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HARC 0350 Viking Archaeology

In AD 793, a band of pagan pirates attacked the monastery of Lindisfarne in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, sending shock waves through the Christian world. This attack would enter history as the first recorded Viking attack, but who were the Vikings? Were they the bloodthirsty pirates depicted in monastic chronicles and annals? Or is this a biased view, and is the image of daring explorers and farmers who can be credited with the colonisation of Iceland and the discovery of the Americas more accurate? This course will take a broad-brush overview from the North Atlantic to the trade routes through Russia towards Constantinople, and focus on the archaeology of trade, piracy, ship-building and colonisation. Although the emphasis of the course is archaeological, attention will also be given to the importance of interdisciplinary approaches, in particular the relationship between archaeological and historical material. Key sites to be discussed may include Jelling, Hedeby and Trelleborg, all Denmark; York, Repton, Ingleby and Torksey, all England; and, closer to home, the suspected Viking mass-grave underneath St John’s College in Oxford.  Associated places to visit include metalwork and a runestone at the Ashmolean Museum, in Oxford, and the early medieval gallery at the British Museum in London. 

Sample reading

Ashby, S. P. 2015. ‘What really caused the Viking Age? The social content of raiding and exploration’, Archaeological Dialogues 22 (01).

Graham-Campbell, J. 2013. The Viking World. 4th ed. Frances Lincoln.

Hadley, D. M. 2006. The Vikings in England: settlement, society and culture. Manchester University Press.

Meier, D. 2006. Seafarers, Merchants and Pirates in the Middle Ages. Woodbridge.

Richards, J. D. 2001 ‘Boundaries and cult centres: Viking burial in Derbyshire.’ In Vikings and the Danelaw: Proceedings of the Thirteenth Viking Congress. Graham-Campbell, J., Hall, R., Jesch, J. & Parsons, D. N. (eds.). p. 97-104.

Wallis, S. 2014. Oxford Henge and late Saxon massacre: with medieval and later occupation at St John's College, Oxford. Thames Valley Archaeological Services.

Williams, G. 2014. Vikings: Life and Legend. British Museum

This experience cannot be contained by words
The academic reasons for studying with Oxford professors stands by itself as the number one reason someone should want to engage in this program, but ...
Katherine Ciesla, Autumn Semester 2010, Elmhurst College