News Release

From bones to berserkers -- Vikings under the spotlight

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Nottingham

Viking experts will be gathering at The University of Nottingham to discuss the findings of latest research into the Norsemen.

Taking in the way the Vikings fought, lived, and left their mark on Europe, some of the country’s leading experts in the field will be getting together at the Midlands Viking Symposium (MVS) on April 26.

The MVS is aimed at anyone with an interest in the history and culture of the Vikings, with talks from specialists from a variety of disciplines whose work contributes to research in Scandinavia, the British Isles, and further afield. This research covers topics including population genetics, literature, coinage, sculpture, history, and archaeology.

The University of Nottingham is at the forefront of research into the history and legacy of the Vikings, through the Centre for the Study of the Viking Age in the School of English Studies. The Centre was founded in 1995 by Professor Christine Fell OBE and Judith Jesch, to provide a focal point for research activity and to stimulate further work.

Judith Jesch, Professor of Viking Studies, will be presenting ‘From parchment to Penguin: reading the sagas’.

Professor Jesch said: “Many Icelandic sagas read like a time capsule of the Viking Age, but how do we unlock this time capsule" The sagas developed from the oral culture of the Viking Age. But we know them only through the written versions preserved in what are now well-worn manuscripts from medieval Iceland. And most people nowadays read the sagas in a modern translation, often in popular paperback editions.

“My talk will explore and illustrate the skills needed to read these different stages in the life of a saga, and show how our understanding of the period is deepened by taking this journey back in time from Penguin to parchment.”

Ruarigh Dale of The University of Nottingham will look at the Viking ways of war in a paper entitled ‘The Method of Madness, investigating the Berserker’. He will examine Berserker warriors — who are said to have fought in an uncontrollable rage that terrified their enemies — and look at how they are depicted and how they differed from their comrades-in-arms.

Field archaeologist Gavin Kinsley will discuss important evidence for the shift of settlements, spanning the Roman, Saxon and Viking periods, using fieldwork and documentary evidence to explore its significance for the settlement history of the Midlands.

The MVS is a collaboration between the Universities of Nottingham, Birmingham and Leicester to bring together academics and non-academics. This year’s event also includes:

  • Dr Amanda Foster, University of Birmingham, ‘From quarry to kitchen: making a steatite cooking vessel in the Viking period’
  • Dr Morn Capper, University of Nottingham, ‘Witnessing Viking atrocity" Written accounts of the First Viking Age’
  • Dr Paul Cullen, University of Leicester, ‘Spotting Vikings in English Place-Names’
  • Kris Poole, University of Nottingham, ‘Living and Eating in Viking-age England’

The event will also feature a talk by Dr Gareth Williams of the British Museum and a demonstration of runes and runic inscriptions by Annette Jones of The University of Nottingham. There will also be a display by Trent & Peak Archaeology on excavations and finds from Nottinghamshire.

The organiser of the MVS is Dr Christina Lee, of the Centre for the Study of the Viking Age at The University of Nottingham.

Dr Lee said: “The MVS is going from strength to strength and we have forged links over the past years both with the local community as well as with other academic institutions. We are looking forward to showcasing our research and to a dialogue with the many people interested in Viking Studies.”


For more details, and to download a registration form, go to:

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 70 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THES) World University Rankings.

It provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy).

Its students are much in demand from 'blue-chip' employers. Winners of Students in Free Enterprise for three years in succession, and current holder of UK Graduate of the Year, they are accomplished artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and fundraisers. Nottingham graduates consistently excel in business, the media, the arts and sport. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree completion rates are amongst the highest in the United Kingdom.

More information is available from Dr Christina Lee, School of English Studies, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 846 7194; Professor Judith Jesch, School of English Studies, on +44 (0)115 951 5925,; or Tim Utton, Deputy Director, Communications, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 846 8092,

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