North Sea Neighbours

We have no idea when the Scandinavian people were first aware of the Shetland Islands but we do now have proof that there was a Viking settlement at Norwick, Unst about 700AD. Jakob Jakobsen suspected this early date from his study of language and place names. More recently dated artefacts from the Norwick ‘rescue dig’ in 2003 tell at least part of the story.

Faroe Boat FD148 c.1903

Faroe Boat FD148 c.1903

Whether these people were raiders initially or looking for a better life, it looks as if in 700AD they had come to stay. About half the steatite material found at Norwick had come from Norway and the other half from Clibberswick in Unst. In the book West Over Sea, archaeologist Beverley Ballin Smith wrote a chapter which she called ‘Norwick: Shetland First Viking Settlement?’. She says – “The evidence (from the artefacts found there) points to a settled existence for the inhabitants, with fishing, weaving, the playing of games, making pottery, cultivating crops and raising domesticated animals being some of the activities that took place there”.