Archaeologists Discover 1,000-year-old Viking ‘Parliament’ in Scotland

Archaeologists Discover 1,000-Year-Old Viking ‘Parliament’ in Scotland
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Archaeologists Discover 1,000-year-old Viking ‘Parliament’ in Scotland

The Viking Parliament, under the parking lot in the city of Dingwall, was found by archaeologists in Scotland from the 11th century.

This finding is uncommon because the majority of Viking meetings were held in open airfields, so finding a more continuous house that was used is quite uncommon.

Map of Scotland, with Dingwall indicated. This is where the 11th century Viking parliament was discovered under a parking lot.
Map of Scotland, with Dingwall, indicated. This is where the 11th century Viking parliament was discovered under a parking lot.

Viking gatherings carried out for legal disputes were known as ‘Things’ which came from the old Norse word ‘ping’ meaning assembly. ‘Things’ were where political decisions were made, laws upheld and disputes settled.

They acted as meeting places and were often the focus for trade and religious activity.

“It’s a fantastic find, really,” said Oliver J. T. O’Grady, the director of the site’s excavations and an archaeologist who runs an archaeological consulting firm called OJT Heritage. “No one’s had dating [information] from a Thing site in Scotland.”

Excavation of an 11th century Viking parliament (‘Thing’) underneath a parking lot in the town of Dingwall.
Excavation of an 11th century Viking parliament (‘Thing’) underneath a parking lot in the town of Dingwall.

Thing sites can be found from Norway to Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Shetland, Orkney, the Highlands of Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Historians had suspected that there may be a site of a Viking parliamentary gathering in Dingwall because the town’s name probably originates from the word ‘Thingvellir,’ which means ‘the field of the assembly.’

Using historical records, the team found a mound near the inlet of an estuary in Dingwall that was called the moothill, or assembly mound, in the 13th century.

The team dug a small trench across the mound and used radioactive carbon isotopes, or atoms of carbon with different molecular weights, to date the charcoal found in the soil.

Digging down a few layers, the team found the soil that had been used to construct the mound, which was dated to the 11th century.

By this period of history, the Vikings were no longer feared marauders sailing the seas and raiding Europe. Instead, the people who gathered at Dingwall were more likely subjects of Norse kings who ruled from the Orkney and Shetland Islands.

Traces of a 13th century iron vessel found the excavation site at Dingwall, Scotland.
Traces of a 13th-century iron vessel found the excavation site at Dingwall, Scotland.

It is only the second time a “Thing” site has been uncovered in the UK.

Historians said the discovery would help them learn more about the Norse Vikings, who battled for control of land across the north of Scotland.


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Jessica Saraceni has been a part of Histecho Since 2018, drawn to the site for its quirky character and through Articles about the Mysteries of earth and human behavior. previously, she was an assistant editor and Research fellow at Archaeology magazine, where she gained an appreciation for the field work. A master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental science from the Center for Archaeological Research, the University of Texas at San Antonio. She enjoys all forms of exercise; reading works by her favorite author, Haruki Murakami; and playing with her sons.