Return of Viking Congress after 63-year gap is a ‘tremendous honour’

Scholars, archaeologists and other experts from Europe and North America will arrive over the next week to take part in the 17th Viking Congress.

The event, which begins on Sun­day, will take place largely in Mareel, with additional visits to historical sites and places of interest throughout the week.

Well over 100 delegates from outside the isles will be in attend­ance, together with another 30 local representatives.

The Viking Congress is an inter­national conference usually held every four years, either in Britain or one of the Scandinavian countries. The very first congress took place in 1950 in Lerwick Town Hall, and this is the first time it has returned to the islands since then.

According to chairman Jimmy Mon­crieff, it is “a tremendous hon­our and privilege” to be hosting the event again.

The visiting academics will “present the very latest research on the Viking world,” said Mr Mon­crieff, with a variety of themes forming the backbone to the event. The themes chosen for this year’s congress are “Shetland in the Viking world”, “mapping the Viking world”, “Viking identities and traditions”, “Viking islands” and “Viking homelands”.

“We’ve been planning it now for a couple of years” said Mr Moncrieff. “It’s a major undertaking. It’s prob­ably the biggest international confer­ence that’s been held in Shetland for a very long time.

“We wouldn’t be able to do it if it wasn’t for Mareel. It’s too big for the museum alone. There’s 120 dele­gates coming from outside Shetland; there’s another 30 local delegates. So we needed the main auditorium in Mareel for it to work. We’re doing it between the two centres [Mareel and Shetland Museum and Archi­ves]. It’s a very good partnership arrangement, and it’ll be a good pilot to demonstrate that we’re cap­able of doing these sorts of things.”

Mr Moncrieff explained that the programme for the week is extremely diverse: “There’s 70 different speak­ers and it’s very wide ranging – there’s something for everybody there. Unfortunately the whole thing is not open to the public … But there is a full day of public lectures on the Sunday, and that’s the stuff that’s of more popular appeal anyway, and we encourage folk to come and see that.”

Sunday’s public event includes lectures on “death and wealth in Viking age Shetland”, “Norway in the family sagas” and “Gotland and the eastern connection”, about the Norsemen’s journeys into Russia. The day will conclude with a lecture by Dr Patricia Sutherland about her recent discovery of a Norse settle­ment on Baffin Island in Arctic Canada. This is only the second such settle­­ment to be found in North America, and is a hugely important event. Mr Moncrieff described this particular piece of research as “dynamite stuff”.

Overall though, he said, the cong­ress was “very much about putting Shetland firmly on the Viking map”.

“It’s quite appropriate because we were the first [place to host] the Viking Congress. So it’s really tremendous. There’s been a lot of developments since that first one. And it’s a tremendous opportunity to showcase Shetland to all these visitors … So it’s just fantatic I think.”

The public event on Sunday begins at 8.45am.


Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • August 2nd, 2013 17:59

    Fantastic, indeed! Congratulations to the organisers!

  • George Gillon

    • August 3rd, 2013 10:24

    This is fantastic for Shetland. Hopefully it will encourage more archaeology on the Isles (instead of all focus on Orkney), afterall Shetland was the ‘Heathrow’ of the Viking world.

  • John Tulloch

    • August 3rd, 2013 14:14

    Maybe we’ll hear more about the pawning of Orkney and Shetland and whether the Northern Isles are or aren’t “part of Scotland” and if they are, we may even learn the answer to question “From what date did legal sovereignty over the isles accrue to Scotland/UK?”

  • David Spence

    • August 3rd, 2013 15:21

    Good Point, John……….but like the way and manner the Crown treated Captain Calamity, ‘ Ignorance is Bliss ‘ so they say lol


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