Professor Jesse L. Byock

Old Norse Studies, Department of Germanic Languages
University of California, (UCLA) Los Angeles, CA 90095-1539

Current Positions at UCLA:

Professor, Old Norse and Medieval Scandinavian Studies

Director, Old Norse Studies Program

Professor, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and Interdepartmental Program in Archaeology, Directing Viking Archaeology

Member, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies


UCLA, 1977-2006, Dept. of Germanic Languages, Director Old Norse Studies Program: Old Norse Language and Sagas, Viking History, Medieval Society, Feud and violence, Viking Age Archaeology.

Director of Viking Archaeology at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology (1990-2006)

Harvard University, 1973-1977, Dept. of Germanic Languages and Humanities

Head Teaching Fellow in Project in Oral and Early Literatures: Sagas and Viking History

Current Archaeological Field Project

Head Director of the on-going Mosfell Archaeological Project (1994– ) in Iceland. We work in close collaboration with the National Museum of Iceland, the Department of History at the University of Iceland, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Oregon and the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Oslo. The Mosfell Archaeological Project (MAP) is a multi-disciplinary study of the Viking Age, combining archaeology, history, and anthropology with the study of medieval sagas and modern medical and environmental research.

In the tenth and eleventh centuries, the glaciated Mosfell valley was dominated by a great chieftain family, the Mosfellingar, who controlled the Viking Age seaport at Leirvogur ( Clay Bay). An extraordinarily rich archaeological site, the Mosfell Valley is perhaps the best-preserved Viking Age valley system remaining today in Scandinavia. MAP’s research is uncovering extensive documentation of human adaptation and environmental change caused by the first major migration of Europeans west over the Atlantic five hundred years before Columbus. The archaeology is supplying the hard data for a new understanding of the medieval sagas, six of which describe the specific sites that we are excavating in the Mosfell Valley. There is an urgency to our task. We work to unearth the prehistory and early Viking Age past of this region before it is destroyed forever by fast encroaching urban development




Harvard University, Dept. of Germanic Languages, Scandinavian Program Ph.D., 1978 in Medieval Scandinavia and Old Norse Language, History, and Sagas.

Ph.D. Committee Chairs: Albert Lord and Einar Haugen

University of Lund, Sweden, 1972-1973, Viking History, Sagas, and Archaeology

UCLA, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 1971-1972, Medieval History and Literature

University of Iceland, 1970-1971. Icelandic, Sagas, History, and Society

Georgetown University, School of Law, 1967-1968


University of Vermont, B.A. in History with honors, 1967, year abroad at the Sorbonne, Paris, 1965-1966. Medieval History and Literature


Languages, speaking or reading:

French and Old French ˜ Icelandic and Old Icelandic/Old Norse ˜ Swedish ˜ Danish ˜ Norwegian ˜ German ˜ Latin ˜ Faroese ˜ Anglo-Saxon


Fellowships and Prizes (1999-Present):

Ahmanson Field Research Grant (2005). Viking Archaeology

Norwegian Government Kulturdepartementet (2004) Norwegian, Icelandic, American excavation research

Fulbright Senior Specialist Research Grant (2003 & 2004). Collaborative historical research at the Institute of History, University of Iceland

UCLA Council on Research, Research Enhancement Initiative Fellowship (2000-2001). Viking Age Archaeology

National Science Foundation Co-Principal Investigator (1999). High Risk Experimental Research, “Regional Archaeology of the Mosfell Valley”

Fulbright Distinguished Senior Fellowship Award (1998). Research in Old Norse Archaeology

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1998). Saga texts and Archaeology of a Viking Age Chieftain’s Establishment

National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Research Fellowship (1997). Research Concerning the Mosfell Excavation

University of California President’s Research Fellowship (1997). Archival Research Underlying Excavation in the Mosfell Valley

UCLA International Studies and Overseas Programs (1999, 1995, & 1994). Faculty Research Grant

UC Berkeley Center for European Studies. (1992). Research Fellowship, Nationalism and the Sagas

National Endowment for the Humanities (1991). Feud in the Sagas

Fulbright Senior Research Grant (1990-91). Feud and Arbitration in Early Iceland


Professional Associations:
Medieval Academy of America ˜ Medieval Association of the Pacific ˜ Society for American Archaeology ˜ International Saga Society ˜ Sögufélag Íslands (Icelandic Historical Society) ˜ Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies ˜ Founding Member of the Haugen Scholarship Fund ˜ Haskins Society for Viking, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman History ˜ North Atlantic Bio-Archaeological Association

Selected Publications



Viking Age Iceland. London and New York: Penguin Books, 2001.

  • French edition (L’Islande des Vikings), Paris : forthcoming 2007.
  • Russian edition, optioned.

Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas, and Power. (1988). Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

  • Danish edition. (1999). Island í sagatiden: Samfund, magt og fejde. ( Iceland in the Saga Period: Society, Power, and Feud) C.A. Reitzel: Copenhagen.
  • British edition. (1993). London: Hisarlik Press.
  • Japanese edition (A Social History of the Sagas and the Free State in Medieval Iceland). (1992). Tokyo: Tokai University Press.
  • A History Book Club Selection. 1989-1990.

Feud in the Icelandic Saga. (1982). Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

  • Japanese edition. (1998). Tokyo: Tokai University Press.

Translations from the Old Norse/Old Icelandic with extensive introductions, notes and glossaries:

Sagas and Myths of the Northmen. London and New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

The Prose Edda, London and New York: Penguin Books, 2005.

The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki. (1998). London and New York: Penguin Books.

The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer. (1990). Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

  • Penguin edition. (1999). London and New York: Penguin Books.
  • British edition. (1993). London: Hissarlik Press.


Byock, J., Walker, P., Erlandson, J., Holck, P., Zori, D., Guðmundsson, M., and Tveskov. M. “A Viking-age Valley in Iceland: The Mosfell Archaeological Project.” Medieval Archaeology, 49(2005), 197-220

Walker, P., Byock, J., Eng, J.T., Erlandson, J., Holck, P., Prizer, K., Tveskov, M. (2004). “Bioarchaeological evidence for the heath status of an early Icelandic population.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Supplement 38, 204.

Byock, J. “Social Memory and the Sagas: The Case of Egils saga.” Scandinavian Studies.” 76/3(2004), 299-316.

Byock, J., Walker, P., Erlandson, J., Holck, P., Eng, J.T., Prizer, K., Byock, A., Tveskov, M. “A Viking Age farm, church, and cemetery at Hrísbrú, Mosfell Valley, Iceland.” Antiquity Vol. 77 No 297(2003), September.

“Feuding in Viking Age Iceland’s Great Village.” In Conflict in Medieval Europe: Changing Perspectives on Society and Culture. Eds. Warren Cl Brown and Piotr Górecki. Aldershot: Ashgate, (2003), pp. 229-241.

“The Mosfell Archaeological Project, 2002 Excavation” in, Scandinavian and Christian Europe in the Middle Ages, eds. Rudolf Simek and Judith Meurer, The 12 th International Saga Conference, Bonn: Universität Bonn, (2003), pp. 72-79.

“Volsunga Saga” in Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism, vol. 55, ed. Lynn M. Zott, New York: Gale-Thompson, (2003), pp. 191-201.

Byock , J., P. Walker, Dickin, A, Erlandsson, J., Guðmundsson, M., Holck, P. Schwarz, H., Tveskov, M., Eng, J., Prizer, K., Reid, M., Scott, D., Sigurgeirsson, M., and Zori. D. (2003). Archaeological Investigations of Viking Age Sites in the Mosfell Valley, Iceland: Preliminary Excavation Report: Hrísbrú, Mosfellssveit, Iceland. July 31 – August 20, 2002.

Byock, J., Walker, P., Erlandsson, Jon, Holck, P., Eng, J., and Sigurgeirsson, M. The Mosfell Archaeological Project: Field Season Summer 2001. (2002). Preliminary Report, submitted to Þjóðminjasafn (the National Museum of Iceland) and to Fornleifavernd ríkisins (The Archaeological Protection Agency of Iceland). 51 pages.

“The Icelandic Althing: Dawn of Parliamentary Democracy.” In Heritage and Identity: Shaping the Nations of the North, ed. J. M. Fladmark, pp 1-18. The Heyerdahl Institute and Robert Gordon University. Donhead St. Mary, Shaftesbury: Donhead, 2002, pp. 1-18.

Archaeological Investigations of Viking Age Sites in the Mosfell Valley, Iceland: Excavation Report: Hrísbrú, Mosfellssveit, Iceland. July 31 – August 20, 2002.

“The Sagas and the Twenty First Century.” In Honor of Franz Bäuml, eds. Ursula Schaefer and Edda Spielman. Dresden, 2001. pp. 71-84.

“The Law and Concubinage in Early Iceland.” In Aaron Gurevich: Studies in History and Society, pp. 36-43. Moscow: 2000. In Russian.

Byock, J., and J Steinberg, (1999). “Mosfell Valley: Tracing Viking Settlers in IcelandBackdirt, Cotsen institute of Archaeology Fall/Winter, 8-9.

"Egilssaga og samfélagsminni," in Íslenska söguþingið. Ráðstefnurit I.eds. Guðmundsson, G. J., & Björnsson, E. K. Reykjavík: Sagnfræðistofnun Háskóla Íslands & Sagnfræðingafélag Íslands, 1998), pp. 379-389.

“Samvinnu er lykilatriði í sagnfræði.” Interview with Jesse Byock, Sagnir ‘98': Tímarit um söguleg efni.19(1998): 71-76.

“Excavation Report: Mosfell and Hrísbrú, Mosfellssveit, September 1995." By Jesse Byock, Director of the Mosfell Archaeological Project, prepared with: Timothy Earle–Northwestern University; Philip Walker–UC Santa Barbara; and Sigurður Bergsteinsson–National Museum of Iceland. In, 10 th Internationale Sagakonferanse, Trondheim, 3. – 9. August , 1997. Trondheim: Senter for Middelalderstudier, 1997.

Byock, J., and Krygier, M. “Teaching Old Icelandic U-Umlaut: A Student Friendly Approach.” (1997). Germanic Studies in Honor of Anatoly Liberman. Odense: Odense University Press, pp. 47-55.

“The Fornaldarsögur: Stephen Mitchell’s Contribution.” Oral Tradition 10/2(1995): 451--457.

“Egil’s Bones.” Archaeology: Annual Edition 1996/97. Guilford: Brown and Benchmark Publishers, 80-85.

"Egil's Bones: A Viking Warrior and Paget's Disease." Scientific American 272/1 (January, 1995): 82-87.

  • “Die Egil-saga und das Paget-Syndrom,” Spectrum der Wissenschaft (März, 1995): 90-95.
  • “Les os d’Egil, héros viking,” Pour La Science 209 (Mars, 1995): 52-58.
  • “Le ossa di Egill,” Le Scienze 319 (Marzo, 1995): 74-79.
  • “Ko Ñ ci Egila” Ð wiat Nauki (Marzec 1995): 72-77.

"Choices of Honor: Telling Saga Feud, Tháttr, and the Fundamental Oral Progression." Oral Tradition 10/1(1995):166-180.

"Modern nationalism and the medieval sagas." In Northern Antiquity: The Post-Medieval Reception of Edda and Saga, ed. Andrew Wawn. London: Hisarlik Press, 1994, pp. 163-187.

"Narrating Saga Feud: Deconstructing The Fundamental Oral Progression." In Sagnaþing: Helgað Jónasi Kristjánssýni sjötugum 10. apríl 1994, ed. Gísli Sigurðsson, Guðrún Kvaran, and Sigurgeir Steingrímsson. Reykjavík: Hið íslenska bókmenntafélag, 1994, pp. 97-106.

"State and Statelessness in Early Iceland." In Samtíðarsögur: The Contemporary Sagas, vol. I. Níunda Alþjóðlega Fornsagnaþingið. Akureyri: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar, 1994, pp. 155-169.

"Alþingi," "Bóndi," "Goði," "Hólmganga," and "Outlawry." In the Encyclopedia of Old Norse Studies, ed. Philip Pulsiano. New York: Garland Publishers, 1993.

"Skull and Bones in Egils saga: A Viking, A Grave, and Paget's Disease." Viator: Medieval and Renaissance Studies 24(1993):23-50.

"Þjóðernishyggja nútímans og Íslendingasögurnar." Tímarit Máls og menningar 1(1993): 36-50.

"Hauskúpan og beinin í Egils sögu" Skírnir: Tímarit hins íslenska bókmenntafélags. (Spring 1994): 73-109.

Byock, J., and Skia, (1992). "Disease and Archaeology in Egil's saga: A First Look." The Haskins Society Journal: Studies in Medieval History, 411-22.

"History and the sagas: the effect of nationalism." In From Sagas to Society: Comparative Approaches to Early Iceland, ed. Gísli Pálsson. London: Hisarlik Press, 1992, pp. 44-59.

"Íslendingasögur og kenningar um formgerð frásagna: Munnleg hefð og bóksögur í ljósi samfélagsgerðar." Tímarit Máls og menningar 2(1990): 21-39.

"Sigurðr Fáfnisbani: An Eddic Hero Carved on Norwegian Stave Churches." In Poetry in the Scandinavian Middle Ages. The Seventh International Saga Conference, ed. Theresa Pàroli. Spoleto: Centro Italiano di Studi Sull'Alto Medioevo, 1990, pp. 619-628.

"Vinfengi og valdatafl." Skírnir: Tímarit hins Íslenska bókmenntafélags 162(1988): 127-137.

"Inheritance and Ambition in Eyrbyggja saga." In The Sagas of the Icelanders: Essays in Criticism, ed. John Tucker, pp. 185-205. New York: Garland Publishers, 1988.

"The Age of the Sturlungs." In Continuity and Change: Political Institutions and Literary Monuments in the Middle Ages, ed. Elisabeth Vestergaard, pp. 27-42. Proceedings of the Tenth International Symposium Organized by the Center for the Study of Vernacular Literature in the Middle Ages. Odense: Odense University Press, 1986.

"The Dark Figure as Survivor in an Icelandic Saga." In The Dark Figure in Medieval German and Germanic Literature, ed. E. R. Haymes and S. C. Van D'Elden. Göppinger Arbeiten zur Germanistik 448. Göppingen: Kümmerle Verlag, 1986, 151-163.

"Governmental Order in Early Medieval Iceland." Viator: Medieval and Renaissance Studies 17(1986): 19-34.

"'Milliganga': Félagslegar rætur Íslendingasagna." Tímarit Máls og menningar 47(1986): 96-104.

"Saga Form, Oral Prehistory, and the Icelandic Social Context." New Literary History 16(1984-1985): 153-173.

"Cultural Continuity, the Church, and the Concept of Independent Ages in Medieval Iceland." Skandinavistik 15/1(1985):1-14.

“The Narrative Strategy of Small Feud Stories.” In Les Sagas de Chevaliers (Riddarasögur), ed. Régis Boyer, pp. 404-415. Civilisations 10. Paris: Presses de l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 1985.

“The Power and Wealth of the Icelandic Church: Some Talking Points.” In The Sixth International Saga Conference 1985, vol. 1, pp. 89-101. Copenhagen: Det arnamagnæanske Institut, 1985.


Documentary Film and Multimedia

“The Lore of the Ring” (2005). BBC Radio 3 and BBC World Service. Radio program to accompany the New York Metropolitan Opera’s rendition of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

A Viking Landscape . (2004). Ross Films, Documentary about the Mosfell Archaeological Project.

“The Vikings: Fury From the North.” (2001). Historical consultant on the Vikings for the History Channel.

“Leif Eiriksson – The Man Who Almost Changed History.” (2000). Specialist narrator for documentary film for Public Television, Ward Television, Smithsonian Institute for the Year 2000 Viking Exhibition.

“Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga.” (2000). Specialist narrator for documentary film for Smithsonian Institution. Year 2000 Viking Exhibition.

“Leif Eriksson.” (1995). Specialist narrator for documentary film, Arts and Entertainment series, Biography.

“Vikings in America.” (1995). Specialist narrator for documentary film, The History Channel.

Ulin, D., and Byock, J. “Medicine and Viking Disease.” (1995). An episode in the series, A Moment of Science for National Public Radio.

“Evidence of the Vikings.” (1995). BBC film for the historical documentary series, Timewatch on British Television. Principal historical consultant, heading the research and involved in the script writing, shooting, narrating, and clipping.