Skip Navigation

Viking Congress 1989 – Caithness and Orkney

Date:

22 August – 1 September.

Themes:

The Viking Age in Caithness, Orkney and the North Atlantic.

Patron:

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.

Organising Committee:

Michael P. Barnes, Colleen E. Batey (joint Organising Secretary), Christine Fell, James Graham-Campell, Christopher D. Morris (joint Organising Secretary) Donald Omand (Local Secretary), Raymond I. Page, Allan Small, David M. Wilson (Chairman).

Congress Secretary: Janet Mowat.

National Representatives:

Denmark:

Iceland: Guðmundur Ólafsson, Guðrún Ása Grímsdóttir

Ireland:

Norway:

Sweden: Björn Ambrosiani, Helmer Gustavson

UnitedKingdom:

Members of the congress:

Excursions:

Sponsors:

The Binks Trust; the British Academy; Dame Bertha Philpotts Fund, Cambridge University; the Highlands and Islands Development Board’s Social Fund.

Notes:

Members and Associates of The Eleventh Viking Congress generally arrived in Thurso, Caithness on Tuesday, 22 August 1989, although some appeared to travel more in hope than expectation of arrival at this destination. Some indeed took longer than expected to arrive, in part due to British Airways’ newly-introduced policy of flying only nine-seater planes between Aberdeen and Wick, and in part due to other, more complex reasons. At least one arrived earlier than expected. For those who did arrive on time there was the opportunity of partaking in a Thurso Town Walkabout, the first of a number of tours and excursions undertaken during the Congress which appear below in the Congress Diary.

The arrangements for this Congress were rather more complex than usual, as it was a two-centre affair, with a crossing of the Pentland Firth (mercifully calm!) to Orkney on 25 August. The full Congress continued until 28 August, concluding with a Congress Dinner at the Kirkwall Hotel. Members then either returned home on 29 August, or joined a three-day post-Congress Tour, departing on 1 September.

There was a very full programme of lectures and excursions, and many of the former have been included in revised forms in this volume. The title reflects the major themes examined throughout the Congress, but there were other papers delivered on English, Irish and Scandinavian themes. These have not been included in this volume, partly on grounds of size and practicability, and partly on grounds of overall coherence for the published Proceedings. We also miss a few papers prepared for, or delivered at, the Congress, but not delivered to the Editors. We hope these are published elsewhere. We give our thanks for their contributions at the Congress to: Per Sveaas Andersen, Raymond Page, †Thomas Fanning, †Torben Kisbye, Karl Inge Sandred, Brian Smith, Mjöll Snæsdóttir, Anne-Sofie Gräslund, Inger Zachrisson, Irmelin Martens, Gerd Stamsø Munch, Else Roesdahl, Björn Ambrosiani, Brita Malmer, Kolbjørn Skaare, Gro Steinsland, Helmer Gustavson and Lennart Elmevik.

An innovation at this Congress was the invitation to a number of British postgraduates working in the field of Viking Studies to take part at a subsidised rate: they contributed to the life of the Congress in several ways, some time-honoured, but also some by means of poster-sessions on their own researches. These were well-received and the Committee hopes that future Congresses may continue to highlight the work of the younger generations of Viking scholars by turning the innovation into a tradition.A long tradition of Viking Congress parties was upheld, and we are grateful to the Caithness District Council, Highland Regional Council, Orkney Islands Council, Durham University, and the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Consulates for their generous hospitality. In particular, we acknowledge with thanks the formal welcomes by Councillors John Young and Edwin Eunson, Convenors of the Caithness District and Orkney Islands Councils respectively, and by the Highland Regional Council, through Messrs Ron MacDonald and Ross Noble. The highlight was without doubt the Official Reception by our Royal Patron at The Castle of Mey. The personal interest in the Congress of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother is, we hope, reciprocated in our choice of frontispiece, and we acknowledge the gracious permission granted for the reproduction of Her Majesty’s photograph.

Special thanks are due to the various guides on the excursions, including members of the Committee, but most particularly Robert Gourlay and Raymond Lamb, Regional Archaeologists for Highland Region and Orkney Heritage Society respectively. Raymond, in particular, in the planning of the memorable Sunday excursion on board Orcadia to Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre, and of the post-Congress Tours, gave unstintingly of his time and expertise to assist the Organising Secretaries. Donald Omand and Janet Mowat of Aberdeen University’s Centre for Continuing Education at Braal in Halkirk acted as the lynchpins of the local organisation before, during and after the Congress; the rest of the Organising Committee owe them a deep debt of gratitude. We also wish to acknowledge the practical assistance of the Secretaries of the Departments of Archaeology at Durham University and Glasgow University and of Medieval Archaeology at University College London: Sheila Brown, Norma Wakeling and Angela Morrell.

We acknowledge with much appreciation here the following bodies for their grants for the organisation of the Congress: The Binks Trust; The British Academy; The Dame Bertha Philpotts Fund, Cambridge University and The Highlands and Islands Development Board’s Social Fund. Generous grants and subventions towards the publication of this volume are acknowledged above.

Finally, the energy and inspiration of our Chairman, Sir David Wilson, must be acknowledged; his organisation of the business of Committee meetings is legendary and his choice of venues always apt. He has been a member of many Viking Congresses, the leading British scholar in Viking studies of his generation and internationally acclaimed. As he has now left the leadership of the British Museum to take well-earned retirement, we salute his achievement and hope that he will regard the publication of these papers as a suitable leaving present from his friends and fellow-members of the Viking Congress.

CHRISTOPHER D. MORRIS

On behalf of the Organising Committee

Congress Diary:

NOTES ON FIELD EXCURSIONS EDITED BY CHRISTOPHER D. MORRIS

As is traditional at Viking Congresses, in addition to the formal sessions when papers were presented (a selection of which are printed in this volume), a number of excursions to sites, monuments and museums were made. As a significant number of these places were unknown to many visitors, and as details of them are often difficult to track down, it was decided to include brief accounts of them (usually based on handouts prepared for the Congress) as a more permanent record for members of the Congress, and as a point of reference for purchasers of the volume. In some cases, the texts were prepared specifically for the Congress, and in some cases they were reproduced by the authors from other publications of their own. If the latter is the case, then the source has been given, and grateful thanks given for their reproduction here. Two general maps have been provided, one for each area, supplemented by other illustrative material as appropriate. These also serve as location maps for subsequent chapters.

Congress Proceedings:

The Viking Age in Caithness, Orkney and the North Atlantic. Select Papers from the Proceedings of the Eleventh Viking Congress, Thurso and Kirkwall, 22 August – 1 September 1989. Ed. Colleen E. Batey, Judith Jesch, Christopher D. Morris. Edinburgh University Press. 1993.

Contents:

The Eleventh Viking Congress, Caithness and Orkney, 1989
Royal Patron and Organising Committeeviii
Members and Associatesxi
  
Forewordxv
1 Congress Diary1
Notes on Field Excursions. Edited by Christopher D. Morris
Caithness1
Orkney 42
2 The Landscape of Caithness and Orkney.102
DONALD OMAND
3 Before the Vikings. The Pre-Norse Background in Caithness.111
ROBERT B. GOURLAY
4 Caithness. An Onomastic Frontier Zone.120
DOREEN WAUGH
5 Norse Earls and Scottish Bishops in Caithness129 
A Clash of Cultures. BARBARA E. CRAWFORD
6 The Viking and Late Norse Graves of Caithness and Sutherland148
COLLEEN E. BATEY
Appendix: The discovery of a child burial of probable Viking-Age date
on Kneep headland, Lewis 1991: interim report165
TREVOR G. COWIE, MARGARET BRUCE and NEILL KERR 
7 The Northern Hoards of Viking-Age Scotland173
JAMES A. GRAHAM-CAMPBELL
8 Silver Storage and Circulation in Viking-Age Scotland187 
The Evidence of Silver Ingots. SUSAN E. KRUSE
9 FINNBOGI GUÐMUNDSSON On the Writing of Orkneyinga saga204
10 The Sea, The Flame and The Wind212
The Legendary Ancestors of the Earls of Orkney. PREBEN MEULENGRACHT SØRENSEN  
11 Englandand Orkneyinga saga222
JUDITH JESCH
12 Earl Rognvald and the Rise of Saga Literature240
OLE BRUHN
13 The Orkney Earl and Scald Torf-Einarr and his Poetry248
ELSE MUNDAL
14 Carolingian Orkney and itsTransformation260
RAYMOND G. LAMB
15 Some Aspects of Early Viking Settlement in Orkney272 
JOHN R. HUNTER, JULIEM. BOND and ANDREA M. SMITH
16 The Birsay Bay Project: A Résumé285
CHRISTOPHER D. MORRIS
17 The Settlement ofWestness, Rousay308
SIGRIDH. H. KALAND
18 Tuquoy, Westray, Orkney. A Challenge for the Future?318
OLWYN A. OWEN
19 Some Settlement Patterns in Medieval Orkney340
WILLIAM P. L. THOMSON
20 The Interpretation of the Runic Inscriptions of Macshowe349
MICHAEL P. BARNES
21 Two Runic Inscriptions from Orphir, Orkney370
JAN RAGNAR HAGLAND
22 Orphir Church in its South Scandinavian Context375
IAN FISHER
23 Orkney Norn381
A Survey of ‘Taboo’ Terms
ALEXANDER FENTON
24 The Lord’s Prayer in Orkney and Shetland Norn388
LAURITS RENDBOE
25 Some Orkney Personal Names397
GILLIAN FELLOWS-JENSEN
26 Shrieks at the Stones408 
The Vikings, the Orkneys and the Scottish Enlightenment
ANDREW WAWN
27 Viking-Age Sketches and Motif-Pieces from the NorthernEarldoms423 
UAININN O’MEADHRA
28 Archaeological and Ethnohistoric Evidence of a Norse IslandFood Custom441
GERALD F. BIGELOW
29 Problems Concerning the Earliest Settlement in the Faroe Islands454
HANS JACOB DEBES
30 On the Landnam of the Faroe Islands465
SÍMUN V. ARGE
31 Viking-Age Faroe Islands and their Southern Links in the Light of Recent Finds at Toftanes, Leirvik.473 
STEFFEN STUMMANN HANSEN
32 Shielings and their Role in the Viking-Age Economy487 
New Evidence from the Faroe Islands
DITLEV L. D. MAHLER
33 An Insect’s Eye-View of the Norse Farm506 
PAUL C. BUCKLAND, JON P. SADLER and DAVID N. SMITH
34 GreenlandRunes: Isolation or Cultural Contact?528
MARIE  STOKLUND
35  Settlement Mounds in the North Atlantic544