From the mid-9th century AD, much of Northern and Western Scotland including Caithness, Orkney, and Shetland together with much of Northern England and Western Ireland, was settled by newcomers from Scandinavia. Today we call these people the Vikings.
In 1786, a pagan Viking Age grave was found in Castletown in the fields where the barley which we will use to make Stannergill Whisky is being grown. The grave was found on the top of a grass-covered conical mound, thought to have been a broch – an Iron Age monumental stone-built, hollow-walled, roundhouse with scarcement ledges for secondary flooring. Broadly speaking the motivations for broch-building can be interpreted as mainly defensive or mainly socio-economic.
The burial chamber is to the left side of the photograph
The Viking Age grave contained a pair of 10th century oval brooches, a lignite arm-ring, and a bone bodkin. No skeletal material was found in the grave, so it was ‘sexed’ as female based on the artefacts found in the grave which included jewellery and tools connected with textile production. This process is rather ‘random’ and based on ‘traditional’ ideas of what type of artefact constitutes male or female. In modern archaeology where skeletal material is found osteological analysis based on the measurement and descriptions of bones, and a visual assessment of the morphological characteristics of the skeleton is used to determine the biological sex of the deceased person.