Settlement, ships, and sailing
Thursday March 19, 2015, at 16.30
For settling in a distant ocean island you first have to be able to cross the ocean. History shows that this threshold, involving both knowledge, skill and intention, is far from trivial. The author of the present paper has previously written on several aspects of this, especially that of navigation in the ocean where you do not see land for days or weeks.
In this paper we will look at the present archaeological record on the development of ships in Scandinavia in the Viking age. It turns out that this shows an interesting change in shipbuilding data which seems to coincide in time with the Viking expansion westwards to Iceland and other North-Atlantic lands.
Interesting and novel observations also emerge when you compare the Atlantic traffic of the Vikings with the gradual settlement of humans in the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Of course, the discovery, exploration and settlement in the islands
of this area involved the same problems of seamanship of all kinds as here in the North-Atlantic. This will be further elaborated on in the paper, hoping to widen and deepen our understanding of the seafaring aspect of the settlement in Iceland.
Þorsteinn Vilhjálmsson is professor emeritus of physics and history of science at the University of Iceland. He has written books and papers on the general history of natural science as well as on aspects of Old Norse science and related skills. He was also the chief editor of the Science Web of the University (Vísindavefur) in the period 2000-2010.
— o —
Anders Gade Jensen
The historiography of Landnámabók in Hauksbók
Thursday March 19, 2015, at 16.30
In this lecture, based on parts of my 2013 dissertation, I will contextualize Landnámabók as a piece of historiography written at a time in Europe when the writing of history was a prolific preoccupation of emerging aristocracies.
It has been a well-known, albeit at times controversial, fact in the discipline of history for decades that the writing of historical prose narrative serves more profound epistemological purposes than the mere recounting of past events. However, the epistemological problems facing the scholar trying to make sense of the narrative structures of medieval texts are profound since we have very limited access to the worldview of the medieval Icelander. Nevertheless, we do have access to historical narratives formed under different political and geographical circumstances.
The blossom of historical writing in the latter half of the 13th century was not merely an Icelandic phenomenon. Especially in France a chronicle tradition bloomed which served its purpose by granting the aristocracy a genealogy that not only goes back to Adam, but also connected the current power structure to the divine ordering of the world.
Firstly, I will attempt an interpretation of Landnámabók in the Hauksbók compilation of texts that shows how it might fit into the overall epistemological structure of the manuscript, following a notion that Hauksbók might present a semi-coherent worldview. Secondly, I will discuss the similarities and differences between the historiography of Iceland as told in Landnámabók compared to its continental counterparts and give some possible interpretations of these differences.
Anders Gade Jensen is currently working at the Graduate School, Arts at Aarhus University. He defended his PhD on Landnámabók in 2013. Some main research interests are cultural memory, historiography, geography and place-construction in medieval Scandinavia.