Else Roesdahl, who is Professor in the Department of Medieval and Renaissance Archaeology (University of Aarhus)has been awarded an Honorary degree of Doctor of the University of York. Else has been Denmark’s leading Viking scholar for more than a generation. In 1982 she collected her ideas into the definitive book Viking Age Denmark, and followed it in 1987 with the highly successful overview The Vikings, published by Penguin, which went into its second edition in 1998. In the last three years she has written on Viking houses, travel and transport, walrus ivory, rune stones and English connections in the time of Canute.
She has been recruited as a source of wisdom and inspiration wherever the Vikings have reappeared, whether it be in their fortress at Trelleborg, their royal burial ground at Jelling, their trading centre at Kaupang, their workshops at Coppergate or in their magnificent long house at Borg on the Lofoten Islands. She was acknowledged by her country in 1992 by being named a Knight of the Order of Dannebrog, and further elevated in 2007 to the honour of knighthood of the 1st Degree.
Supported by the University of Aarhus, Else’s vision has not only brought the Vikings back into Europe, but also restored them as players in the longer Middle Ages. She was from 1989 to 1993 the leading coordinator of the Nordic Council and European Council's exhibition: From Viking to Crusader - Scandinavia and Europe 800-1200, an exhibition which went on display in Paris, Berlin and Copenhagen.
Since 1996 she has been a Professor of Medieval Archaeology at Aarhus as well as their Viking expert, and in 1999 she set out on a truly heroic pedagogic mission – to compile a medieval archaeology textbook that covered the whole of Europe. The 479 pages of volume one were published last year and volume two is to follow shortly. Else is not just the fluent exponent of recondite deconstructions of pre-Christian psychopaths, but someone who is helping to give today’s Europe an idea of its own diverse foundations.
In the work of the York Archaeological Trust, under Peter Addyman and Richard Hall, we have seen one of the finest celebrations of Viking heritage outside Scandinavia. The University departments of York and Aarhus – both resident in fine old buildings, both passionate promoters of medieval archaeology – have exchanged students for many years, using the Erasmus and Socrates schemes. This exchange has culminated in our being allowed to keep one of them, the talented Søren Sindbaek, who this month takes up a lectureship with us.