Into the Ocean: Vikings, Irish, and Environmental Change in Iceland and the North
Published: March 2015© 2014
264 Pages, 6.30 x 9.36 x 0.95 in, 79 b&w illustrations, 14 b&w tables
That Gaelic monasticism flourished in the early medieval period is well established. The “Irish School” penetrated large areas of Europe and contemporary authors describe North Atlantic travels and settlements. Across Scotland and beyond, Celtic-speaking communities spread into the wild and windswept north, marking hundreds of Atlantic settlements with carved and rock-cut sculpture. They were followed in the Viking Age by Scandinavians who dominated the Atlantic waters and settled the Atlantic rim.
With Into the Ocean, Kristján Ahronson makes two dramatic claims: that there were people in Iceland almost a century before Viking settlers first arrived c. AD 870, and that there was a tangible relationship between the early Christian “Irish” communities of the Atlantic zone and the Scandinavians who followed them.
Ahronson uses archaeological, paleoecological, and literary evidence to support his claims, analysing evidence ranging from pap place names in the Scottish islands to volcanic airfall in Iceland. An interdisciplinary analysis of a subject that has intrigued scholars for generations, Into the Ocean will challenge the assumptions of anyone interested in the Atlantic branch of the Celtic world.
List of Illustrations, Tables and Abbreviations
Chapter One: Nineteenth-Century Legacies: Literature, Language and the Imagining of the St. Lawrence Irish
Chapter Two: A Fruitful Conversation Between Disciplines
Chapter Three: Pabbays and Paibles: Pap-Names and Gaelic and Old Norse Speakers in Scotland’s Hebridean Islands
Chapter Four: Seljaland, Vestur-Eyjafjallahreppur, Iceland
Chapter Five: Dating the Cave
Chapter Six: Three Dimensions of Environmental Change
Chapter Seven: The Crosses of a Desert Place?
‘This groundbreaking monograph brings detail and great clarity to a topic whose treatment has frequently been piecemeal and even romantic. It makes a major contribution to our understanding of the early medieval settlement of the North Atlantic.’Jonathan Wooding, Parergon vol 32:02:2015
"[This} book represents an example of scientific integrity at its finest…Into the Ocean is a valuable book, both for the specialist focused on the environmental and human history of the North Atlantic, and the general reader interested in the philosophy of science."Russell Fielding, University of the South, Sewanee, The AAG Review of Books vol. 6 no. 4
“This is an important and detailed book, based on serious scholarship, fieldwork, and recording. It will re-energize the debate around the earliest settlement of Iceland.”David Griffiths, Department of Archaeology, University of Oxford
“Ahronson’s archaeological material is given in exhaustive descriptive and photographic detail, making a tempting case for the settlement in c. 800 of a community of Christian Gaels from Ireland or the western British Isles on the southern Icelandic coast.”Richard North, Department of English, University College London