Viking experts at The University of Nottingham are reaching out across the Irish Sea to spread the latest research on the history and culture of the Norsemen.
The Midlands Viking Symposium 2011 – being held outside the UK for the first time – brings together some of the foremost Viking researchers at a prestigious venue in Dublin, from April 29-30.
The Vikings left a strong imprint on Ireland that is still apparent in place-names, archaeological finds and in the DNA of the modern population.
Recent archaeological finds of weapons, jewellery and Viking remains have provided new evidence of the deep and widespread impact that the invaders had on Ireland, when they started arriving on its shores more than a thousand years ago. The recently-discovered site of Annagassan promises to rival Viking Dublin in the richness and variety of relics uncovered there.
There is strong evidence to suggest that all modern Irish cities had their foundations in the Viking age, supported by name evidence in many cases. The city of Limerick, for example, can trace its heritage back to the Norsemen’s settlement of Hlymrekr.
The Midlands Viking Symposium is a collaboration between the Universities of Nottingham, Birmingham and Leicester, designed to bring together academics and non-academics interested in Viking Studies. Its seventh annual meeting is being co-organised and hosted by Dublin City Council, and supported by the National Museum of Ireland.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin will be on hand to mark its official opening.
Professor Judith Jesch, of The University of Nottingham, will be presenting a session on ‘Depictions of the Irish in Norse literature’.
Professor Jesch said: “In the Viking Age, the Irish Sea was the M6 of its day – an extremely busy highway for trade and travel. Both England and Ireland were thus plugged into the wider Viking world that extended north to Scotland and Iceland.
“The literature of medieval Iceland is one of the best ways of finding out what people thought of their neighbours in this busy multicultural world. My talk will focus on some of the fascinating Irish characters of the Icelandic sagas, including saints, princesses and two Irish wolfhounds.”
The welcome reception is due to be held on Friday, April 29, at the National Museum of Ireland. The opening keynote lecture will be given by Dr Christina Lee of The University of Nottingham and Dr John Sheehan, of University College Cork.
They will examine recent trends in Viking Studies on both sides of the Irish Sea. In the past, ‘Vikings’ have been seen as ‘Gaill/foreigner’ in both Britain and Ireland, but recently the focus has shifted to settlement and integration into existing cultures. The Vikings are thus a shared experience for the two nations, linked by the Irish Sea and characterised by varied adaptation to circumstances of language, economy and politics.
Dr Lee and Dr Sheehan will talk about the importance of Vikings in their respective research areas – literature/language and archaeology – and compare the state of scholarship in their individual countries.
Other sessions include:
• ‘A nest of pirates? Weapons, warriors and early Viking Dublin’ – Dr Stephen Harrison, University College Dublin
• ‘What’s in a name? The genetic legacy of the Vikings in the north of England’ – Dr Turi King, University of Leicester
• ‘Viking Ireland: retrospect and prospect’ – Professor Donnchadh Ó Corráin, University College Cork
• ‘Viking camps and the means of exchange in Britain and Ireland in the ninth century’ – Dr Gareth Williams, British Museum
• ‘A Viking warrior grave, on the banks of the Black Pool’ – Linzi Simpson, MGL Heritage and Archaeology Consultants.
The University of Nottingham is at the forefront of research into the history and legacy of the Vikings, through the Centre for the Study of the Viking Age in the School of English Studies (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/csva/index.aspx). The Centre was founded in 1995 by Professor Christine Fell OBE and Professor Judith Jesch, to provide a focal point for research activity and to stimulate further work.
A web resource, which includes a list of Viking finds in Ireland, has been developed as one of the outcomes of recent research. It can be accessed at: http://www.vikingage.mic.ul.ie/
The deadline for registration for ‘Viking Age Ireland and its wider connections’ is April 18. More information is available:
• in the UK from: Mrs Rebecca Peck, tel +44 (0)115 951 5901; or Dr Christina Lee, tel +44 (0)115 8467194, Christina.firstname.lastname@example.org
• in the Republic of Ireland from: Dr Ruth Johnson, c/o Mr Conor Dillon, tel +353 (0)1 2222094
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