York Medieval Lecture
There is a long, curious and problematic history of comparisons between the voyaging cultures of the Polynesians and the Viking-Age Scandinavians - in formal terms since Te Rangi Hīroa’s Vikings of the Sunrise in 1938, but actually dating at least as far back as the 1880s when the Swedish Viking archaeologist Hjalmar Stolpe began work as one of the first Pacific ethnographers. These links were taken up again by the Hawaiian po’okela Herb Kawainui Kāne in the late 1990s, but always more as metaphor than detailed analysis. Since 2013, the University of Uppsala has been exploring more practical, material approaches to the comparative archaeology of the Vikings and the Oceanic peoples, in ongoing work on Hawai’i and beyond that is the subject of this lecture. The project focusses on specific themes of mutual relevance, but with a critical awareness of the more uncomfortable heritage of romanticising, outsider perspectives that have afflicted both cultures. Taking respectful inspiration from Epeli Hau’ofa’s concept of the ‘sea of islands’, this talk will set out a research programme of renewal in Viking studies, and consider the potential feedbacks in the maritime archaeologies of Polynesia.