big rocks; Christian Vikings

September 18, 2008 at 10:28 am (news)

“Orkney’s Christian Viking Heritage”

Recent excavations have uncovered part of an unconventional Viking Age village on the top of another Orcadian sea stack known as the Brough of Deerness, lying at the eastern extremity of Mainland, Orkney’s principal island. At 30m high and 80m across, it is an unexpected place to find a 10th to 12th-century church surrounded by the foundations of approximately 30 other buildings.

ETA: Please read the comments. Jonathan Jarrett stopped by to bring up a few words of caution about the site dating.



  1. Jonathan Jarrett said,

    I’m going to be putting something up about this myself before long but for now I’d urge caution about the tenth-century end of that date range. As far as I can see from the article, it’s coming from that coin of Edgar—but this far north, that could have been in circulation a long time before it wound up under the church. I wouldn’t like to guess how long… so I think we’re looking at a Viking settlement which later Christianizes, which is interesting but not quite ‘OMG Christian Norse in 959!!1!’ levels of excitement.

  2. Karma said,

    Thank you for this; I’ll keep an eye out for your comments. I’m very interested in but woefully uneducated on the assessment of items of material culture.

  3. Jonathan Jarrett said,

    No problem. Coins do have this problem, that they have a precise date, more or less; so they tend to suck one’s idea of the dating of a layer towards the nice clear figure. But really, unless an authority is making one take in one’s coins to be reminted, they can just run and run. Roman copper coins circulated for a century after the legions left Britain, because they were all that there was; and I’m 32 and I remember very very occasionally seeing Victorian pennies in change when I was a child, and certainly anyone who remembers pre-decimal coinage would tell you that that happened all the time. Wear might give one some idea of how `fresh’ a loss this piece was; but unless it’s also very well-preserved, the site itself may have ruined that possibility.

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