 4), pp. 91-98 and pp. 156-164. Oldenburg: Isensee.

Journal articles

Thäte, E.S. 2007. A Question of Priority: Houses and Barrows as Places for Burials in Late Iron Age Scandinavia. Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 14. Oxford: Oxbow, pp. 183-193.

Thäte, E.S. 2000: Nunc est bibendum! Ein hölzerner Pokal des 14. Jahrhunderts von der Stadtwarf Emden. (A Wooden Goblet of the 14th Century AD from Emden). Emder Jahrbuch 79 (1999), pp. 28-41.  

Thäte, E.S. 1997. Alte Denkmäler und frühgeschichtliche Bestattungen. Ein besonderer Totenbrauch und seine Kontinuität. (Ancient monuments and protohistoric burials: a special burial custom and its continuity). Archäologische Informationen 19,1, pp. 106-112.