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Vicki Szabo - Western Carolina University. Cullowhee, NC, US

Vicki Szabo Vicki Szabo

Associate Professor, Darth Vader Chair of Ancient and Medieval History | Western Carolina University


Vicki Szabo's research focuses on medieval environmental history, the medieval North Atlantic and the history of whaling.



Vicki Szabo Publication



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Dr. Vicki Szabo received her PhD in Medieval Studies at Cornell University and currently serves as an Associate Professor of History at Western Carolina University. Her research focuses on medieval environmental history, the medieval North Atlantic, and the history of whaling, and has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Society of Antiquaries of London. She currently runs a major international research project focusing on the molecular, textual, and archaeological evidence for whale use in the medieval North Atlantic. She is author of Monstrous Fishes and the Mead Dark Sea (Brill, 2008), several articles and book chapters on medieval environmental history, and is currently working on a textbook on medieval wildlife. The Force is strong in her.

Industry Expertise (3)



Writing and Editing

Areas of Expertise (5)

Medieval History

Viking Age

Environmental History

Medieval North Atlantic World

Ancient History

Education (3)

Cornell University: Ph.D., Medieval Studies 2000

Cornell University: M.A.

Kalamazoo College: B.A.

Languages (1)

  • English

Media Appearances (5)

WCU Professor Working On Endangered Whales Documentary

The Transylvania Times  online


When Vicki Szabo, associate professor of history, finished her 2008 book on medieval whaling, she quipped in the acknowledgements she would remember all her Western Carolina University colleagues when it was made into a feature film.

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Faculty Senate approves resolution opposing resumption of in-person instruction for fall 2020

WCU Stories  online


Faculty Assembly representative Vicki Szabo, associate professor of history, shared some of her concerns about the resumption of classes for fall semester. “I’m sitting in the McKee Building right now and I have my mask around my neck, but as I walked in today, we don’t yet have the controls that a grocery store does. We don’t have proper ingress and egress. We don’t yet have cleaning supplies in the classroom. Each faculty member was supplied with 75 wipes. That’s not going to last long,” Szabo said.

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Archaeologists Unearth Hollowed-Out Whale Vertebra Containing Human Jawbone, Remains of Newborn Lambs

Smithsonian Magazine  online


Per the press release, the team—made up of Carruthers, Western Carolina University’s Vicki Szabo, St. Mary’s University’s Brenna Frasier and UHI’s Ingrid Mainland—analyzed the fin whale bone as part of a larger project exploring the use of whale bones in the western Atlantic over the last 1,000 years. Earlier this year, the researchers tested relevant finds from both the Cairns and Mine Howe, a separate archaeological site on Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

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Ancient Romans Hunted ‘Sea Monsters.’ Were They Whales?

The New York Times  online


Vicki Szabo, an environmental historian from Western Carolina University in North Carolina, who was not involved in the study, said although the finding does not provide strong enough evidence to claim that ancient Romans were whaling commercially, it does provide a starting point for that interpretation. She added that it also provides historical perspective to understanding the ecology of the two whale species.

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Romans had whaling industry, archaeological excavation suggests

The Guardian  online


Dr Vicki Szabo, an expert in whaling history from Western Carolina University said the study offered a rare glimpse into the past habitats of the whales, and backed up ideas that industrial hunting might have happened far earlier than widely thought, although its scale is unclear. “Whales are considered archaeologically invisible because so few bones are transported from shore to site, so I think in that context this concentration of species that they have is meaningful,” she said.

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Articles (5)

Genetic examination of historical North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) bone specimens

Marine Mammal Science

2022 Species monitoring and conservation is increasingly challenging under current climate change scenarios. For the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) this challenge is heightened by the added effects of complicated and uncertain past species demography.

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Archaeological sites as Distributed Long-term Observing Networks of the Past (DONOP)

Quaternary International

2020 Archaeological records provide a unique source of direct data on long-term human-environment interactions and samples of ecosystems affected by differing degrees of human impact.

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A Lockpick's guide to dataARC: Designing infrastructures and building communities to enable transdisciplinary research

Internet Archaeology

2021 The North Atlantic Biocultural Organization (NABO) community initiated dataARC to develop digital research infrastructures to support their work on long-term human-ecodynamics in the North Atlantic.

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Machine learning ATR-FTIR spectroscopy data for the screening of collagen for ZooMS analysis and mtDNA in archaeological bone

Journal of Archaeological Science

2021 Faunal remains from archaeological sites allow for the identification of animal species that enables the better understanding of the relationships between humans and animals, not only from their morphological information, but also from the ancient biomolecules (lipids, proteins, and DNA) preserved in these remains for thousands and even millions of years.

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Negotiating the Landscape: Environment and Monastic Identity in the Medieval Ardennes by Ellen F. Arnold, and: The Medieval Discovery of Nature by Steven A. Epstein (review)

Journal of World History

2015 Ellen Arnold’s Negotiating the Landscape and Steven Epstein’s The Medieval Discovery of Nature reveal in starkly different ways the challenges and the promise facing medieval environmental historians. Although rich in sources and subjects of analysis, medieval environmental studies too often remain bound in reconstructions of the practical and the material to break into the broader historiographical canon, still heavily dominated by American environmental histories.

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