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About the Project

Project Description

Continuing the work of The Grinnell Beowulf, we are creating a Virtual Reality experience that will allow people to visit Heorot, the Danish meadhall featured in Beowulf. The team will base its model on archaeological excavations of Viking meadhalls and villages in Northern Europe as well as accounts from historical and poetic records from the early Middle Ages. The project will help modern readers of Anglo-Saxon poetry, especially Beowulf, to better understanding the civic spaces that helped shape Anglo-Saxon social structures.


Leading Field Trips to Heorot, Denmark, 600 A.D.

With virtual reality technology, people will be able to “visit” Heorot, the “greatest of meadhalls” that features prominently in Beowulf. Using Beowulf, related poetry, and historical sources, the meadhall will be populated with people and objects important to understanding the setting of the poem. The VR experience give participants a sense of space, allowing them to see how the layout of the hall contributes to its function as a political and social arena. In addition, people would be able to “hold” and examine virtual objects such as weapons, armor, jewelry, etc.


Learning objectives

The VR meadhall will help student researchers and users

•          Understand how the space of the meadhall functions in Anglo-Saxon and medieval Scandinavian culture

•          Analyze how the space of the meadhall functions in Beowulf and its analogues

•          Locate northern European cultures within a global network of trade and cultural influence

•          Consider how movement through physical space is defined by and reinforces social roles in a particular cultural context


Project presentations and press

  • Justin Thomas and Tim Arner presented on “Giving students a sense of space and time in the Beowulf meadhall” at an ACM workshop on building partnerships for developing virtual/augmented-reality tools for pedagogy.
  • David Neville published a short article about his work, “Enhancing the Liberal Arts with Extended Reality” in University-Industry Innovation Magazine (July 2019, pp.28-31).
  • Our project was highlighted in The Chronicle of Higher Education article “Virtual Reality Comes to the Classroom” (
  • Tim Arner and David Neville will be presenting at the 2020 International Medieval Congress at Leeds.
    • “The VR Beowulf Project: Visiting Heorot” in Session 351: Teaching the Medieval in the Digital Age, II: Teaching Medieval Texts


History of the project

This project began with summer MAPs in 2018 completed by Joseph Robertson ’19 and Madison Smith ’20, who conducted research and participated in the design of the project. The MAPs were directed by Tim Arner and Justin Thomas with consultation from David Neville.


Iceland research tripFall 2018 

Denmark research trip, Fall 2019

England research trip – Summer 2020!


We regularly updates our progress on Twitter






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