When A Broch Becomes A Ting

By Bernie Bell

There are a lot of Brochs in Orkney – a Broch usually being defined as “an Iron Age drystone hollow-walled structure found in Scotland. Brochs belong to the classification ‘complex Atlantic roundhouse”.

There are also some Tings which began as brochs.  A Ting is a Viking parliament where a set of folk who are known for having rather extreme responses to a disagreement, would meet to attempt to settle disputes peaceably and make plans for the good of all – yes, that’s what a Parliament is meant to do and be!

Some of the mounds produced by Iron Age Brochs provided conveniently elevated sites for these gatherings of the Norsemen, and became Tings.

I know of two, there may be more, but I am no archaeologist – too much like hard work – so I’ll just mention the ones that I’m familiar with.

Firstly, our neighbours at Tingwall – notice Tingwall – which is on the border between the parishes of Rendall and Evie, where there is a Broch which became a Ting.

Tingwall is included in the St. Magnus Way and an information board by the ferry slipway tells of how this site plays it part in that the ferry takes Pilgrims from Tingwall to Egilsay, where Magnus was murdered in 1117.  https://www.stmagnusway.com/route/egilsay,

Possible remains of the structure of the broch are visible as there is a dip in the middle of the mound, with slabs of stone which don’t look random.

Then there is Dingieshowe – Ding/Ting – where there is a magnificent Broch/Ting mound, and which is on the border between the parishes of Deerness and St Andrews.  Notice both of these Tings are on the borders of parishes.

On the beach just down from and to the right of the Broch/Ting, in the bank at the top of the beach there’s what looks like it could be a midden heap – possibly associated with the Broch?  It contains limpets and cockles and could be just an old beach level, but it looks like it could possibly be midden.

Midden heaps are often found near Brochs and can reveal many clues about the lives of the folk who lived there – diet, methods of butchery and cooking, and even sometimes ‘treasures’ thrown out with the rubbish by mistake, as still happens today.

Valuable Radio-carbon dating resulted from scrutinizing midden deposits from the Broch at The Cairns, South Ronaldsay….

The Cairns mound never became a Ting, but it really is something, and I, for one,  very much hope that the excavations there can resume next year. Every excavation season reveals more and more of interest……  https://theorkneynews.scot/?s=The+Cairns+broch

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