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Ancient sagas show Vikings more social, less warlike

Oct. 1, 2013 at 4:23 PM   |   Comments

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COVENTRY, England, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Age-old Icelandic sagas describe complex social networks that challenge the stereotypical image of Vikings as unworldly, violent savages, scientists say.

Researchers at Coventry University report they conducted a detailed analysis of the relationships described in ancient Icelandic manuscripts to shed new light on Viking society.

Padraig Mac Carron and Ralph Kenna said they applied methods from statistical physics to social networks to home in on the relationships between the characters and societies depicted in the ancient sagas from the period around the settlement of Iceland 1,000 years ago.

While the historical accuracy of the sagas is often questioned, Carron and Kenna's analysis suggests they may contain fictionalized distortions of real societies.

The overall network of saga society is consistent with real societies, the researchers said.

"This quantitative investigation is very different to traditional approaches to comparative studies of ancient texts, which focus on qualitative aspects," Kenna, from Coventry's Applied Mathematics Research Center said. "Rather than individuals and events, the new approach looks at interactions and reveals new insights -- that the Icelandic sagas have similar properties to those of real-world social networks."

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