Since January 2016, I have been privileged to direct The Viking Phenomenon project at Uppsala University, a ten-year $6m initiative from the Swedish Research Council with the objective of illuminating the multifaceted origins of the so-called ‘Viking Age’ (c.750-1050 CE). Together with colleagues including Drs Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, John Ljungkvist, and Ben Raffield – among many others – we have now spent more than seven years exploring issues ranging from boat-grave ritual to the demographics of raiding parties, from military infrastructure to systems of enslavement, as well as numerous aspects of Viking-Age economic transactions. As part of this work, we have been happily collaborating with Prof. Simon Kaner and his colleagues at SISJAC, with particular reference to Scandinavia’s long-distance connections to the Silk Road peripheries, including early medieval Korea and Japan. Our interactions with the Nara to Norwich project have seen several very fruitful reciprocal visits and workshops, including meetings in Sweden and Eastern Asia, several of them previously reported on this blog.
This past June, an exciting new element was introduced into our collaborations with the award of a further $3m from the Swedish Research Council to establish a Centre of Excellence at Uppsala, to focus on The World in the Viking Age (or WiVA, pronounced ‘Weaver’, for short). This is not a research project in itself, but will instead create and consolidate an interdisciplinary environment for teaching and study. In terms of theme, we want to address the full scale of ethnic and cultural diversity in the Viking world, in particular moving south and east along the Silk Roads to trace the Scandinavians’ activities in a network of early globalisation that connected the Baltic to the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, Central Asia, and the China Seas. To explore these new horizons, over five years the WiVA Centre at Uppsala University will bring together a multidisciplinary team of archaeologists, historians, runologists, geneticists and more. There will be jobs for young researchers, international visiting scholars will come to Sweden, and a Master’s degree programme will launch, alongside public outreach activities. Two SISJAC staff, Professors Kaner and Whitfield, will sit on our international advisory board, and we look forward to discussing different ways that we can take our work forward together and make the most of our obvious research synergies. The Viking Phenomenon will be the first project to be formally housed in the new Centre, but we hope it will soon be joined by many more. WiVA will commence operations in January 2024.
Prof. Neil Price, Uppsala University, Sweden