Mar 24 2009

The Vikings and Celts lived side by side – New Research


Jarl Squad Vikings from Shetland Islands

Pic: Reuters
New research suggests the Vikings were model immigrants who co-existed peacefully with the natives reports the Independent.

It’s amazing how coincidences work, isn’t it? There we were innocently giving feedback from Kent in our latest show, the Spring Equinox 2009 Holiday Special, SP10, in which he wonders what the links were between the Celts and the Vikings, and here we are! New research has shown that there was a peaceful inter-mingling.

For centuries, they have been stereotyped as marauding barbarians arriving in their helmeted hordes to pillage their way across Britain. But now a group of academics believe they have uncovered new evidence that the Vikings were more cultured settlers who offered a “good historical model” of immigrant assimilation.

The evidence is set to be unveiled at a three-day Cambridge University conference starting today, when more than 20 studies will reveal how the Vikings shared technology, swapped ideas and often lived side-by-side in relative harmony with their Anglo-Saxon and Celtic contemporaries. Some may have come, plundered and left, but those Vikings who decided to settle rather than return to Scandinavia learnt the language, inter-married, converted to Christianity and even had “praise poetry” written about them by the Brits, according to the experts.

The conference, entitled “Between the Islands”, draws on new archeological evidence, historical studies and analysis of the language and literature of the period, and shows that between the 9th and 13th centuries, the Vikings became an integral part of the fabric of social and political life that changed Britain and Ireland far more profoundly than previously realised. The academics hope it will tip the balance still further in the “raiders or traders” question.

Dr Fiona Edmonds, of Cambridge University’s department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, said:

The latest evidence does not point to a simple opposition between Vikings and natives.

Within a relatively short space of time – and with lasting effect – the various cultures in Britain and Ireland started to intermingle. Investigating that process provides us with a historical model of how political groups can be absorbed into complex societies, contributing much to those societies in the process. There are important lessons that can be gained from this about cultural assimilation in the modern era.

On a cultural level, Celtic folklore began to influence Viking literature. An analysis of Old Norse literary works that shows some of their tales may have been borrowed from Gaelic storytelling, thus the myths of Scandinavia, Ireland and Britain became inexorably intertwined. Professor Judith Jesch, from the University of Nottingham, reveals how Norse poetry was composed in the Hebrides. Professor Terje Spurkland, from the University of Oslo, has found that rune stones combined Scandinavian inscriptions with Celtic designs.

There is a lot more in the source article which can be found on the Independent website.

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