Revisiting the Norse on the Western Isles from a Landscape Perspective


  • Joseph Thomas Ryder



Historically the research on the relationship between the Norse and Pictish period population of the Western Isles has largely focused on place-name evidence, due to the prevalence of Old Norse place names over Pictish period ones and a scant archaeological record. Placename scholars, as well as archaeologists have traditionally split into two schools of interpretation: a ‘war school’ and a ‘peace school’. The war school argues that the archaeological and place-name material contains proof of a Norse genocide against the Pictish period inhabitants, while the peace school has advocated assimilation or acculturation. In the last few decades excavations and surveys have given a better understanding of the Norse presence on the islands. This article approaches the question of whether the Pictish period population survived, through an archaeological landscape analysis that incorporates settlement sites and uses place-name data. It argues that the landscape displays proof of a surviving Pictish period culture within a dominant Norse society, though this survival as probably asymmetrical and regional.






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