Viking Voyagers: The Maritime World of the Vikings

Viking Voyagers: The Maritime World of the Vikings
with Dr Gareth Williams (British Museum)
at Sutton Hoo on Saturday, 8th October 2016.

gokstadThe Viking Age saw an unprecedented expansion from the Scandinavian homelands to America, North Africa, and Central Asia. Viking shipbuilding and seamanship played an essential part in the growth of this incredible maritime world, and this study day explores the ships themselves, and how their use on seas and rivers fuelled three centuries of raiding, trading and cultural interaction.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:                The maritime world of the Vikings – We shall begin with an exploration of the maritime character of the Viking homelands, the importance of ships and boats within Viking society, and the expansion of the Viking world. This lecture will also consider aspects of the popular perception of Vikings today, and the central role of the Viking ship within that perception.

11.15 – 11.40:                Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:                Viking ships and navigation – We shall follow the abstract discussion of ships in the previous lecture with a more detailed examination of the surviving evidence for Viking ships, which demonstrates considerable diversity of form and function, rather than just the stereotypical ‘longship’ of popular perception. This lecture will also examine the much weaker evidence for navigation techniques in this period.

12.40 – 14.00:                Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:                 On different seas – The Vikings had contacts around a variety of different seas, from the North Atlantic to the Caspian. This lecture explores in more detail the diversity of the Viking world, and the different cultural interactions that took place in different parts of that world.

14.50 – 15.10:                Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:                 Rollin’ down the river – Although Vikings are primarily associated with seafaring, their use of inland waterways was even more unprecedented. Interpretations of the Vikings have stressed their importance both as raiders and traders, and effective use of rivers was key to the Vikings’ success in the major raids of the mid- to late 9th century in Britain, Ireland and Continental Europe. Rivers were also important in the development of trading routes and towns, from Dublin to Kiev and beyond.

c.16.00:                            Thanks and Close

About Dr Gareth Williams

Gareth Williams studied history at St Andrews and Bergen, and since 1996 has been a curator at the British Museum, where he is now responsible both for Early Medieval Coins and the Viking Collections. He has published extensively both for academic and more general readers, and has featured on several TV and radio programmes. Gareth was the curator of the special BP Exhibition Vikings: life and legend  at the British Museum, and co-curator of the exhibition Viking Voyagers  at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall. Gareth is an Honorary Reader in Archaeology at UCL, and is also a Senior Researcher on the research project The Viking Phenomenon,  funded by the Swedish Research Council. He is also a member of the Steering Group at the University of Oslo for the development of a new and expanded Viking Museum to replace the current Viking Ship Museum.

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Brink, S. & Price, N. (eds), The Viking World  (Routledge 2008)

Carroll, J., Harrison, S.H. & Williams, G., The Vikings in Britain and Ireland (British Museum Press 2014)

Hall, R.A., Exploring the World of the Vikings (Thames and Hudson 2007)

Heywood, J., The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings (Penguin 1995)

Nylen, E. & Lamm, J.P., Stones, Ships and Symbols (Gidlunds 1988)

Sawyer, P.H. (ed.),  The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings (Oxford University Press 1997)

Sjøvold, T., The Viking Ships in Oslo (Universitetets Oldsaksamling 1985)

Thirslund, S., Viking Navigation (Viking Ship Museum 2007)

Williams, G., The Viking Ship (British Museum Press 2014)

Williams, G., Pentz, P., & Wemhoff, M. (eds), Vikings: Life and Legend  (British Museum Press 2014)