Modeling Power and Pilgrimage in Medieval Orkney, 2017 – Present

Using photogrammetry, 3D modeling, and viewshed analysis, this project focuses on Orkney’s broader landscapes movement – fostered by power structures and pilgrimage – not only within and between key cult sites throughout Orkney, but also between interconnected religious communities across the North Atlantic. Previous GIS viewshed research has already revealed the intervisibility between two towered churches related to the cult of St. Magnus, St. Magnus Cathedral and St. Magnus Kirk on Egilsay. Using the most recent excavation data, historical documents, and oral cult tradition, this project builds on previously isolated site research to identify and analyze the religious monuments as a whole across the islands. Jennifer is continuing this project as a participate of the 2018 Visualizing Venice summer institute, Advanced Topics in Digital Art History: 3D and (Geo)Spatial Networks.


Architectural Landscape in the Icelandic Sagas, 2016 – 2017


Jennifer used the programming language R to analyze the architectural landscape of the Icelandic sagas. Combining close reading and text-mining, Jennifer identified “architectural clusters” to better understand how architectural language contributes to the content and structure of the sagas and evaluating how medieval audiences received and projected architectural imagery on their own built environment. Preliminary results focusing on the function of doorways specifically were presented at the Time, Space, and Narrative in the Icelandic Sagas conference in Reykjavík, Iceland.


Monasticism in Iceland, 2015


During the 2015 summer season, Jennifer participated in the Monasticism in Iceland project as a visiting art historian. This multi-year project is directed by Dr. Steinunn Kristjánsdóttir and aims to uncover more about the monastic world of medieval Iceland. Jennifer’s research compared the monastic sites across the North Atlantic world and schematic visual representation of architectural forms in Icelandic manuscripts and seals. The conclusions will be presented and published in 2016. Additionally, the geophysical surveys and trial excavations yielded significant results at Þykkvabæjarklaustur, Munkaþverá, and Þingeyrar. Announcements of these discoveries have appeared in both Icelandic and English:

Stórhýsi fundið sem talið er rústir Þykkvabæjarklausturs,” Vísir, May 6, 2015.

Lost Cloister Discovered in Iceland,” Archaeology, May 7, 2015.

The Remains of the Þykkvabær monastery in Álftaver, South Iceland, thought to be found,” Iceland Magazine, May 7, 2015.

Telja að Þykkvabæjarklaustur sé fundið,” RÚV, May 10, 2015.

Looking for Iceland’s Lost Monasteries,” Archaeology, May 14, 2015.

Forn kirkjugarður finnst á Munkaþverá,” RÚV, July 5, 2015.

Ancient Burial Site Discovered,” Iceland Monitor, July 14, 2015.

Telur að klaustrin hafi ekki nýtt sóknarkirkjur,” RÚV, May 12, 2015.


“Prepared with great craftiness”: St. Magnus Cathedral, Rǫgnvaldr Kali Kolsson, and Orkney’s Autonomy in the Medieval North Sea World, 2011-2016


Jennifer’s dissertation reevaluates the political position of the Earldom of Orkney within the medieval North Sea world by tracing aesthetic and cultural links between St. Magnus Cathedral and churches in England, Scotland, and Norway. The cathedral does not represent national subjugation and cultural dependency as previously assumed; rather, the cathedral and its iconography in Orkneyinga saga embed the Norse earls within patronage and narrative trends of foreign and Biblical kings to make a final, if failed, claim for Orcadian autonomy. This project, which was funded by the University of Virginia and the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation, deconstructs terrestrial biases by highlighting fluid cross-sea networks and challenges the grand teleological narratives of nations like Norway and Scotland. It also engages with interdisciplinary debates regarding the value of textual sources for art and architectural studies.