Welcome to the website of the Centre for Scandinavian Studies at the University of Aberdeen. Aberdeen has one of the largest concentrations of experts on early Scandinavia in the British Isles, including Stefan Brink, Ralph O'Connor, Frederik Pedersen, Hannah Burrows, Lisa Collinson, and David Dumville.

The purpose of the Centre is to bring together these experts to coordinate research projects, provide research facilities and supervision, teaching for Undergraduate and Postgraduate programmes and to promote Scandinavian Studies generally.

To keep up to date with our activities, join our Facebook group: facebook.com/groups/scando.aberdeen

Purpose and Aims

In the autumn 2007 a Centre for Scandinavian Studies was launched at the University of Aberdeen. The centre is an interdisciplinary research institution, crossing discipline, school and college boundaries. The Centre’s aims are to:

  1. initiate research on aspects on Scandinavian language, history and culture
  2. create a ‘Research School’ in Scandinavian Studies for Postgraduates, where the MLitt and PhD students will on a daily basis participate in the activities at the Centre
  3. run several MLitt (Master) programmes
  4. run a Scandinavian Studies Seminar
  5. participate, promote and enhance different projects, networks, conferences and interests, related to Scandinavia, at the moment in Nordic music, film, legal history, Old Norse poetry, Old Norse mythology and Nordic landscape history

At the moment the profile of the members of the centre is Viking and medieval Scandinavia, with expertise in Old Norse and Old Swedish language and literature, Scandinavian toponymy and runology, medieval history, landscape history and legal history.

A new group is forming with scholars and students having a focus on contemporary and 19th century nationalism in Scandinavia, studying film, literature and music.

The University of Aberdeen has several leading international scholars who can supervise postgraduates in the Centre for Scandinavian Studies, as well as in the immediate academic vicinity in other departments.

Research Projects

Nordic Medieval Laws (NML)

A new project in the Scandinavian early laws has been established, with participants from British, German, US and Scandinavian Universities, and organised by the Centre for Scandinavian Studies, Aberdeen. We are going to translate and comment on all the medieval laws of Scandinavia, and to publish these in book volumes and as an online database.

For more information, go to:

http://www.abdn.ac.uk/medieval-nordic-laws/

Project coordinator: Dr Lisa Collinson (l.a.collinson@abdn.ac.uk)  

Principal Investigator: Stefan Brink (s.brink@abdn.ac.uk)

Landscape Interfaces

Water as Mediator Between the Real and the Superficial Worlds

In the analyses of landscape and sacrality it has been assumed that water was a kind of interface between the real world and the metaphysical one, hence a kind of liminal places in a pre-Christian landscape. I will collect and analyse all the known cases of these sacred waters in Scandinavia. The results will be used for a discussion of the societal and religiouscultic implications from these analyses, and the results will be compared with that of Iron Age Britain and Ireland.

The results and the discussions from the analyses will be published in a monograph.

Projects associated with the Centre

Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

The Skaldic Project is a major international research project which aims to edit, translate and provide commentary on the corpus of Old Norse-Icelandic skaldic poetry. The project has six co-ordinating editors (Sydney, Bloomington, Newcastle, Kiel, Reykjavík and Aberdeen), 3-4 assistants and postdocs and around 40 contributing editors from around the world. The edition is published in print (9+ volumes) and online by Brepols. The first double-volume (Poetry on Christian Subjects) was published in early 2008.

The project is funded by the Australian Research Council; the Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils for the Humanities and the Social Sciences; the National Endowment for the Humanities (US); the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) and other bodies.

Nordic Centre for Medieval Studies (NCMS) – Team II: Religion

The Nordic Centre for Medieval studies is financed by The Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils for the Humanities and the Social Sciences (NOS-HS) who in 2004 decided to launch a Nordic Centre of Excellence Programme (NCoE) in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The conversion of the Nordic countries has been the subject of considerable interest within each country, whereas little has been done concerning the region as a whole. The study of Christianisation is not confined to the ‘missionary period’ in the narrow sense, but includes aspects of the penetration of Christianity into the Nordic countries throughout the Middle Ages. One starting-point is to get a clearer idea of the older religion that was replaced by Christianity. The textual basis for Northern paganism is late and transmitted only through Christian authors, whose reliability has been subject to much discussion. We want to address this discussion by dealing with the whole Nordic area, by studying the texts in close connection with archaeological and onomastic evidence.

Professor Brink is an active partner in this project.

Project Hólarannsóknin

The Project Hólarannsóknin in northern Iceland, which has a geographical focus on the old bishop seat of Hólar in Skagafjörður, is an interdisciplinary research project including archaeology, history, toponymy and geography. The aim is to lay a foundation for an interdisciplinary research and to strengthen Icelandic archaeology, with the help of field courses, publications and conferences. Professor Brink is attached to this project as an expert in a reference group.

Old Norse Mythology Network and Conferences, University of Aarhus, Denmark

A network, based in Aarhus, has been in existence for some years, with several conferences. The network is very interdisciplinary, covering Old Norse language and literature, toponymy, runology, history of religions, ethnology, history, archaeology etc. The aim is to assemble the leading researchers in the field for conferences and to pursue a continuous discussion in the field of Old Norse mythology.

From next year these conferences will be held every other year in Aarhus and Aberdeen respectively, as cooperation between Nordisk Inst. and Inst. for religionshistorie at the University of Aarhus and Centre for Scandinavian Studies at the University of Aberdeen.

Settlements and Economies Around the Sea (SEAS). Maritime settlement, subsistence and economic histories around the Baltic Sea 500 BC - 1700AD. University of Helsinki, Finland

This project operates mainly inside three disciplines: archaeology, history, biology and linguistics (place names), but through cooperation it also incorporates elements of geology, climatology, and geophysics. A multidisciplinary approach, where different disciplines work in close cooperation, is used to reach the project's objectives. The main objectives of the SEAS project are:

  1. To carry out a multidisciplinary study, analysis, interpretation, and publication of the development of settlement patterns, subsistence strategies, and economies in the maritime landscape during 500-1700 AD in the maritime landscape of Uusimaa and Finland Proper.
  2. To interpret the results from the perspective of the Baltic Sea region through close cooperation with parallel projects and institutions around the Baltic and North Sea.
  3. To jointly analyse and publish differences, generalizations and similarities within the broader area as a result of this cooperation.
  4. To promote maritime research and publish a general history of the areas around the Baltic and North Seas through a network of projects, institutes, and researchers.

 Professor Brink is attached to this project as an expert in a reference group.

Brough of Deerness, Orkney

This is an archaeological project, with the aim of excavation the Brough of Deerness on Shetland under the leadership of Dr James Barrett, McDonald’s Institute, University of Cambridge. Professor Brink will act as an expert in a reference group for the project.

The Political Geography of Iron Age Scandinavia

The study is about the manifestation and the spatial organization of power. The point of departure for the investigation is the Iron Age settlement on Öland and Gotland. The sources are very complex, extensive and reveal how ancient power in the landscape was politically and economically distributed and organized. By relating these spatial patterns to known sacrificial sites and a great number of sacral names, it also emerges how power was ideologically manifested and legitimised.

These patterns will be contrasted to the spatial organization of the medieval feudal society, to highlight and visualise differences and similarities in the political landscape of power. By comparing these results with known conditions in other parts of Northwest Europe, especially the British Isles, great opportunities are offered to better understand and explain how the pre-feudal societies generally were organized spatially.

Facilities

The Centre is based in 50-52 College Bounds, the same building which houses the Divinity, History, and Philosophy secretarial offices, seminar rooms, and staff offices. The Centre has:

  • Offices for the Centre staff
  • Office space for the Centre’s postgraduate research students and visitors
  • A growing specialist library in Scandinavian Studies