Visiting scholar TPTI : Morten Ravn

Du 11 septembre au 08 octobre 2023#Visiting scholar

Morten Ravn, the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark.

My name is Morten Ravn. I am research coordinator at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark. Between September 11 and October 8, 2023 I will be visiting TPTI, Panthéon-Sorbonne as a guest researcher.                          

I grew up in the Kingdom of Denmark. A country with more than 440 islands and a coastline of more than 8,700 km and never more than 70 km distance to the coast from any given point within the country. Hence, the sea is ever present. From an early age I used canoes and small rowing boats for adventures with friends and family. However, the maritime inland adventures weren’t enough. I dreamed of open sea voyages and heard my favorite uncle, a retired ship carpenter and seaman, tell tales of his many years at sea. I thought that I would join ranks with him, and so many other Danes of the past, and become a professional mariner. I didn’t quite do that. Instead, my childhood fascination with boatbuilding and seamanship manifested itself as a career as a maritime archaeologist.

After the completion of my MA in prehistoric archaeology (2008) I have been working continuously with maritime technological aspects of the past, primarily from the Viking and Middle Ages, and mainly focusing on Northern Scandinavia and the North Atlantic region. My PhD-project (2011-2014) dealt with shipbuilding, resource management and maritime warfare in 11th century Denmark. The project made me realize how important it is to understand technological innovations in a broader spatial and temporal context - especially when it comes to seafaring, which is highly dynamic by nature.

Ever since, I have been collaborating with researchers from many different places around the world gaining new insights and inspiration for my own research projects, and hopefully also inspiring others in their scholarly work. I see the fellowship at TPTI as a unique way of continuing this pursuit.  I am looking very much forward to participating in the TPTI’s ongoing activities and will endeavor to expand the knowledge of the maritime technological aspects of the past.

As a researcher at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, my approach to investigating technology is primarily based on maritime experimental archaeology. For more than 40 years, the Viking Ship Museum has been building and using full-scale reconstructions of ship-finds resulting in an immense amount of data and numerous published insights concerning prehistoric Nordic shipbuilding and seafaring. The last 15 years, I have taken part in this research. The research project and lectures I will conduct while being as a visiting scholar at TPTI are based on insights and data gained from such experimental research projects.

Link to my webpage (with a list of publications):


Research project: Telling stories – historic ships as hotspots for global technological heritage

During my stay, I will draft a manuscript for a book about historic ships as hotspots for global technological heritage. In the book, I will reflect on best practice in regard to safeguarding the complex and dynamic technological heritage that historic ships represent. I will discuss how the use of still active historic ships combined with the use of reconstructed pre-historic ship-finds can be used in a unique way to disseminate both tangible and intangible technological aspects of past maritime communities of practice – this in a long term and global context. The history of ships reflects mankind’s creative and innovative power, and I will provide examples that show how past craftspeople and mariners have contributed to important historical innovations. Furthermore, I will discuss how some of the problems we face today might find solutions within past maritime technology.










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