A Viking Parliament site, also called a “Thing” site, was excavated under a parking lot in Dingwall, Scotland. The area was likely a spot where ancient Norsemen gathered to solve legal issues, uphold laws, and make major political decisions.
Historians long suspected that Dingwall was a site of a Thing because the town’s name likely came from the word thingvellir, which means “the field of the assembly.”
Sites like it have been found around the region from Iceland to Norway and the Shetland Islands, reports LiveScience. Norseman traveled long distances to attend the seasonal gatherings, most often to settle disputes that would otherwise end in war and bloodshed.
Things were often held in open-air fields and people gathered only temporarily, so they left little archaeological trace to show where they were. Oliver J.T. O’Grady, the director of the site’s excavations, commented of the site, “It’s a fantastic find, really. No one’s had dating [information] from a Thing site in Scotland.”
Despite the challenge, NBC News notes that O’Grady and his colleagues at The Thing Project, weren’t deterred, because traces of temporary dwellings were previously found at other Thing sites.
The team used historical records to discover a mound near an estuary in Dingwall that was called the moothill, or assembly mound, in the 13th century. Scottish earls were buried there later on. Local authorities bulldozed the hill in 1947 and turned it into a parking lot.
So, O’Grady and his colleagues dug a small trench across the mound and used radioactive carbon isotopes to date the soil. Most of the upper layers dated to the medieval period and contained shards of pottery and parts of an iron vessel. Below that, the team discovered the first layers that were used to construct the mound, made from soil dating to the 11th century.
No historical documents mentioned a Thing site near the region, and no one knows who built the site. However, the size of the mound suggests it was a huge undertaking that required both resources and political power. It is possible Earl Thorfinn the Mighty was responsible for its creation, as he came down from the Orkney Islands an fought a battle in the region during that time.
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