Accessibility statement

Special Topic: Viking-Age Scandinavia - ARC00076H

« Back to module search

  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Steve Ashby
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

This module will cover a range of key research themes in the archaeology of Viking-Age Scandinavia, from its origins in the Post-Roman Iron-Age to the 11th century.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

Module aims

  • The purpose of the special topic is to allow students to study the archaeology of a well defined time, space or theme in a small seminar group. This enables them to come to grips with primary source material (material and written, as appropriate) and to apply to it the theoretical and thematic perspectives learned over your first and second years, so as to acquire a deeper knowledge of one aspect of the past than has been possible in more general courses.
  • This module will cover a range of key research themes in the archaeology of Viking-Age Scandinavia, from its origins in the Post-Roman Iron-Age to the 11th century. Drawing on evidence from both settlement and burial archaeology, we will discuss evidence ranging from portable artefacts to monumental architecture. A particular aim will be an engagement with (1) the diversity of Viking-Age Scandinavia, from the arctic north to the islands of the Baltic, and (2) its connectivity via a small number of important urban settlements. 

Module learning outcomes

  • 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

Written and verbal feedback will be given within twenty working days. Working days exclude University closure days (customary leave days between Christmas and New Year and public holidays/statutory holidays).

Indicative reading

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

Ashby, S.P. & S.M. Sindbaek. 2019. Crafts and Social Networks in Viking Towns. Oxford: Oxbow Books

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

Glørstad, Z.T. & K. Loftsgarden. 2017. Viking-Age Transformations: Trade, Craft and Resources in Western Scandinavia. London: Routledge.

Jesch, J. 2002. The Scandinavians from the Vendel period to the Tenth Century. An Ethnographic perspective, in. Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press.

Magi, M. 2019. The Viking Eastern Baltic (Past Imperfect). New Edition. Arc Humanities Press.  

Price, N.S. 2002. The Viking Way: Religion and War in Late Iron Age Scandinavia. Uppsala: Uppsala University Department of Archaeology & Ancient History.

Price, T.D. 2015. Ancient Scandinavia. An Archaeological History from the First Humans to the Vikings. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

Raja, R. & S. Sindbæk. 2018. Urban Network Evolutions: Towards a high-definition archaeology. Aarhus University Press, Aarhu. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press. Sawyer, B. & P.H. Sawyer. 1993. Medieval Scandinavia: From Conversion to Reformation, circa 800-1500. Vol. 17. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.  

Roesdahl, E. 2018. The Vikings. London: Penguin.  

Sindbaek, S.M. 2014. The World in the Viking Age. Roskilde: Viking Ship Museum.

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students