Vikings may have gotten bad rap, says medieval scholar

The Vikings were not just the wanton marauders of popular portrayal, says a Longwood medieval scholar who has conducted archaeological research on the Isle of Man.

“The exclusive image of rape, pillage and burning by the Vikings is probably inaccurate,” said Larissa “Kat” Tracy, associate professor of English.

Tracy spent a week photographing inscrip- tions on Viking-age stone monuments on the island between Great Britain and Ireland.

“I saw Celtic grave markers and Viking-age burial sites, many located within church closures or near Christian church sites,” said Tracy. “I also saw the foundations or ruins of small chapels, which either predated or were concurrent with the Vikings.”

Based on her observations, Tracy concluded that the Vikings, who raided and settled throughout Europe from the late 8th century through the 11th century, were perhaps more interested in winning the hearts and minds of the people they encountered than is often thought.

“There is evidence that the Vikings integrated into the community,” said Tracy, a medieval literature specialist.

“There have been two assumptions about the Vikings—that they either took over Christian Celtic civilization or that they conquered it but co-existed and assimilated. While most likely there was some violent action, the crosses I saw — a majority of which have depictions of legendary pre-Christian heroes— indicate a shared tradition and assimilation.”

Tracy’s research trip, which was funded by Longwood, was related to her current book project, England’s Medieval Literary Heroes: Literature, Law and National Identity.