Neil Price

Short presentation

I have held the Chair of Archaeology at Uppsala since 2014, having previously taught at Aberdeen, Stockholm, and Oslo universities. Educated at London UCL, York, and Uppsala, I am primarily a specialist in the Viking Age, with further interests in the historical archaeology of the Asia-Pacific. My research has taken me to more than 40 countries, and my publications have appeared in 20 languages. I am committed to multimedia public outreach, and have often consulted for TV and film.


I was appointed to the established Chair of Archaeology late in 2014. The job has roots going back to 1662 when Olof Verelius was made 'Professor of the Fatherland's Antiquities', making it probably the oldest archaeological post 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. A year after taking up post I was fortunate to be awarded a major 10-year grant and a new job title from the Distinguished Professorship (rådsprofessor) programme of the Swedish Research Council, and in 2024 I will take up the directorship of the Uppsala Research Centre for the World in the Viking Age (WiVA) supported by the same funders.

I also hold an Honorary Research Chair in Archaeology at the University of Aberdeen; an Adjunct Professorship of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver; and a Visiting Professorship in Nordic Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands (Orkney and Shetland). From 2021 I am also very pleased to join the staff of the GI-CoRE at Hokkaido University, Japan, for a five-year professorial term in their Global Station for Indigenous Studies and Cultural Diversity.

I began my archaeological career in the early 1980s, excavating for the Museum of London and at numerous sites in Britain, Germany, Malta and the Caribbean. I completed my BA in Medieval Archaeology at University College London's Institute of Archaeology in 1988, and afterwards conducted postgraduate research at the University of York on the Anglo-Scandinavian tenements at 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, working in rescue archaeology first for the National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämbetet-UV Mitt) and subsequently 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 positions at the universities of Oslo and Stockholm; I also co-directed Harvard's summer school in Viking Studies for five years. In late 2007 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 appointed as the inaugural established Chair of Archaeology there, tasked with building the new unit and guiding its development as an internationally leading centre for the study of the Northern past.

Building on the achievements of the Aberdeen department, 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 are now one of the largest Departments of Archaeology, Classical Archaeology and Egyptology in northern Europe.


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. My specific, current interests include Viking-Age mentality and world-view, what could called be the ‘Northern mind’; Scandinavian pre-Christian religion, ritual, and sorcery; Viking-Age gender, sexuality, and identity; Viking-Age mortuary behaviour and funerary drama; the Scandinavian experience in the East, including contacts with Islam and the Silk Roads; and the socio-cultural impact of natural disasters and climate change.

Although my current Chair has a traditional focus on Scandinavian prehistory, in fact I believe we all are (or should be) global and comparative archaeologists. My interests in early modern and historical archaeology focus on Oceania, the China Seas, and the Indian Ocean. More specifically, my research in these areas encompasses archaeologies of the colonial encounter; early globalisation and the social biography of commodities; the archaeology of the Maritime Silk Road; and in particular the multicultural archaeology of the Pacific War (1941-45). More generally, my research here also addresses three overarching themes: the social archaeology of conflict; the comparative archaeology of piracy; and the archaeology of traditional belief systems. This work has been pursued in many contexts, taking me to more than 40 countries around the world.

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

The Viking Phenomenon, 2016-2025

In December 2015, the Swedish Research Council made an unprecedented investment of fifty million kronor (approx. 5 million USD) at the University of Uppsala, to fund a ten-year programme of research into the beginnings of what we call the ‘Viking Age’. Despite the enduring popularity of the Vikings and their time, comparatively little attention has been devoted to the very beginnings of their historical trajectory: who really were the raiders in a specific sense, why did they do what they do, what kind of societies produced them, and why did the Scandinavians start to expand so dramatically into the world at precisely this time? The answers to these questions concern the very origins of the Viking phenomenon. They are of crucial interest for understanding what made Sweden what it is today, and the often-problematic ways in which this knowledge of the past is received in contemporary society. Under my direction, the project is exploring these issues with a core research group based at Uppsala University (Dr John Ljungkvist) and the Swedish History Museum (Dr Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson), working in close collaboration with a team from Tallinn and Tartu universities in Estonia. During the lifetime of the project, we have been joined by postdoctoral researchers and international scholars, each making targeted contributions to their areas of expertise. The project is an umbrella that shelters several sub-strands of research, including new publication programmes for the boat graves at Valsgärde in Uppland and Salme on Saaremaa, as well as extensive studies of the socio-economic processes that underpinned ‘vikingness’. The key focus of attention is on the critical century from 750 to 850 CE and the decades either side, embracing the early Viking Age and its foundations. International, cross-cultural comparative studies add a further dimension to these investigations. Project outputs include several international workshops with edited proceedings; over two hundred conference presentations and public lectures; numerous publications including synthetic works and excavation reports, and more than eighty journal papers and book chapters; multimedia public outreach initiatives of all kinds.

The Uppsala Research Centre for the World in the Viking Age (WiVA), 2024-2028

In June 2023, the Swedish Research Council established 15 national Centres of Excellence chosen from 124 applications across all disciplines, to run for an initial five years with a possible five-year extension. We were fortunate to be awarded one of these thirty-million-kronor (approx. 3 million USD) grants to set up the Uppsala Research Centre for the World in the Viking Age (WiVA, pronounced ‘weaver’) as a collaborative, interdisciplinary meeting place for the study and wider communication of a defining episode in world history: the Scandinavian diaspora that unfolded across Eurasia from c.750-1050 CE. While it has long been a focus of identity, culture, heritage, and emotion in the Nordic countries, a fascination for the Viking Age is also an enduring global phenomenon. At the same time, the Vikings have been stereotyped and politically misappropriated almost beyond recognition, and there is a greater urgency to nuanced interpretation in both the academic and public arenas. These issues lie at the heart of the WiVA Centre, as we cross research frontiers to explore the full scale of ethnic and cultural diversity in the Viking world. Our primary emphasis will look south and east along the Silk Roads, to trace the Scandinavians’ activities in a network of early globalisation that connected the Baltic to the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, Central Asia, and the China Seas. The work will also include cross-cultural comparisons, with a focus on Oceania. To explore these new horizons, over five years the WiVA Centre at Uppsala University will bring together a multidisciplinary team of archaeologists, historians, runologists, geneticists and more. There will be jobs for early career researchers, some twenty international visiting scholars will come to Sweden, and a full Master’s degree programme in Viking Studies will launch, alongside public outreach events. Our ambition is that the view of the Viking Age will never be the same again.

Viking Dynasties: The Royal Families of Lejre and Uppsala Between Archaeology and Text

This Danish-Swedish collaborative archaeological research project is generously funded by the KrogagerFonden in Hellerup, and shared between the National Museum of Denmark (Dr Tom Christensen) and Uppsala University (Dr John Ljungkvist and myself). On the Swedish side it is formulated as a complement to the Viking Phenomenonprogramme, and focuses on the early royal dynasties based around the central places of Lejre and Gamla Uppsala. The background and inspiration for the project can be found in the very successful long-term collaboration between the fund and the archaeological research programme at Lejre. The present project expands the focus to the larger political environment of the time - the context within which Lejre came into being - and includes its closest equivalent contemporary in Sweden, the royal manor and monumental landscape of Gamla Uppsala. As a result, the project is a collaboration between the existing Lejre team and the Uppsala University researchers who have for many years been investigating the Gamla Uppsala site. We are exploring the interactions and conflicts between the dynasties of Lejre and Uppsala, the Skjöldungs and the Ynglings, and the development of their growing kingdoms that would ultimately lay the foundations for the modern nations of Denmark and Sweden. This is set against the background of earlier research, and the problems of combining evidence from archaeology and textual sources, with the objective of shaping a new understanding of this critical socio-political transformation in Scandinavian history. The project will be published in 2024 as a major edited volume from Jysk Arkæologisk Selskab and the National Museum.

Imperial Addictions: Material Histories of Opium from the Indian Ocean to the China Seas

The international opium trade of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries transformed cultures and communities on a massive scale. Wars were fought to secure the trade, governments were toppled or subverted, and the mercantile aristocracies of imperial Europe flourished on its profits. This same period saw the origins of globalisation in the modern sense of the term, a time in which a handful of crucial commodities radically changed the world. This project 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. A series of multi-authored case studies are brought together, exploring shipwrecks, battlefields from the Opium Wars, camps of migrant Chinese workers in several countries, the supply bases along the routes, and also those displaced by the trade and the new lives to which opium had driven them. My own research focuses on the various East India Companies, especially that of Sweden, and their bases in the so-called Thirteen Hongs of Canton (modern Guangzhou). The project will be published as an edited volume in 2024.


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Neil Price