Seminar Template

Evidence for the Vikings in Scotland


Brief description of the evidence:

Two oval brooches that are probably from the grave of a Scandinavian woman in the Viking Age. They were found on Islay in the Inner Hebrides.



Brooches (Backs) from Islay, Inner Hebrides
National Museums of Scotland
SCRAN ID No 000-000-099-676-C


Source of reference for the evidence:

Use your ATHENS account to log in.

Search for: '000-000-099-676-C'.

The brooches are in the National Museums of Scotland.


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

This pair of brass oval brooches was found in 1788 on Islay in the Inner Hebrides. They are almost certainly from the grave of a Scandinavian woman, and date from between 875 to 925. This picture shows the back of the brooches.

These brooches were made from two shells. The inner shells, pictured here from the back, preserve textile impressions of fine cloth and the remains of rivets for attaching both shells. The lugs for the brooch pins are also preserved.

In scotland, the Vikings settled primarily in the Northern and Western Isles, as indicated by placenames, hoards and burials with distinctive grave goods. On Islay, other Viking Age burials have been found, some containing many grave goods.


Significance of the evidence:

The distribution of graves helps to give a picture of where the Vikings settled in Scotland. The fact that these brooches were found in Islay helps show that they mainly settled on islands and coastal districts as they were the easiest to reach by sea. The date of the brooches (approx. 875-925) also gives clear archaeological evidence of the time that they settled. Many of the female graves are characterised by the typical oval brooches (often bronze). It highlights that whole families settled in Scotland and the visits were not merely passing ones. The style of the brooches gives evidence of what they were used for and how they were attached.


Further reading:

Graham-Campbell, James, Viking artefacts. A select catalogue. London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1980, no 118.

Greig, Sigurd, Viking antiquities in Scotland (Viking antiquities in Great Britain and Ireland, Part II, ed. by Haakon Shetelig) Oslo: H. Aschehoug & Co., 1940, pp41-2.

There is a chapter about the Vikings in Scotland in:
Roesdahl, Else. The Vikings. London: Penguin, 1998