Fyrirlestrar Miðaldastofu

Kristján Ahronson, Jonathan Wooding, and Alexis Pantos

Marked caves in Scotland and Iceland

Recording an early medieval phenomenon

Fimmtudaginn 21. september 2017 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Kristján Ahronson

Early medieval religious impulse marked hundreds of special places with simple sculpture across the Irish and Scottish littoral zone. In Scotland, marking caves with rock-cut crosses and other early Christian carvings was a discrete subset within a wider early medieval monastic tradition. Looking to Iceland, we discover a similar phenomenon and, critically, recent research identifies what appears to be the earliest human presence on the island at and in the immediate vicinity of a cave site, around AD 800.

Detailed analysis of the sculpture suggests that the Scottish and Icelandic phenomena are connected. A suite of typological similarities makes a persuasive case for connections between the Icelandic and Scottish cave sites: a number of shared features such as the distinctive sunken form, expanded terminals, bold V-cuts and sinkings indicate particular connections between the Seljaland caves (Vestur-Eyjafjallahreppur, southern Iceland) and western Scotland, as well as wider connections to the Irish and Scottish littoral zone more generally. However, there are also regional differences.

Building on the recent publication of Into the Ocean: Vikings, Irish and Environmental Change in Iceland and the North (University of Toronto Press, 2015), this presentation is the very first airing for new recording and illustration of rock-cut crosses from southern Iceland.

Kristján Ahronson is a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at Bangor University, UK. He is interested in the medieval north Atlantic, inter-disciplinary thinking, and in the ways that people relate to their environments. Recent publications include Into the Ocean: Vikings, Irish and Environmental Change in Iceland and the North (University of Toronto Press, 2015)

Jonathan Wooding is Sir Warwick Fairfax Professor of Celtic Studies at the University of Sydney. His research interests are in early medieval Celtic and North Atlantic history, with special interests in monasticism, pilgrimage and literature of travel — especially the Irish ‘voyage’ tales, such as the Nauigatio of St Brendan.

Alexis Pantos MA MSc is a freelance archaeological photographer specialising in digital imaging techniques and heritage visualisation.

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