Royal Society of Edinburgh backs new research into Viking age Shetland

A new research project is being set up to further explore the Viking age in Shetland, including the origins of the Norse settlers and when, and where, they first established their communities.

The Centre for Nordic Studies, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, has been awarded £17,000 from the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) to establish the Hjaltland (old Norse for Shetland) Research Network. This will bring together international scholars of place-names, archaeology, folklore and genetics to plan a research project entitled Mapping Viking Age Shetland. Results will be published online.

Dr Donna Heddle, director of the Centre for Nordic Studies in Orkney and Shetland, said: “We’re aiming to answer some outstanding questions about Viking Age Shetland, including the date of Viking settlement, the origins of the Norse settlers, and the intensity of settlement. Findings will be presented in a conference and book, as well as online for the public.”

The project will be led by Dr Andrew Jennings, post-doctoral research associate with the Centre for Nordic Studies, based in Scalloway. He has written extensively on Viking place-names and Shetlandic folklore.

He added: “Shetland is the perfect place to study the Viking period. It was in a central position within the Viking world. It has remained a focus for Viking studies, attracting scholars from abroad. However, it has also maintained its own tradition of high quality research in history, place-names and archaeology. It is going to be exciting drawing these together.”

Professor David Gray, director of Shetland College UHI and the NAFC Marine Centre UHI, said: “This project is fantastic news for the centre and is recognition of the great work the team is doing in understanding the importance the Vikings played in shaping the cultural heritage of Shetland and its people.”


Add Your Comment
  • Ted Knight

    • March 28th, 2011 12:58

    At last, a reality check and the final nail in the coffin of Shetland’s spurious UP-HELLY-Aa nonsense?

    Can’t wait for this report.

  • Ian Williamson

    • March 29th, 2011 2:46

    Wha is dis Ted Knight?? Needs a float test aff da end o da Steamer Pier!!

  • Colin Hunter

    • March 29th, 2011 14:30

    I tink he most be wan o’ da AFB (Arty Farty Brigade) by what he said aboot me whin I wis slatin da AFB an Mareel in me poem. My answer is, if he doesns laek whit he fins here, dere’s a boat leavin’ Holmsgarth every night! I’m sure da Jarl Squad wid be happy tae escort him aboard!

  • Keith Veness

    • March 29th, 2011 22:57

    Interesting – but there is now some fairly compelling evidence from both genetics and linguistics that the so-called “Viking Age” was only the last of a long list of Norse / Scandanavian settlement in Shetland.

    Mitochondrial DNA testing of Shetland ponies shows the little blighters are not only closely related to the fjord ponies of Norway but have lived in Shetland for 7,000 to 8.000 years so someone must have bought them!

    There is little doubt that the first settlers of the Isles were related to the picts but norse settlement happened far earlier than the accepted 800 to 900 C.E. dates usually quoted. Also, unlike Iceland and the Faeroes, norse men and women settled in equal numbers in Shetland – so celebrate Up Helly Aa but how about equal gender numbers marching? [Now that is a real blasphemy!]

  • Ted Knight

    • March 30th, 2011 10:58

    Ian Williamson – as an ex Royal Navy Seaman and Trawlerman, I can assure your good self that I would pass what you term as a “float test” without difficulty

    However, I DO have a slight problem with your alarming grammar and spelling – might I suggest, therefore, a period (lengthy) of night school remedial English language lessons?

  • Ron Stronach

    • March 30th, 2011 12:52

    What on earth could make Ted Knight happy? A Move to Orkney perhaps or back to where ever he came from?

    What is so wrong with Lerwick and Up Helly Aa, its a colourful festival that’s unique outside of Shetland? If you dont like it dont go!
    If you want to live in Shetland Live with it!

    I am a Shetlander, I have taken part many years ago, its great. Has Mr. Knight been refused a place in a squad??? Is yun dee missanter?

  • Colin Hunter

    • March 30th, 2011 16:18

    Dirs naethin wrang wi Ian Williamsons grammar or spellin at I can see. Dir wis a questin in da Census form dat axed whither or no we could understaand, speak, read an’ write “Scots”. Da answer tae dat questin in his case is obviously “YES”, which is what we wir meant ta pit if you spak da dialect. Dis is Shetland Mr Knight, so, Whin in Rome etc! If du’s needin a translation, TOUGH!

  • Ted Knight

    • March 30th, 2011 20:10

    Can’t stop laughing down here in Chelsea Harbour – got out the rod and line and reeled in three juicy fillets ………….wow!

  • Charles Tait

    • April 4th, 2011 10:24

    Weel I pit “no” fur “Scots” and “Orcadian” in “other”. £17k is not a lot to finance such a study. The last placename thing I read was by someone from ABZ University who pretty obviously just looked at the OS map which is a 19th century naval officer’s estimate of names.

    As for when the Vikings first arrived, well really who knows? I think that people from the north knew far more about what was over the sea than than archaeologists would like to believe. Iceland was known about at least 1300 years before the Norse got there.

    Anyway down here the talk is not of Vikings but of total industrialisation of our seascape. The Crown Estate has leased our sebed and wants to have giant yellow things bobbing about off Birsay and the west coast – just the most popular area for visitors.

    But recall salmon farms which were once the rage……………..

    Maybe we should sell the cooncil and export the whole lot to, well, how about Prince William Island?


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