Isles to play host to meeting of Viking assemblies project

Shetland and Orkney are hosting a joint partner meeting of the Northern Periphery Programme THING project (Thing Sites International Networking Group) next week.

Things are the assembly sites spread across north-west Europe as a result of the Viking diaspora and Norse settlements. Last June the project secured funding to connect and interpret a network of these sites throughout the Viking world, of which around 250,000 euros will come to Shetland and Orkney.

With partners in Shetland, Orkney, Norway, Iceland, Faroe, Highland Scotland and the Isle of Man, the three-year project aims to exchange knowledge, exploit opportunities and develop sustainable management and business development at the Northern European thing sites.

One major aspect of the project is to explore the possibility of a trans-national World Heritage nomination, expanding on Iceland’s existing World Heritage Site Thingvellir.

Sarah Jane Gibbon, a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at Orkney College, said: “The thing sites form part of our shared North European past and are physical representations of a once, and still, commonly-held perception of governance and justice.

“One of the most exciting aspects of this project is having the opportunity to share our knowledge with other partner regions enabling us to better understand and promote our own local thing sites.”

Project partners meet twice a year and the islands are honoured to be hosting the second ever meeting. Taking place from Thursday 15th to Sunday 18th April, the meeting will not only enable partners to update and discuss the project but expand their knowledge of thing sites, through site visits, workshops, presentations and public lectures.

Delegates will spend their first two days in Shetland and the other two in Orkney, allowing them to compare things in both island groups and meet Alexandra Sanmark (Orkney College, UHI), John Baker (University of Nottingham) and Stuart Brookes (University College London), representatives of two further research projects studying assembly sites.

Shetland Amenity Trust place names officer Eileen Brooke Freeman said: “We can identify many of the assembly sites throughout areas of Scandinavian influence by their common ting, thing, ding and fing place names. Examples include Gulating (Norway), Þingvellir (Iceland), Tinganes (Faroe), Tingwall (Shetland and Orkney), Dingwall (Highland), Tynwald (Isle of Man).

“This project enables us to develop a much greater understanding and vastly increase our knowledge of where and why this system of justice was practised through studying historical and oral accounts, archaeological and place name evidence, and by comparing sites in partner regions.”

During the meeting programme there will be two lectures open to the public. The Shetland lecture will be given by archivist Brian Smith at the Shetland Museum on Thursday at 7.15pm, where he will speak about “Tings in Shetland: myths and realities”.

The Orkney lecture will be given by two speakers at the St Magnus Centre on the Sunday at 7.30pm. Barbara Crawford will discuss “Things, the law and the medieval earls of Orkney” while Victoria Whitworth will explore “The Dead in Court: Law and World-View in the Early Middle Ages”.

While both events are free, booking is advised for the Shetland lecture. Tickets are available from the Shetland Museum on (01595) 695057.


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