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18 September 2014
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Viking Colonists: Joining the Community

Christian Vikings

Image of Viking coin
The cross on this coin from Viking York suggests there was a Christian community here ©
Critical to this issue are excavations of Pictish sites in use before the Viking Age began. Some farms were abandoned, others were much reduced in size. The evidence seems to suggest that Pictish society was in decline in Orkney in the eighth century, perhaps from epidemics of disease or bouts of civil war, which would have made the Viking takeover of the islands much easier.

It is even possible that the Vikings were welcomed as protectors against the Picts and Gaels of mainland Scotland. Whatever the reason, the Picts of Orkney survived alongside their new political masters. They even influenced the Viking way of life, most notably converting them away from their pagan Nordic gods to Christianity. Pagan burials with their useful array of grave goods ceased soon after 950, a couple of generations before the official conversion of Norway in 995.

The influence of the Vikings on our native population continues to raise many questions about the effects of their colonisation of parts of Britain. Perhaps some of these questions will never have satisfactory answers, but new discoveries, campaigns of excavations on targeted sites and new research into scientific sources of information, such as DNA, will add to our knowledge and help to explain our Viking ancestry.

About the author

Dr Anna Ritchie is an archaeologist and a Viking specialist. She has excavated numerous sites, notably Buckquoy, in Orkney. She is author of Viking Scotland, as well as many other books on Scottish archaeology.


Published: 2004-09-11

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