Sculptured stones as transgressive objects. Call for papers EAA 2017.

Anouk Busset and Adrián Maldonado are organizing a highly interesting session, “Sculptured stones as transgressive objects: carving liminality in early medieval north-western Europe”, at the EAA-conference in Maastricht. Call for papers is now open:

Please have a look at session #423.

Sculptured stones as transgressive objects: carving liminality in early medieval north-western Europe

Content:This session will discuss the role of early medieval carved stones as embodiments of liminality in north-western Europe (British Isles and Scandinavia). Carved stones are strongly associated with territorial boundaries, bridges, or entrances. But beyond demarcating the limit of a religious or secular estate or the passage between lay and consecrated ground, they can also be nodal places in their own right, where the mundane meets the supernatural, habitation meets wilderness, or the living meet the dead. We can go further and argue that sculptured stones can be seen as transgressive by their very nature, between natural rock and shaped stone. In many cases, the stone is itself consecrated, especially when marked by the sign of the cross, becoming neither natural nor handmade, but imbued with the supernatural. Stones can be skeumorphic, representing other materials such as wood and metal which play with or even reject the materiality of the physical object. This transitional essence may also be contained in the imagery or inscriptions carved or incised on the stone, as representations of distant places, ancient myths or names of the absent dead, embodying distant places, people and times. In this sense, carved stones can be seen as transgressive of place, time and substance. We invite papers which challenge a functionalist perspective on carved stones in early medieval north-western Europe and pose new questions on the lived experience of sculpture.

Keywords:sculptured stones northwestern Europe Christianity

Main organiser:Anouk Busset (Switzerland)
Co-organisers:Adrián Maldonado (United Kingdom)

Call for Papers

Call for Papers
8th International Insular Art Conference
Glasgow and Edinburgh, 10-14 July 2017

8mh Co-labhairt Eadar-Nàiseanta Ealain Èireann agus Bhreatainn
nam Meadhan-Aoisean Tràtha
Glaschu agus Dùn Èideann, 10-14 an t-Iuchar 2017

Peopling Insular Art: Practice, Performance, Perception

The International Insular Art Conference, which convenes approximately every four years, is the established forum for international scholars of the visual and material culture (e.g. manuscript illumination, sculpture, metalwork, textiles, etc.) of early medieval Ireland and Britain. The 8th Conference will be based in Glasgow with additional events in Edinburgh. There will be an optional day trip to see Pictish sculpture and, providing there is sufficient interest, a further optional excursion to Iona. Additionally, we are launching mentoring workshops and sessions at this conference, for academics and professionals at all stages of their career, from postgraduate onwards.

We welcome contributions which discuss any aspect of the visual and material culture of Ireland and Britain in any medium in the period c.400-1100. Papers which consider the antecedents of Insular art, or its reception in later periods, including the Celtic Revival will also be considered provided there is a clear link to the Early Medieval period. Similarly, papers which compare Insular material to the art of Continental Europe or Scandinavia are encouraged, as are papers which consider the conservation and heritage management of early medieval art objects. In another new departure IIAC8 welcomes posters which will be displayed for the duration of the conference.

The theme of the 8th IIAC takes its inspiration from Glasgow City’s slogan ‘People make Glasgow’ and is intended to direct focus on the those who commissioned, created and engaged with Insular art objects, and how they conceptualised, fashioned and experienced them. Speakers are encouraged to address the conference theme, but this is not a requirement. In addition, the conference will include two themed sessions to which contributions are also invited: (1) Iona (2) Digital Humanities: Reception, Use and Engagement

If you wish to propose either a paper (20 mins) or poster please complete the attached abstract form and send to arts-iiac(a) no later than December 12, 2016. Proposals should be accompanied by an image relevant to your topic for inclusion in the
abstract booklet issued to delegates.

We look forward to hearing from you.
The Conference Organisers
Katherine Forsyth, Heather Pulliam, Cynthia Thickpenny (Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh)

Save the Date: The 8th International Insular Art Conference

The International Insular Art Conference series is the established forum for international scholars of the visual and material culture (e.g. manuscript illumination, sculpture, metalwork, textiles, etc.) of early medieval Ireland and Britain.

The Conference convenes approximately every four years. The 8th International Insular Art Conference will be held in Glasgow and Edinburgh, 10-14 July 2017, with optional day trip to see Pictish sculpture and, providing there is sufficient interest, a further optional excursion to Iona. More details and cfp will be sent out in the very near future, but please save the date!

Conference Organisers: Katherine Forsyth (Katherine.Forsyth(a), Heather Pulliam (h.pulliam(a) and Cynthia Thickpenny (c.thickpenny.1(a)

Reminder: CfP deadline RMMC Network meeting

Just a reminder that the deadline for abstracts for the upcoming Runes, Monuments and Memorial Carvings Network workshop in Glasgow is next Friday, 16 January. The theme for this year’s meeting is ‘Carved stones as objects of worship and symbols of power’. See the call for papers for more information.
Abstracts should be no more than 250 words. You can send them either to Elizabeth Pierce ( or Anouk Busset (
In order to keep everyone up-to-date with the latest research within the group, we plan on producing a newsletter in pdf format after the workshop so that you can catch up on what you missed.

Next RMMC meeting: Glasgow 13-16 April 2015

The third RMMC meeting will take place in Glasgow, 13-16 April 2015. The first two days are reserved for paper and poster presentations and the last two days you can join the fieldtrip to Angus and Perthshire, featuring stops to see the collections of stones in Meigle and St Vigeans.

The theme of this meeting is: Carved Stones as Objects of Worship and Symbols of Power

The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 16 January 2015, but you can help the organisers, Anouk Busset and Elizabeth Pierce, by informing them whether you intend to participate in the conference, conference dinner and possibly the fieldtrip by the end of October.

Please see the Call for Papers RMMC 2015 for more information and contact details.

The organisers have also provided information about Accommodation and Transport and Things to do in Glasgow.

We hope to see you all there!

Open Access publications

Some recent open access publications that will be of interest:

Thorgunn Snædal’s book about the runic inscriptions on the Pireus lion is available to download, or to buy of course: Runinskrifterna på Pireuslejonet i Venedig

Futhark 4

The fourth issue of Futhark: International Journal of Runic Studies is now published online. All articles are available free of charge at The whole volume can be downloaded at

Many of the RMMC network members now make their research available online. A wealth of articles, book chapters and research papers on memorial stones and (runic) inscriptions are for instance accessible through They can be found by browsing the profiles of some of the RMMC members:

Uppsala runforum

Uppsala runforum has an exhaustive collection of runological publications through the ages with open access.

Memorial finds and runic interpretations

Ignoring the fact that it is February already, this post offers a long overdue overview of the finds and interpretations of runic inscriptions and carved stone monuments that made the news last year.

To also serve some current news, there is of course is K. Jonas Norby’s breakthrough in cracking the Jötunvillur runic code. This news has been doing the rounds on the internet and especially last week also in the English-language press (who sometimes went a bit far in offering some additional interpretations…). The most comprehensive article is the Norwegian original, featuring interviews with Jonas Nordby, James Knirk and Henrik Williams, and this translation into English.

February also came with an article on Bryggen’s more sassy inscriptions. You can find it at if you would like to read it.

This spring and summer yielded the (re)discovery of several stone monuments: an 12th-century decorated grave stone in Ærø; the Medieval Sillian 3 stone from Wales with a cross and lozenge pattern; the 11th-century runestone in Södra Roslagen with the oldest evidence for the place-name Ekerö; and of course the stone at Orphir, Orkney, with a latin runic inscription.


This is a brief overview of a number of volumes dealing with runes, medieval memorial carvings and stone sculpture that have been published over the past months.

Readers’ comments and reviews are welcome, as are announcements about new publications that are of interest to scholars of runes, monuments and memorial carvings.

Situne Dei 2013

Contains a number of contributions about runestones, by Anne-Sofie Gräslund,Magnus Källström, Helmer Gustavson and Roger Wikell.

More information, table of contents and downloads

Raising the Dead: Early Medieval Name Stones in Northumbria

By C. Maddern

This is the first work to explore and explain the form, function and theological meaning of Northumbrian name stones, both in their immediate Insular setting and within a wider European context.

This is the first work to explore and explain the form, function, and theological meaning of Northumbrian name stones, both in their immediate Insular setting and within a wider European context. Earlier studies have concentrated on the archaeological and epigraphic aspects of these monuments, which has resulted in a tentative dating framework but also a blanket designation of ‘gravestones’. This book challenges the assumptions behind this designation and focuses on the iconography of name stones as a reflection of theological ideas of the period, based on a central hypothesis that many emulate the format of manuscript pages.

The author also addresses the contentious question of the placing of name stones, in particular whether some stones were actually placed in the grave. Her analysis presents not only evidence of differential burial practices within the same Northumbrian cemeteries, but offers parallel examples from other monastic sites in both Britain and the Continent — and significantly broadens the field of argument about early medieval burial practices. In this book, the author combines approaches from ecclesiastical history and iconography, theology, and archaeology to draw out the significance of the Northumbrian name stones and to explore the ‘living’ presence of the dead in early medieval religious communities.

More information and table of contents

Sacred Sites and Holy Places: Exploring the Sacralization of Landscape through Time and Space

Edited by S.W. Nordeide and S. Brink

In this volume two important veins of interdisciplinary research into the medieval period in Scandinavia and the Baltic region are merged, namely the Christianization process and landscape studies. The volume authors approach the common theme of sacrality in landscape from such various viewpoints as archaeology, philology, history of religion, theology, history, classical studies, and art history. A common theme in all articles is a theoretical approach, complemented by illustrative case studies from the Scandinavian, Baltic, or Classical worlds. Aspects of pagan religion, as well as Christianity and the establishment of the early Church, are considered within both geographical setting and social landscape, while the study of maps, place names, and settlement patterns introduces new methodologies and perspectives to expose and define the sacral landscape of these regions. The contributions are put into perspective by a comparison with research into the sacral landscapes of Central Europe and the Classical world.

New interdisciplinary research methods and new models have been developed by the contributors to present new vistas of sacrality in the Scandinavian and the Baltic landscape. To open up these case studies, a selection of over sixty images and maps accompanies this cutting-edge research, allowing the reader to explore sacralization and the Christianization process within its medieval setting.

More information and table of contents

Schreibpraktiken und Schriftwissen in südgermanischen Runeninschriften: Zur Funktionalität epigraphischer Schriftverwendung

By Michelle Waldispühl

Südgermanische Runeninschriften befinden sich auf mobilen Gegenständen wie Fibeln oder Waffen und datieren vorwiegend aus dem 6. Jahrhundert. Unter den Inschriften gibt es auffällig viele ohne sprachliche Botschaft: die Runenschrift wurde lediglich imitiert. Welche Botschaft sollte mit ihnen vermittelt werden? Wie sind sie im damaligen Schriftverständnis zu verorten?

Die vorliegende Studie beleuchtet die Funktionalität runenepigraphischer Schrift im Kontext sozialen Handelns, insbesondere im Zusammenhang mit den Trägerobjekten, unter Berücksichtigung der Techniken der Schriftanbringung, der visuellen Ausprägung von Schrift und interaktiv-­kommunikativer Bedingungen.

Es zeigt sich, dass das sprachliche wie auch das visuelle Potential von «Schrift» in der südgermanischen Runen­kultur selten isoliert vom Trägerobjekt funktioniert, weshalb Inschriften ohne sprachliche Botschaft in Teilen genauso aussagekräftig sein konnten wie solche mit.

Diese mit umfassendem Bildteil versehene Arbeit bietet zusätzlich eine Systematisierung der runologischen Methodik zur schreibtechnischen, graphematischen und kontex­tuellen Untersuchung der Inschriften.

More information and table of contents

Epigraphic Literacy and Christian Identity: Modes of Written Discourse in the Newly Christian European North

Edited by K. Zilmer and J. Jesch

This collection of nine essays deals with the role of epigraphic literacy within the newly introduced Christian culture and the developing tradition of literacy in Northern Europe.

This volume examines the role of epigraphic literacy within the newly introduced Christian culture and the developing tradition of literacy in Northern Europe during the Viking Age and the High Middle Ages. The epigraphic material under scrutiny here originates from Scandinavia and North-West Russia – two regions that were converted to Christianity around the turn of the first millennium. Besides traditional categories of epigraphic sources, such as monumental inscriptions on durable materials, the volume is concerned with more casual inscriptions on less permanent materials. The first part of the book discusses a form of monumental epigraphic literacy manifested on Scandinavian rune stones, with a particular focus on their Christian connections. The second part examines exchanges between Christian culture and ephemeral products of epigraphic literacy, as expressed through Scandinavian rune sticks, East Slavonic birchbark documents and church graffiti. The essays look beyond the traditional sphere of parchment literacy and the Christian discourse of manuscript sources in order to explore the role of epigraphic literacy in the written vernacular cultures of Scandinavia and North-West Russia.

More information and table of contents

Futhark 3

Was already available online, and now also as printed volume.

Order printed copies of Futhark and Scripta Islandica

Dowload Furthark articles as pdf

Memories in the Making

On his blog, Howard Williams offers a sneak preview of a volume about early medieval inscribed and sculpted stone monuments that Meggen Gondek, Joanne Kirton and he are currently preparing.