THEY were the two most important Viking settlements in Western Europe.

Now Glasgow University is teaming up with the University of York to re-examine the links between Dublin and York in a project which could also cast new light on Viking Scotland.

Then known as Dyflin and Jorvik, the cities were major Viking colonial centres and were ruled over by the same family during the late ninth and early 10th century. The leaders were known as the “grandsons of Ivar”, a reference to Ivar the Boneless, a conquering chieftain said to be the son of Danish king Ragnar Lothbrok.

Those names will be known to fans of the long-running HBO series Vikings, which is set to conclude this year. Glasgow archaeologist Dr Stephen Harrison says that show and others like it help to get people “inspired and excited” about the history and culture, and to tap into the Vikings’ own sense of drama. “They were fantastic storytellers,” he says. “The sagas were the pre-TV versions of the shows we watch now.

“The Vikings are one of those things that really captures the imagination. It crosses national barriers within these islands and beyond.

“What excites us about the Vikings is changing. In the past a lot of people were fascinated by the violence and the raiding. Now we’re interested in what they did more generally – Vikings as migrants, as not just killing the people they lived among but interacting with them as traders, as artists, as manufacturers.

“The more we learn about how complicated and complex their lives were, the more fascinating they become.”

With well-established links between Dublin’s Vikings and those active along the west coast of Scotland, it’s thought the work could have far-reaching implications for our understanding about how the society interacted with settlements and native populations stretching from Galloway to the Western Isles.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the project also has involvement from Creative Ireland, Dublin City Council and the National University of Ireland, and will utilise the well-preserved items recovered from the waterlogged grounds over successive digs in both cities.

It’s the combination of geography and geology in Dublin and York that’s allowed so much to remain. But Harrison and his colleagues believe much more insight can be gleaned from a contemporary examination of artefacts and documents uncovered from the 1970s-80s. “The amount you can tell about the environment now has changed completely,” Henderson says. “Dublin and York are by far the best-documented and best-excavated urban centres in the Viking West and are of exceptional international importance.

“But there are new forms of analysis, so is there more evidence we can squeeze from the material? Have we done everything we can?”

One area set for analysis is the residues left behind on cookware, another is insect remains found in areas of Viking activity. “Things like beetles are incredibly fussy about diet and where they live,” Henderson says. “If you can examine the insect remains you can tell a huge amount about both the environment and the people who were living there, like the things they were eating and the materials they were using in daily life. What kind of things did the line their beds with, how badly affected were they by parasites?”