The poster promoting the talk
The female figure, drinking horn in hand, grasped by Weland in his flying machine, as depicted on the Leeds Minster cross (10th century)

I’ve presented research seminars on my on-going research interest in early medieval smiths in York and Bradford in 2014, in Glasgow and Dublin in 2015. I’m now going to write this work up for publication.

You can read about my emerging ideas through a series of previous posts, win which I’ve talked about  the literary and archaeological intersections of early medieval smiths and their material manifestations in art, on carved stones and in the landscape:

Wayland’s Smithy, Oxfordshire

Yesterday, I presented my second Grosvenor Lunchtime Lecture on the topic ‘Tombs of Terror: the Hunt for Weland’. This public lecture aimed to pull together various strands of my research on early medieval artisans in literature and material culture, suggesting that considering smiths as cyborgs helps us to understand their associations with fire and transformation, but also with stone, bone and metal in early medieval life and mind.

Focusing on the mythical smith Weland (Volundr), I explored what might be learned about early medieval perceptions of smithing from the 8th-10th century artefacts depicting Weland (including the Franks Casket, Gotlandic picture-stones and the Uppakra mount) and the 10th-century sculpted stones depicting Weland in his flying machine (focusing on the Leeds crosses and the Bedale ‘hogback’).

The crowd gathers for my talk!

Following that, I explored the materiality and landscape context of the Neolithic monument known by the 10th century as ‘Wayland’s Smithy’. My argument was that these do not give us a static, coherent vision of the mythical smith Weland, but represent how material culture and landscape fashioned and guided the stories’ development within shifting cultural and socio-political environments. In particular, I think that the story of Weland is less about his smithing but his retributive martial and sexual violence.

On reflection, I think I will probably be writing up 2-3 different research articles based on this research, one on cyborg smiths, one on smiths carved on stones, and one on Wayland’s Smithy. Watch this space for news of more Prof Williams publications exploring literary and archaeological dimensions to death, memory and material culture.

Note, remember to check out Hannah Sackett’s Prehistories blog where we recreate the story of Weland the Smith.