Scandinavian Archaeology:

Digging Beowulf!

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Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon epic poem that was composed sometime between the middle of the seventh and end of the tenth century. The surviving manuscript is known as the Nowell Codex. Though this Old English text was written down in Britain, the events it describes are set in Scandinavia. The culture and events depicted in this saga are at once historical and mythical in their nature, weaving vivid descriptions of dwellings, artwork, and weaponry, from the Scandinavian Bronze and Iron ages, with fantastical details of monsters and dragons.


This course will explore the multiple facets of this saga. It will cover archaeological materials found in Scandinavia that parallel descriptions in the text. It will also delve into the significance of the mythology, and some of the linguistic aspects that add to our understanding of Scandinavian culture. Additional Norse sagas and Old English poetry will be drawn upon as appropriate.

A pre-reading and familiarity with the Beowulf saga would be useful but is not required for this course. Excerpts of the text that will be covered in detailed will be provided.

Links to Beowulf Text Online:

Weekly Materials:

For those of you who do wish to explore the whole text, the following are some links to online translations, as well as the Old English text:

Medieval Source Book:

  1. Beowulf in Old English (Klaeber edition)

  1. Beowulf (Francis Gummere translation)


© Mara Vejby 1 February 2018