Seminar – Dr Oisín Plumb – ‘Where Were the Orcades? Early Medieval Engagement with the Islands at the End of the Earth’

The SSNS Seminar Series continues on 26 January with a talk by Dr Oisín Plumb (University of the Highlands and Islands), titled ‘Where Were the Orcades? Early Medieval Engagement with the Islands at the End of the Earth’.

This is a free, ticketed event; please register below.


References to the Orcades within early medieval texts are almost invariably translated as ‘Orkney’. This presentation will consider if there are grounds to question this assumption. We will look at the evidence of pre-Norse early medieval sources including annals and hagiographical texts dealing with the Orcades and ask what they can tell us about its location and status. Some later sources will also be considered. Particularly intriguing in this regard is the eleventh-century map known as the Anglo Saxon mappa mundi. We will look in detail at its fascinating and unique portrayal of the Orcades– which seem to have been drawn in part on top of a seemingly unfinished Scottish mainland. Using results of recent multi-spectral analysis carried out by the British Library, we will consider how and why the map was compiled in this way, and what this can tell us about early medieval perceptions of the Orcades and the wider North.


Dr Oisín Plumb is originally from Edinburgh. He obtained his PhD on ‘Early Medieval Ecclesiastical migration from Northern Britain to Ireland’ from the University of Edinburgh in 2016. During this time, he also taught in both Celtic and Scottish Studies; and History Classics and Archaeology at Edinburgh. Prior to his doctoral research, he completed a degree in Medieval Celtic Studies, followed by a masters degree in medieval history, both in Edinburgh. His masters dissertation examined the engagement of the Iona community with astronomy, geography and unusual natural phenomena. He joined the Institute for Northern Studies as a lecturer in 2017. His monograph, Picts and Britons in the Early Medieval Irish Church: Travels west over the storm-swelled sea, was published by Brepols in 2020.

Registration below. Details for the Zoom meeting will be emailed in advance of the seminar.


Thursday 26 Jan 2023


Times are in GMT
7:00 pm




Scottish Society for Northern Studies
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