Strathclyde & the Anglo-Saxons in the Viking Age

Today I was informed by the publisher (Birlinn of Edinburgh) that the book has gone away for printing and binding. The image above is a preview of how it will look.

As soon as it’s published I’ll post a summary and list of contents here.

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3 responses to “Preview

  1. Hi Tim!

    I can’t wait to get a copy of your book.

    Back in the 70s I lived in Dumfries and worked on a small group of upland Viking-period farms near Moniaive (at Craiglearan farm, close to the medieval road that crossed from the valley of the Nith into Ayrshire). As part of my dissertation research on “The Norse Viking Settlement of Southwest Scotland” (unpublished), I did an exhaustive analysis of the placenames of southwest Scotland, focusing on the settlement patterns implied by the names belonging to each ethno-linguistic group (Brythonic / Old Welsh, Gaelic / Old Irish, Old English, Old Norse, Old Danish, and Hiberno-Norse).

    From my research I was able to validate my hypothesis that each group tended to settle on lands that could most easily support their customary and distinctive (economic) way of life.

    Unfortunately, the work was done just before automated database collection and analysis could be done, so all the work was done manually. Ugh. It was a huge effort, although the results were interesting and significant.

    I also believe that the results indicate that the Hiberno-Norse, coming into the region in the late 800’s / early 900’s, not only sought out lands where they could pursue a mixed economy (subsistence farming and animal husbandry), typically in relatively unoccupied upland areas (the better lands were well settled east of the Nith by English speakers [and some Danish speakers] and to the west of the Nith by Gaelic speakers), but also appear to have gotten along relatively well with the existing ethnic groups already long established in the region.

    Unlike other parts of the UK, in this region there does not appear to have been a wholesale replacement of existing populations by Hiberno-Norse or pure Norse speakers, probably because their numbers were also relatively small. However, it does appear that they those groups took over general political control of the region (mainly based on the existence of a Thing at Tinwald, north of Dumfries, where the old Roman road forded the Nith at a late Pleistocene terminal moraine and because of their proximity to more solidly Norse populations on Man and on the other side of the Solway).

    Tinwald is easily accessible from all directions (also being the farthest navigable point up the Nith inland from the Solway) and was a logical place for a Thing to be located. The Thing hill used to be (and may still be) mis-marked on Ordnance Survey maps as a “mote hill”, which it is not.

    I excavated several Viking-period farms at Craiglearan and found examples of large buildings with out-curving side walls on each of the five (??) farmsteads; each farmstead’s infield was defined by a megalithic dry stone wall (with some of the stones being massive) and I presume they were all occupied more-or-less simultaneously (as kind of a small distributed hamlet).

    The only Carbon 14 date we managed to get from Craiglearan Site 2 (which was most extensively excavated) was from AD 975 +/ – 25 years. Unfortunately, because these were poor farmers and probably used items mainly made out of wood – which hasn’t survived – Other than the structures themselves, small artifacts were virtually non-existent (a broken whetstone and what appeared to be the type of iron nail / washer used in clinker ship construction). One of the large buildings with out-curving side walls appears to have been a barn and / or a byre, with a well-laid centrally paved path, small drainage gutters on both sides of the central path, and large flat stones laid on edge periodically along the path to serve as stall divides for animals. A porch was later added to the down-wind end, with a transverse door opening, to preclude wind blowing right through the length of the structure when a doors was opened at the windward end.

    I believe the farms were occupied into and thru the climatic optimum, after which the growing season became too short and the climate too wet / cold to allow viable farming at that altitude, and evidenced by the addition of drains to the buildings, causing the eventual abandonment of the upland farmsteads probably in the late 1100’s / early 1200’s (when the farms began moving farther down the glen, close to where the current farmstead is located; the approximate site of a predecessor to the current farm house [built in the 1880’s] is noted on the earliest map of the area, plotted in the late 1400’s / early 1500’s (I forget the exact date – sorry).

    In any event, based on the placenames, there appear to have been Gaelic, Hiberno-Norse, Old Norse, Old English and Old Danish speakers living side-by-side in the region after the 800’s. West of the Nith, there were mainly Gaelic and Hiberno-Norse, whereas there seems to have been a real hodge-podge of Norse, English and Danish speakers east of the Nith, all the way over to near Carlisle.

    Anyhow, I’m really anxious and curious about your book and to discover how your findings relate to what I hypothesized and tested for settlement patterns in the Southwest (predominately what’s now Galloway and Dumfries).



    Sent from my iPad



    • This is really fascinating stuff, Craig. Your dissertation sounds like an important piece of research.

      Tinwald is one of those places I’ve had on my list for a while, as somewhere I should get around to visiting. It came up on my radar again last year when I was involved with a project looking at the potential thing site at Govan (Doomster Hill). Your comments have made me want to visit it sooner rather than later.

      Thanks for expressing interest in my book. By way of a disclaimer, I ought to mention that the main focus is political (kings, wars, treaties, etc) rather than archaeological, so it’s a bit thin on material culture. It does include some place-name info but this mostly relates to the south side of the Solway Firth. I would however like to study Dumfriesshire in more detail – probably a separate project for the future.


  2. Part of my father’s family came from Tinwald. Dad always said he was a Viking. Certainly he was very strongly built, liked sailing, and could be short-tempered. What more evidence could possibly be needed? 🙂


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