During the summer and autumn of 2008, Castletown Heritage Society (CHS) delivered a major community project to investigate possible Viking and Norse heritage around Dunnet Bay on the north coast of Caithness. Early literature, place name evidence and occasional archaeological discoveries indicate that Caithness was an important centre of Viking/Norse activity.
Although direct archaeological evidence of their presence is slight the north and north-east coast of Caithness has produced various forms of evidence, for example Viking graves at Reay and Castletown, a silver hoard from Kirk O'Banks and stray finds at Thurso. Small-scale excavations and fieldwalking suggest evidence for Norse activity in and around Dunnet Bay.
The CHS 'Viking and Norse Heritage Project' (VANH) focused on attempting to define and assess the Viking and Norse presence in and around Dunnet Bay, which stretches between Castletown and Dunnet. The VANH Project formed part of the River of Stone project being undertaken by CHS in association with the Caithness Archaeological Trust. Central to the project is the involvement and training of the local community.
AOC Archaeology Group, one of Scotland's largest archaeological companies, has supported CHS throughout the project and delivered training in all aspects of archaeological fieldwork and post-excavation. As well as undertaking a six-week field project, the programme involved public lectures, training days on artefacts, survey, excavation, post-excavation and publications, web diaries and open days.
Progress during the programme was tracked and presented in the form of a web diary which featured contributions from those taking part, recording their experiences during the field work and workshops. The web diary is currently hosted on the AOC Archaeology website and may be accessed by clicking on the links below:
The project proved to be a tremenduous success, with strong support from members of the local community. Whilst we may not have yet found a major Viking settlement the results of the field work and post excavation workshops are currently being analysed and we will present these shortly. Based on the results further field work will be undertaken during 2009.
To keep track of progress, bookmark this web site and check regularly for developing news.