Viking researchers invade North Atlantic islands

22 Apr 2013 09:01:00.000

Researchers into the colourful history of the Vikings in Britain have staged their own invasion of the Orkney isles in the North Atlantic to look for new clues to our Norse heritage.

They will be revealing their discoveries to Viking enthusiasts, academics and students from all over the country at the annual Midlands Viking Symposium at The University of Nottingham this weekend.

PhD students from the University’s Centre for the Study of the Viking Age are part of The Orkney Viking Heritage Project which also involves researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and the Highlands and Islands. The Arts & Humanities Research Council-funded project aims to close a skills gap in the field of heritage research and is a collaboration between academics, doctoral researchers and heritage professionals.

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The Orkney Project students and staff are all specialists in Old Norse-Icelandic and Viking Studies. The aim of the programme is to extend their research and make it more accessible to a wider community through public events like the Midlands Viking Symposium. This one day event takes place on Saturday 27 April 2012 at the Law & Social Sciences building on University Park.

Members of the Orkney Project will be presenting work from a recent week-long field trip to Orkney where they were based in the Orcadian capital of Kirkwall, one of the most important towns of the ancient Norse Western Empire. The researchers carried out site visits to Norse and Viking locations in the islands, including Kirkwall’s cathedral which was built in the twelfth century to honour St Magnus who was martyred on the island of Egilsay in April 1116.

Other reports from the trip include an examination of ‘Maeshowe’, a prehistoric chambered ‘cairn’ or man-made stone monument which is covered in twelfth-century runic graffiti in Old Norse, and many of the sites mentioned in Orkneyinga saga, a history of the Earls of Orkney written in medieval Iceland.

This year’s Symposium has a theme of ‘Connecting Islands’ and is open to anyone with an interest. The event will feature a number of lectures by guest speakers including:

  • Professor Judith Jesch (University of Nottingham): ‘Maeshowe and Poetry’
  • Dale Kedwards (University of York): ‘Connecting Islands: Early Maps of the North Atlantic’
  • Dr Matt Townend (University of York): ‘Writing the History of Viking Age Yorkshire’
  • Emeritus Professor Michael P. Barnes (University College London / Honorary Professor, Centre for the Study of the Viking Age, University of Nottingham: ‘What is Norn?’
  • Dr Angela Watt (University of the Highlands and Islands): ‘Shaping the silver dragon, forging a dual identity’
  • Dr Donna Heddle (Centre for Nordic Studies in Orkney and Shetland): ‘The Northern Seas as Cultural Space’
  • Dr Rory Naismith (University of Cambridge): ‘Treasure Islands: Viking-Age Currency in the North Atlantic’

Registration is open until Wednesday 25 April 2013. Details of how to register for the event can be found here.

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Story credits

More information is available from Marjolein Stern, School of English, The University of Nottingham on +44 (0)7810 013531 

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