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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Science, society and environmental change in the first millennium CE - Workshop: Environmental ‘Memories’ in the Icelandic Sagas

4th February 2020, 09:00 to 12:00, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Dr. Karen Milek, Department of Archaeology, Durham University


The evocative narratives in medieval Icelandic texts such as The Book of Settlements and the Icelandic family sagas, which were written down in the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries, purport to describe people, places and events that took place in Iceland in the late 9th to 11th centuries – the Viking Age. Can the environments and land-use practices referred to in these texts be described as ‘inscribed memories’, which provide genuine information about Viking-Age Iceland? Or are they better understood as fictional or semi-fictional narratives, in which the environments described were selected by the author to evoke an atmosphere or provide a setting that was needed for the plot of the story? This workshop will compare selected texts and environmental data from Viking-Age and Medieval Iceland, and will discuss such issues as narrative transmission, author agency, and the chronological and geographical resolution of both textual and scientific sources. The texts and data to be discussed will be circulated to participants two weeks before the workshop, and participants are encouraged to bring along additional, complementary, or contrasting examples that could contribute to the discussion.

Directions to the Institute of Advanced Study

Mapthe Institute of Advanced Study is denoted as building No.21

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