Are There Echoes of the AD 536 Event in the Viking Ragnarok Myth? A Critical Appraisal

New publication by Mathias Nordvig and Felix Riede

2018.08.07 | Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen


 Recent scholarship suggests that the Nordic apocalypse, Ragnarok, can be linked historically to one or several geological or climate events in the sixth century ad. Climatic fluctuations and a 'dust veil' during the period of ad 536-550 have been recorded across the Northern Hemisphere, and in Scandinavia this seems to coincide with considerable changes in settlement patterns. Consequently, much later literary sources on Nordic mythology have been interpreted as local memories of the cooling of the Northern Hemisphere. In this article we offer a critical perspective on the combining of Nordic literary sources from the thirteenth century with archaeological records of the sixth century. We address the need for developing a viable method within the scope of what we identify as the palaeoenvironmental humanities perspective on past ecological changes. By defining a palaeoenvironmental humanities perspective through the interdisciplinary conjoining of archaeology, social theory and literature, we attempt to strike a balance between material and non-material sources in the study of pre-historical environmental changes.

Environment and History, Volume 24, Number 3, August 2018, pp. 303-324(22).  

Arctic Research Centre