What is Typology? – The Headless Vikings of Dorset – Dickson’s Mound, Illinois, USA

What Is Typology?

Typology is the classification of finds from an archaeological site, and comparing them to similar ones to assist with dating.

Typology can be complicated, but it can also be simple – depending upon the artefacts being classified. Classification is done by looking at artefacts and placing them into types or classes and showing how they have changed and developed over time.

For example, an iPhone. Over the past few years the iPhone has developed to include more and better features. This is the same in history when pottery, buildings, bricks etc developed over time. Each change shows that the original design was improved upon.

Classification can be for artefacts, buildings, fortifications, pottery and monuments etc..

Flinders Petrie Pottery Typology ©UCL Museum
Flinders Petrie Pottery Typology
©UCL Museum

Flinders Petrie, (1853 – 1942) was a pioneering archaeologist who spent most of his professional life in Egypt. The above photo shows how he demonstrated that pottery he discovered had changed and improved over time. He was one of the first people to do so.


Archaeology Wow!! – The Headless Vikings of Dorset

This was an amazing and totally unexpected find – but one that has helped us learn more about the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings in England.

In 2008 Oxford Archaeology were asked to do possibly the biggest archaeological investigation in Britain – 50,000 m2     of land put aside for the new Weymouth Relief Road. In 2009 they discovered the remains of 54 skeletons whose heads were located separately, a bit further away. Only 51 skulls recovered.

The remains were found in a disused Roman quarry and it was first beleived that they belonged to people from the Iron Age. Carbon Dating revealed that the skeletons dated from between 910 – 1030 and further analysis – of their teeth – showed them to be of Scandinavian origin.

Burial Pit ©Oxford Archaeology
Burial Pit
©Oxford Archaeology

It has now been shown that the skeletons were those of 54 Vikings that had been killed by Anglo-Saxons. Their heads cut off and their bodies dumped in an old Roman quarry. They were aged between their late teens and mid-twenties and several of the bodies showed signs of multiple blows with a heavy item, like a sword.

There were no battle wounds on the remains which have led researchers to beleive that the Vikings were captured and then executed.

Excavating the Remains ©Oxford Archaeology
Excavating the Remains
©Oxford Archaeology

It is also beleived that the missing heads may have been taken away and used as trophyies, placed on spikes to show a victory by the local Anglo-Saxons.

A very grisly find but one that does give us a better insight into the constant battles between local Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings invaders, looking for land to settle down on.


  • Harkel. L. & Hadley. D. M. 2013. Everyday Life in Viking-Age Towns: Social Approaches to Towns in England and Ireland, c. 800-1100. Oxford, UK: Oxbow Books.
  • Higham.N. & Ryan. M. J. 2013. The Anglo-Saxon World. Yale University, USA: Yale University Press.


Archaeological Site Guide – Dickson’s Mound, Illinois, USA

Dicksons Mounds are a number of mounds located in Fulton County, Illinois. They were named after the man who owned the land, Don Dickson.

Dickson Mound ©Wiki Commons
Dickson Mound
©Wiki Commons

Mr Dickson excavated the mounds in 1927 and out of respect for the Native Americans, opened a museum there, dedicated to the site.

The site consists of 2 cemeteries, 10 mounds and a platform mound. They date from between 800 – 1250 and belonged to the Middle Mississippian Culture who lived and thrived in the area at that time.

In all 3,000 burials have been uncovered at the site. There is evidence that the people had a hierarchal society, that is one with several levels, as shown by the finds with each burial. The rich burials included tools and items of copper, where as the other burials included only pots, spoons and beads.

Dickson Mounds Museum © www.rvshortstops.com
Dickson Mounds Museum
© www.rvshortstops.com

Hierarchy shows us that the people were an organised society.  Items from the burials also showed that they had a complex trade network with Cahokia. Research into the remains tells us that a lot of the people became sick as they moved from their hunter-gatherer lifestyle to that of a settled people who grew crops.

During the 13th-14th centuries the community was in decline and a number of reasons have been put forward, including climate change, disease and warfare.

The site is of great importance to the First Nations People and is on the US Register of Historic Places.


  • Bowne. E. E. 2013. Mound Sites of the Ancient South: A Guide to the Mississippian Chiefdoms. Georgia, USA: University of Georgia Press.
  • Gibbon. G. E. , & Ames. K. M. 1998. Archaeology of Prehistoric Native America: An Encyclopedia. Oxford, UK: Taylor & Francis.
  • Dickson Mound – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dickson-mound.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Dickson-mound.jpg


Great Books to Read…….


Great Web Pages to Look At…….


Activity –  

One Comment on “What is Typology? – The Headless Vikings of Dorset – Dickson’s Mound, Illinois, USA

  1. Pingback: Around the Archaeology Blog-o-sphere Digest #4 | Doug's Archaeology

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