Anthropology S-1095

Viking Studies: History and Archaeology

The world of the vikings and material culture

Through lectures, site visits, and hands-on participation in an archaeological dig, this course presents the events of the Viking Age, supported by primary materials, such as eye-witness accounts, and introduces the material legacy concerned with the Vikings, the enigmatic Scandinavians whose dramatic expansion from the eighth to eleventh centuries AD transformed not only their own society but much of the entire northern world.

During this period Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians raided, traded, and conquered their way across western Europe, toppling kingdoms and founding new ones. They knew the great classical cities of the Mediterranean, as well as the Muslim empires of Spain and North Africa. Scandinavians colonized the Russian river systems, explored the Asian steppe, and walked the streets of Baghdad and Damascus. At the same time their westward expansion settled new lands in the north Atlantic, moving from Iceland and Greenland to the first European encounter with North America. With a focus on the settlements and grave fields of Southern Scandinavia, the course explores this Viking civilization, its customs and lifestyles, and above all the immense cultural diversity of the early Scandinavian world.

The modern country of Denmark was partially formed in Jutland during the Viking Age, making this area the ideal center for such a study program. Some of Scandinavia’s first towns and several of the largest, most spectacular cemetery complexes of the north are in the area. Through lectures and visits to some of the great museum collections and archaeological sites in the Nordic world, such as Moesgaard museum, students encounter the richness of the Viking heritage. In addition to visiting the royal center at Jelling, archaeological excursions may also include the Viking Age town of Ribe, the ancient sites at Lejre, the Viking Ship museum in Roskilde, and tours through the preserved landscapes of Viking Age Denmark and other parts of Scandinavia.

A major part of the course consists of an archaeological field school, during which students  participate in excavating a Viking Age site and learning a variety of techniques archaeologists use in excavating and analyzing materials. The excavation will provide a hands-on experience of Viking Age material culture and archaeological research methods. During this period, we will also visit a number of important sites connected with Scandinavian, Viking, and Medieval History.

2 vikings battling re-enactment
viking artifact

Probable excursions include:

Lindholm Høje