World News – GB – The Viking erasure of language and culture on the Isle of Skye


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PhD candidate Joseph Thomas Ryder of the University of Bergen presented his findings during an online Viking Age conference in Skye at the Highland Archeology Festival

He said Nordic speakers arrived on the islands from around 795 AD, mostly from western Norway, with the newcomers bringing fundamental changes to island life.

By the time the Vikings showed up, the landscape of Skye was populated with underground structures from the Picte era and strewn with burial cists

M Ryder said: “When the Scandinavians arrive the landscape has changed completely We see the end of the Iron Age round houses and you start to see Nordic longhouses which were also built the same as the type that you see in scandinavia

« There is also a return to pagan burials and there is also evidence of Nordic law and land ownership »

He said: « We see that the Norse imported not only their architectural and burial customs, but also their language. The oldest datable place names in Skye are all Nordic

« The replacement of place names from Celtic to Nordic without any real trace of pre-existing names is something unprecedented. I can’t think of any other example

« In England, when the Anglo-Saxons colonized, they retained a large part of the Roman place names. In North America, the colonists retained a lot of Native American place names

« But for some reason in Skye, pre-Nordic place names have been replaced with Nordic names

« This had led to some theories about what happened to the people who were there before the Scandinavians – the Picts, Gaels and Irish Monks

« Some academics claim it was an act of genocide, ethnic cleansing

« On the other hand, some argue that, well, it was probably not very peaceful, but there was a complicated process of assimilation of Picts into Nordic society »

He said 86% of Skye’s place names were of Old Norse origin

M Ryder spoke of several archaeological finds that indicated high-ranking Vikings lived on Skye, including the Storr treasure found near the Old Man of Storr around 200 years ago.

The 10th century treasury contained 19 dirhams, silver coins from the Islamic emirates of Central Asia, which indicated trade routes connecting Scotland over vast distances at the turn of the first millennium

M Ryder said the Tote area on the Trotternish Peninsula was likely one of Skye’s many Viking power centers

Here, evidence of a rare funeral cremation has been found along with grave goods, including a 10th century Irish Sea battle ax and an ivory bead that may have been the product of the hunt with walrus

M Ryder said the burial site was also close to the Nordic ‘thing’ or Glenn Hinnisday’s hangout

He said he believed Skye had several centers of Viking power given that the island was allowed the coveted control of roads and seaports

Vikings, Irish, Ireland, Scandinavians, Celts, Language

News from the world – GB – The Viking erasure of language and culture on the Isle of Skye


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