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Evidence for the Vikings in Scotland


Brief description of the evidence:

Iron shears from Westness, Rousay, Orkney.



Shears from Westness, Rousay, Orkney
National Museums of Scotland
SCRAN ID No 000-190-004-910-C


Source of reference for the evidence:

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Extract of text, or illustration of object or site (URL), for further information:

'This pair of iron shears was found in a Viking woman's grave which was eroding into the sea at Westness [...]. She was buried with a range of grave goods, including tools for producing textiles and personal ornaments, sometime between 850 and 950.

The shears are unusually long. Their form is little different from sheep shears used for the past two millennia. ...'


Significance of the evidence:

Vikings are often regarded as fierce warriors and raiders. The shears show that most Vikings were settlers. The Viking settlement of Scotland begins in the ninth century and this woman may have been an early coloniser of Rousay. The evidence is also significant for the status of women. recently textiles tools in graves have been identified as markers of status, rather than tools for the afterlife. the big shears may have cut pieces of heavy cloth, which was produced by the women and which would have been used at home. The shears may have marked the economic contribution the woman made to the household. Her extensive grave goods, which include an elaborate Celtic pin, show that she was of high status. Her burial is comparable to Scandinavian burials and shows her cultural identity as a belonging to a Scandinavian community (we can never fully exclude the idea that this was a native woman married into a Scandinavian community).


Further reading:

Judith Jesch, Women in the Viking Age , esp. pp. 9-10.