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Special Topic: Viking-Age Scandinavia - ARC00076H

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Steve Ashby
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

The Vikings need very little introduction, but in the UK we tend to look at them from the perspective of their travels in Europe and the North Atlantic, and most particularly what happened when they reached these islands. In this module, we will explore the archaeology of the Viking homelands, from the arctic to the shores of the Baltic. We will draw on a range of evidence to learn about all aspects of Viking-Age society: religion, power, warfare, everyday rural life, the emergence of towns, craft, trade, long-distance travel, and more. This was a period of extraordinary change, and we’ll try to think about what that would have meant for the people living through it, whether they be men or women, kings or slaves. The introduction of this module was greeted with much excitement, and Steve’s Vikings teaching has been described as ‘wonderful and intellectually stimulating’ and offering a ‘refreshing perspective’.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

This module aims to:

  • examine the diverse range of  archaeological evidence relating to the Viking Age in Scandinavia;

  • evaluate and critique significant narratives and theories promoted in both classic and recent research;

  • Develop students’ research, analytical and communication skills.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should:

  • demonstrate a broad and comparative knowledge of the archaeology of Viking-Age Scandinavia

  • critically discuss and assess key theories, methods and debates in the study of Viking-Age Scandinavia

  • critically evaluate primary data and evidence

  • communicate an in-depth, logical and structured argument, supported by archaeological evidence.

Module content

The most common imagining of the Viking Age is as a period of barbarism and violence, piracy and larceny, slave-taking and extortion. But how did the period look in the home of the ‘vikings’ themselves? In many ways this was a formative period of Scandinavian state development: it saw the growth of towns, the expansion of overseas trade, and the rise of royal power. In this module, we will explore these diverse elements of Scandinavia’s social and economic environment, and attempt to reconcile them. We will attempt to recognise some of the diversity across the region: Scandinavia was not a single unified state at war with the rest of Europe, but host to a range of complex and dynamic social milieux, negotiating diverse responses to the problems of inhabiting their world.  We will consider the following questions:

-What was the Viking Age? Why did it happen?

-How was power structured and expressed in Viking-Age Scandinavia?

-How was this rural landscape of power disrupted or supported by the appearance of towns?

-How did communities separated by many miles of land and sea communicate with one another?


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative: The marker will share written feedback with you in a timetabled one-to-one meeting and you will have the opportunity to ask further questions about how to improve your work before your summative assessment. If you are unable to attend the feedback session, your tutor will share the formative feedback with you digitally.

Summative: Written feedback sheets will be uploaded to your e:vision account (your personal University of York online services account) within 20 working days of the submission deadline, along with your overall mark for the module. If you have any questions about your mark and/or your written feedback, you will be able to sign up for office hours with the marker.

Indicative reading

Ashby, S.P. & A.M. Leonard. 2018. Pocket Museum: Vikings. London: Thames & Hudson.

Brink, S. & N. Price. 2005. The Viking World. London: Routledge.  

Richards, J.D. 2005. The Vikings: a very short introduction. Oxford : Oxford University Press.  

Detailed reading for the module will be available via YorkShare (the University's virtual learning environment). When you have enrolled on a module, you will be able to access the full reading list.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.