‘Hugely significant’ discoveries made on final day of excavation to find Shetland’s ancient Viking capital

Archaeological discoveries are getting closer to revealing the ancient Viking capital of Shetland. 

The Skailway project, which has been underway since May when more than £20,000 was raised to fund an excavation, has reported findings of “huge significance”.

Kristian Leith has been hunting for the ancient capital ever since he found five round house structures and 26 human remains while digging foundations for a garden shed  last year.

After his successful crowdfunding appeal, Mr Leith brought in Orkney archaeological  experts, ORCA,  to carry out geophysical surveys in the land between the Mill Brae road and his home in Upper Scalloway.

The first nine trenches came up with nothing – but the last day of the investigation uncovered a structure, which is thought to be part of the ancient settlement. 

While ORCA’s official report is yet to be published, Mr Leith said the discovery shows the settlement is a minimum of 4,000 square metres – much larger than previously thought. 

Mr Leigh said the structure found was of “huge significance” as it had not been disturbed by later medieval burials or modern housing.

And as the excavations only clipped a small section of the structure, Mr Leith said there was an awful lot more left undisturbed to investigate further.

He noted the discovery of two red sandstone whetstones, which he said were similar to discoveries found during a dig in 1990 – and which indicate they date back to 750-1000AD, the Viking period. 

Red sandstone whetstone. 
Red sandstone whetstone. 

“Slowly but surely the story here is unveiling itself and we are getting closer to proving this is indeed the Skailvoigh settlement – the Viking capital of Shetland,” Mr Leith said. 

“Huge thanks to each and everyone of our followers .

“With out your support this would simply not be possible.

Mr Leith said he was looking to set up a charitable company to seek government funding and continue investigating the site. 

He has thanked the photographers who shared the images shown here. 


Add Your Comment
  • CharmaineTaylor

    • July 5th, 2021 2:54

    Thrilling! I will be following the journey from the states; and I wish a smooth digging discovery for all.

  • Pete Durnford

    • July 5th, 2021 21:58

    It’s a given that the best stuff shows up on the final day ….

  • Pete Durnford

    • July 5th, 2021 22:14

    Recall an Uxbridge (London) dig a few years back where a key-hole shaped brick oven was found on the last day (you remember, John Mills ?now SUSSEX Archaeologist)

  • Peter Seymour

    • July 7th, 2021 0:20

    Such photos and the story here, serve to remind us of the rich Norse heritage that yet awaits discovery beneath the soil in our ancient homeland, So many wonderful things to unearth, and add another piece to the jigsaw puzzle of history. Let us hope the funding turns up and willing hands and trowels can be set to work on this exciting project.

  • Patricia Herring

    • July 7th, 2021 17:07

    Articles like these are like a good book and you have to keep reading. Waiting for chapter two! So many things are hidden from us until people like you uncover them slowly and correctly. Thank you.

  • susan Overland

    • July 8th, 2021 5:14

    A wonderful “find” I look forward to reading the updates .


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