Vikings: Life and Legend
with Dr Gareth Williams (British Museum)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 10th May 2014.


The word ‘Viking’ conjures up many different images, from the stereotypical bearded warrior in his horned helmet, to the traders and craftsmen who made towns such as Dublin and York so successful in the tenth century, to the intrepid adventurers who discovered North America, but also raided as far south as Morocco and developed trading connections from the North Atlantic to Central Asia. This study day is based around the themes explored in the Exhibition supported by BP, Vikings: life and legend, currently showing at the British Museum until June 22, which includes a number of major recent finds, and which reflects important new directions in Viking research both in the UK and beyond. There is an emphasis throughout on the contacts and interactions (peaceful or otherwise) between the Vikings and the many other peoples whom they met around the expanding Viking world, and on the dual role of ships both as physical vehicles for transport and as vehicles for a range of symbolic messages reflecting different aspects of Viking society.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival
10.15 – 11.15:                The Viking World
11.15 – 11.45:                Coffee break
11.45 – 12.45:                Wealth and Power
12.45 – 14.00:                Lunch break
14.00 – 15.00:                 Viking Warfare
15.00 – 15.20:                Tea break
15.20 – 16.20:                Belief and Ritual
c.16.20:                         Thanks and Close

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Brink, S. and 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)

Graham-Campbell, J.A., Viking Art (Thames and Hudson 2013)

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

Jones, G., A History of the Vikings (2nd ed., Oxford 1984)

Magnusson, Magnus, Vikings! (BBC Classics 1980, 1992)

Orchard, A., Cassell’s Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend (London 1997).

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

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

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


About Dr Gareth Williams

Gareth Williams

Gareth Williams studied history at St Andrews and Bergen, and wrote his PhD on aspects of Scandinavian settlement in Scotland in the Viking Age and beyond. Since 1996 he has been Curator of Early Medieval Coins at the British Museum. The day job means that much of his work focuses on coins and currency, and he has published extensively on coinage and other systems of exchange, particularly in the context of the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. However, his interests extend beyond this narrow focus, and his interests extend across many aspects of Anglo-Saxon and Viking history and archaeology, especially warfare, kingship, ships and the development of towns. Gareth has featured on several TV and radio programmes on Anglo-Saxon and Viking topics, and is the curator of the BP Exhibition Vikings: life and legend at the British Museum. He will be appearing in cinemas on April 24th in Vikings Live From the British Museum, together with Michael Wood and Bettany Hughes.