ATG Quirkies: The Viking Facebook

Norsemen_Landing_in_IcelandAdmittedly, you’d expect an article by a pair of statistical physicists to appear in the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society and American Statistical Association. Especially one that featured “web-like diagrams of lines connecting nodes” that helped to analyze a complex network. But what would you make of an article where “each node, rather than being a plain dot,” features “the head of a burly, red-bearded Viking sporting a horned hat, his tresses blowing in the wind.”

Well believe it or not, this fanciful diagram is part of some pretty labor-intensive research. The full story is in a post entitled The Viking Facebook and relates how sophisticated mathematical models are used to trace a “network of more than 1,500 characters in the Icelandic Sagas” supporting existing scholarship in the field as well as revealing new relationships

And this is just one example of “quantitative analysis of literature” an emerging field that promises “a new way to approach old questions in literature, history, and archaeology.”

Talk about interdisciplinary research!

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