Culture

Viking Panic! Kilmartin Museum Online Talks

Kilmartin Museum have a excellent selection of online talks on their YouTube channel which they upload and add to regularly: Kilmartin Museum on YouTube

The latest talk, 20th January 2022, was given by Adrian Maldonado and looked at the evidence of the Vikings in the 9th – 12th centuries in Argyll. Although it was set in Argyll, just like the Norse, it ranged further and took in finds from the west coast and up into the northern isles.

Adrian Maldonado explained how the Vikings were able to use the development of new sailing technology to extend their influence: raiding, extensively trading and eventually settling.

This excellent and informative talk described the mixter maxter nature of relations built on trade and settlement which took place over the span of 400 years.

Norse bone comb fragment from the site at Skaill Farm. Photo: UHI Archaeology Institute

Argyll was superbly placed for trade: across to the Western Isles, up to Orkney and further north, down to Ireland; then using the natural formation of the Great Glen to extend trade to the east.

An examination of grave goods illustrated the adoption of ‘native’ art styles and of items which had been brought through their trade routes across Europe.

In some examples, products (perhaps looted) were repurposed – not always destroyed – but adornments taken from their original place and refashioned into items which could be worn. Interestingly the Vikings took the ringed pins of Irish dress, adopted these themselves, over 130 of which can be found in the National Museum of Scotland.

Adrian Maldonado said that a ‘look is being invented’, by blending in the Viking culture with a Celtic one combined with those ‘signalling their travels…showing how fortune favours them.’

Trade and settling disputes through negotiations is how the Vikings came to be so successful in their endeavours. The myth that they were always slashing and crashing needs to be firmly quashed. Their biggest and most lucrative trade was in people. Slavery was big business.

Orkneyinga Saga Trail , sign at Cuween Cairn, Orkney Image credit Bell

When we look at the story of Orkney’s Svein Asleifarson, who did his fair bit of violence, he spent great parts of the year on his farm in Gairsay. Svein Asleifarsson – Orkney’s Last Sea Wolf

The connections between Scotland, Orkney and Norway remain to this day. In the time of the Scottish Wars of Independence it resulted in Orcadians fighting at the Battle of Bannockburn. The Orcadians Who Fought At Bannockburn

Every year in Scotland we join in the celebrations of Norwegian Constitution Day, on 17th of May. And during World War 2 we remember the courage of those who sailed in The Shetland Bus when Norway was under Nazi occupation.

And of course in Orkney the invaders who became settlers were to build St Magnus Cathedral.

St Magnus Cathedral Orkney

Fiona Grahame

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