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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study


Despite COVID-19, the IAS plans to hold a full programme of virtual lectures and seminars. Further events will be added to this page as they are scheduled.

Science, society and environmental change in the first millennium CE - Lecture: Viking-Age Iceland: Managing Environmental Change in a Knowledge-Based Society

3rd February 2020, 16:00 to 17:30, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Dr. Karen Milek, Department of Archaeology, Durham University


Viking-Age Scandinavians are better known for their successes in raiding and trading than their scientific observations of natural phenomena. Yet they successfully navigated across thousands of kilometres of open ocean and established viable farms in new environments from the British Isles to Greenland. In Iceland, where the environment was highly varied, on the margin of viable arable agriculture and particularly susceptible to environmental change, they successfully managed a complex arable-pastoral-hunting-fishing economy and a lifestyle that needed sustained access to wood. How did they do it? This talk draws on textual, archaeological, and environmental evidence to present a new perspective on Viking-Age Scandinavians, and argues that, far from being oblivious to the particularities of the Icelandic environment, they managed environmental changes on the basis of knowledge gained from observation and experiment.

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