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Part II - Scandinavian Settlement

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 October 2023

Tom Horne
Affiliation:
University of Glasgow
Elizabeth Pierce
Affiliation:
University of Glasgow
Rachel Barrowman
Affiliation:
University of Glasgow
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Summary

An explosion of new information made available by an increase in archaeological excavations and environmental recovery techniques in the 1970s and ‘80s led Graham-Campbell and Batey to describe the picture of Viking and Late Norse period settlement in 1998 as ‘altered radically’ (1998: 155). Vikings in Scotland appeared just as many of these excavations were coming to fruition, and a greater awareness of the complexities in building techniques, economic activity and settlement distribution was beginning to be appreciated. Exploration of multiperiod sites, and the identification of earlier, Viking-Age, as well as Late Norse, houses was showing that the Vikings often colonised existing settlement sites and that their buildings did not always conform to the later, bow-sided longhouses seen at Jarlshof and other such ‘type sites’.

Twenty years later, many more newly excavated and reassessed settlement sites have come to publication, including those reported on in this volume. This has been matched by an increase in Norse place-name studies, and both have resulted in new interpretations of Scandinavian settlement and the forms it took (see also Part III).

The papers in this section aptly demonstrate the complexity of Scandinavian settlement between areas and centuries. At Bornais in South Uist in the Western Isles (Sharples, this section), the exceptional quality of preservation seen in the excavation of three high-status houses spanning the late 9th to early 14th centuries has enabled a study of the social position of female slaves through artefact distributions and building layout on the site. To the north, in Unst, Shetland, where a uniquely high number of longhouses have been identified through survey, the excavations at Hamar and Underhoull (Bond and Dockrill, this section), have revealed that a longer, and far more complex, settlement history is present than previously thought. In contrast, the excavation of the remains of a farm founded in the 10th century at Machair Bharabhais, Lewis, discovered that it was abandoned by the end of the 13th century at a time of great political turmoil in the Hebrides (MacLeod Rivett and Cowie, this section).

New scientific techniques are aiding greatly in the study of the spread of Scandinavian settlement since Vikings in Scotland and highlight the differences between different areas.

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Chapter
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The Viking Age in Scotland
Studies in Scottish Scandinavian Archaeology
, pp. 73 - 74
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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