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Trees and Timber in the Anglo-Saxon World$
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Michael D. J. Bintley and Michael G. Shapland

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199680795

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199680795.001.0001

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The Exeter Book Riddles’ Precarious Insights into Wooden Artefacts

The Exeter Book Riddles’ Precarious Insights into Wooden Artefacts

(p.122) 6 The Exeter Book Riddles’ Precarious Insights into Wooden Artefacts
Trees and Timber in the Anglo-Saxon World

Jennifer Neville

Oxford University Press

This article argues that the nature of the Riddles makes them a dangerous source for Anglo-Saxon material culture, not least because the absence of solutions in the manuscript is one of their essential characteristics, which was recognized by the scribe and all subsequent Anglo-Saxon readers. Unlike riddles in most other traditions, they do not include recourse to an authoritative solution. When we approach these texts, we need to keep this characteristic in mind. With their illimitable potential for additional, competing solutions, the Riddles thus pose very serious problems for modern scholars seeking facts. Not all the Riddles are so evasive, but in general they need to be treated with more care than is usually the case in discussions of material culture. Whilst they rarely offer the facts that most historians and archaeologists really want, they do indicate attitudes towards and perspectives on the artefacts of the Anglo-Saxon world.

Keywords:   wood, riddles, material culture, artefacts

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