Top Viking Finds from Scotland.
Scotland has a rich history and culture, including an abundance of Viking history and influence. A report has concluded that 12% of people living in our home in Argyll are descended from Vikings. This figure rises to 29.2% on Shetland and to 25.2% on Orkney. So it is no surprise that Scotland has become a hot bed of archaeological finds from the Viking period (Scotsman, 2015). Below are our top three Viking Finds from Scotland.
“Nothing like this has ever been found in Scotland.”- Dr Martin Goldberg, Principal Curator of Medieval Archaeology and History (National museums of Scotland). The Galloway hoard is perhaps the richest collection of Viking artefacts ever found in Britain and Ireland. It was discovered recently in 2014 by a metal detectorist in Dumfriesshire. The hoard included a collection of silver ingots and armbands, as well as a Vermeil Carolingian container full of brooches, beads and gold ingots. Traces of silk samite were also found. Finding remains of an organic material makes the hoard even more significant. (Archaeologygroup.com, 2014) These finds inspired us to recreate a silver cuff found in the hoard, which you can see below. Jim skilfully recreated the punches and made the cuff the same way they were made in the Viking age.
Sometime before the 11th April 1831, a number of Viking chess sets were found buried within a sand dune at Uig on the Isle of Lewis. Believed to have been made in Trondheim in the 12th century, the 93 pieces in total highlight the strong social and cultural link between the Scandinavian Vikings and Celtic Scottish and Irish nations (British Museum, 2019). The pieces carved from walrus ivory and whale tooth are thought to have been buried by a merchant for safe keeping who would have been traveling between Norway and Ireland. The Isle of Lewis was in fact part of the Kingdom of Norway during the Viking age. They are now on display at the National museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and in the British Museum in London.
3.The Ardnamurchan boat burial
Discovered in 2011, this boat burial was found in Port an Eilean Mhòir in Ardnamurchan, Argyll, and is the first fully intact grave of this kind in Britain. The burial was dated to the 10th century, and many Viking artefacts were found during the excavations (Harris, 2017, pp. 1). These included a sword, axe, spear, shield, and a ring pin similar to our Bronze Irish style in dot pattern. By the fact that this individual was buried in a boat and was surrounded by weapons tells us this person was someone of high status (Harris, 2017, pp. 6). While two surviving teeth were submitted for isotope analysis, the gender of this individual has not yet been discovered. The lack of jewellery suggests that this individual was male. However, recent research into the complexity of gender within the Viking age would suggest that we cannot assume the individual’s gender from lack of jewellery alone. See below our Irish Bronze ring pin, similar to one found within this grave.
For those of you who haven’t already seen it, Norsemen is a Netflix hit comedy set in the Viking age. Think Monty Python meets the Vikings. Michael Scott meets Ragnar Lothbrok. It has us laughing our assicles off.
Frøya is Norsemen’s resident shieldmaiden and we love her. While her costuming is anything but Viking, her spirit and her sass is what draws us to her.
There are many accounts of warrior women in the Viking sagas, however, they are only legend. There is much evidence to confirm the existence of male warriors in the Viking age through burials and grave goods, however, there has been little archaeological evidence to suggest that shieldmaidens ever existed.
A grave found in Birka in the 1880s, assumed to be the remains of a Viking male, has in fact been identified as the remains of a warrior women using genome testing. These results have proven controversial however, as the lack of the male (y) chromosome is the only proof needed.
The only B we’re thinking about today is Burns!
Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard is famed for his poetry and lyrical talents worldwide. Auld Lang syne, Ode to a Haggis, My Love is like a red, red rose, To a mouse and Tam o’ Shanter are just a few of his most notable pieces of work.
Burns hailed from Ayrshire, which is also home to the Largs Viking Centre, Vikingar. He also holds strong ties to where we are based in Dunoon. He had a lover by the name of Mary Campbell who lived in our town, and who tragically died at the age of 23. However, she lives on through Burns’ work as Highland Mary. It is said within the town that Highland Mary would stand on Castle Hill and look over the water towards Ayrshire, longing after her lover Robert. A statue was erected on the hill in 1896 of Highland Mary looking towards her love.
It wouldn’t be Burns day without some Scottish cuisine.
We’ve teamed up with Hamlyns Porridge to bring you this delicious Burns day Cranachan recipe using their Pinhead Oatmeal.
This silver arm ring is based on a Viking age piece housed in the National Museum of Denmark. Similar finds have also been uncovered in Sejero Denmark and in the 10th century Norwegian Slemmedal Hoard. The smaller rings that hang on the bracelet could have been used as currency as it would have been easy to cut off individual rings.
The Perfect Viking Gift
As part of this year’s Yule giveaway we have teamed up with the folk at Raven Gin and Highland Park Whisky to bring you the perfect Norse themed prize.
Up for grabs is a bottle of Thought and Memory gin from Raven gin, and a bottle of Dragon Legend from Highland park.
What has inspired these two distilleries to produce these fabulous spirits?
The Russian primary chronicles tell of a prophecy about Oleg of Novgorod and his Horse. The chronicle is perhaps the most significant indigenous source for the early history of Russia (Hall, 2007, pp. 96). Oleg, a Viking warrior who was the brother of the legendary Rurik of Novgorod, captured Kiev and made it the Rus capital. He is also portrayed in the popular History Channel show ‘Vikings’.
Did the Vikings really hand out oath rings, as depicted on the hit tv show, Vikings? It was previously believed that oath rings were connected to the Icelandic sagas and were used for paying fealty in court (National Museum of Denmark).
Viking age and Medieval ring pins made from copper alloy have been found all over the world from Novgorod to Newfoundland; over a third of these were found in Ireland (McEneaney & Ryan, 2004, pp. 24). The pins were used as fastenings for cloaks and dresses. Finds of these pins predating the Viking age in Ireland suggest that the pins originated in Ireland and highlight the ties between the ‘Celtic West’ and ‘Sub-Roman Britain’ (Fanning, 1994, pp.1). Vikings first appeared in Ireland in 795 and in the subsequent years settled throughout country establishing its oldest towns and cities (McEneaney et al, 2004, pp. 18).
Our Dunadd Brooch: Where does it come from?
As many of you know all our products are based on or influenced by archaeological finds from across Europe from centuries past. Our latest Asgard reproduction is the Dunadd Brooch. It was originally discovered in Dunadd, Argyll. The finished brooch was not recovered, however the clay moulds (pictured below) were found around the royal hill fort instead. The moulds have two halves and once tightly fitted together, molten metal would have been poured into it to create the rough casting. This would have then been cleaned up, polished and set with precious stones or glass cabochons.
Sleipnir was the eight-legged horse born of Loki, and belonged to Odin. Loki gave birth to Sleipnir after turning himself into a female horse when his father demanded he sabotage the work of a craftsman from being able to complete the fortification of Asgard in one season.
In the early days of Valhalla, a craftsman came to visit. He offered to create a citadel around Asgard which could keep out the giants who may attack from any direction. The man claimed he could complete the fortification of Asgard in three seasons, and for payment demanded that the goddess Freyja be his bride and that he receives the sun and the moon also. The gods however thought his choice of payment was steep and negotiated that he would be paid in full, if he completed the wall in just one season and that he receives no help from any man. The man accepted this with the condition that his stallion, Svadilfari, could help. The gods were unsure, but Loki convinced them that even with the help of his horse, the man would not be able to uphold his end of the bargain, so Freyja, and the sun and moon were not at risk at all.
And so the man set to work on the first day of winter, yet it was his huge stallion that did all the work, effortlessly hauling huge boulders. The progress of the citadel progressed swiftly, and it was so tall and strong that no enemy would be able to take Asgard. Three days before the winter was over the gods sat down for counsel and discussed how they could avoid giving the man payment. Whilst discussing this the gods began to question who had agreed to the man’s terms in the first place. The consensus was that Loki was to blame. The evil Loki was demanded to obstruct the craftsman from completing the last part of the citadel so that they would not need to pay him. Loki would face violence and death if not, so he swore oath that he would stop the man and his horse from completing the citadel.