Ceilidh Lerwick

Vikings, Picts and Scots: Biocultural Identity in Medieval Scotland

Supervisors: Jo Buckberry and Julie Bond

Relatively prolific evidence of Norse settlement in England and Ireland have been used to form a model of Norse influence in Scotland. However, the scattered and modest nature of the archaeology in Scotland suggests that a model based on sites such as York or Dublin could be a bit presumptuous. Are the assumed facts about the Scottish-Norse contact as credible as previously accepted, or is there another reality just waiting to be discovered?

Grave deposits are an important source of knowledge about the life left behind, information that is unrivalled in artefact data alone; yet the human osteology of Scottish Norse era burials has been poorly researched and no compilation or systematic, synthetic study of the osteological data has been undertaken.  A key issue to be resolved will be to view these remains in the context of medieval Scotland and not medieval England or Ireland.

This dissertation will assemble an archive of the excavated data, to investigate the variety of burial practices employed. It will then analyse the skeletal and material information and assess its significance in understanding the nature of the Norse settlement in Scotland.   Preservation being an issue, human skeletal finds are scattered and mainly found in the islands and shoreline areas of the country.  Once all the skeletal remains have been traced, they will be assessed to establish sex and age. Evidence of health, disease and trauma will be evaluated.  In summary, this dissertation will investigate the human osteology of the Norse in Scotland to determine the role of the role the Norse played in the development of the Scottish identity.

Last Updated:24 June 2011