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Updated: Aug 24, 2021

The secrets of two elaborate Viking graves discovered in Orkney are set to be unlocked as analysis of the burials gets underway.

Os segredos de dois raros túmulos vikings serão revelados
The inside of the Viking grave with the remains of what is believed to be a large man, who was buried with a sword placed over his body. PIC: HES.
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Human remains were found on the north east coast of Papa Westray, Orkney back in 2015, with it now believed the burials may have been part of a wider Norse-era cemetery.

A rare Viking boat burial and a second grave of a man furnished with weapons - including a sword – were found at the site.

The 10th Century graves may be those of first-generation Norwegian settlers on Orkney, given similarities to other burials, it is now believed.

Post-excavation analysis will now be undertaken of the graves and their contents by AOC Archaeology after funding was secured from Historic Environment Scotland.

Dr Ciara Clarke, Deputy Managing Director of AOC Archaeology, said: “The programme will help us to understand these individuals, their lives and their culture, telling us more about life in Orkney during the 10th century. We will be able to compare and contrast the evidence to other Scottish examples, as well as to similar sites from across the wider Viking world.

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“We are excited to be embarking on this project and look forward to working with Historic Environment Scotland , and an enthusiastic team of experts including Dr Stephen Harrison of Glasgow University, to record, study and analyse the evidence contained in these Viking Age burials."

The age of those buried at Papa Westry will be determined using bone analysis with their sex and genentic ancestry to be established through the Ancient Genome Project. Diet and movement of the Vikings will also be researched using the latest scientific techniques.

The remains of the graves were found at Mayback, Papa Westray in 2015 when renovations were being made to a house.

In April that year, the remains of the boat burial were found with the second burial discovered nearby a couple of months later.

Preliminary investigations suggested the second grave belonged to a large man, buried in a crouched position with a large broad sword laid across his body with traces of what appears to be a scabbard also found.

A possible spearhead, a cluster of iron objects behind the head that could be arrowheads and a wooden shield with an iron boss were recovered.

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A fuller picture of the graves, and what they can tell of Viking life in Orkney, is now set to emerge.

Dr Kirsty Owen, Deputy Head of Archaeology at HES, said “We are delighted to be funding the work on this exciting project with AOC Archaeology, which we hope will shed new light on the Viking communities in Orkney during the 10th century.

“Many of the Viking burial sites we know of in Orkney were excavated in the late 19th and early 20th century, meaning that we have a rare opportunity to investigate this discovery with the cutting-edge methods and techniques available to us today.

“We look forward to sharing our findings as the analysis continues, which we hope will enhance our understanding of the rich Viking heritage of Orkney and reveal more about the people who lived on these islands over one thousand years ago.”

SOURCE: The Scotsman

Campsie, Alison. “Secrets of rare Viking graves on Orkney set to be unlocked”. The Scotsman. Ediburgh. 22 jul. 2021. 22 jul. 2021. <>.

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