Archaeologists uncover Viking drinking hall on remote Scottish island

Archaeologists have discovered an ancient Viking drinking hall on a remote island in the Scottish Orkney archipelago.

The large Norse Hall was uncovered at Westness on the island of Rousay. Dating to sometime between the 10th and 12th centuries, the hall was discovered below the more recent Skaill farmstead, according to the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute.

The building appears to be more than 42 feet long. Its sturdy 3-foot stone walls are about 18 feet apart. Items discovered during the excavation include soapstone from the Shetland Islands, pottery and a bone spindle whorl.

The name of the site offers a clue as to its history, according to archaeologists.

“The name Skaill suggests the site was home to a Norse hall or drinking hall and was a high-status site,” explains the UHI Archaeology Institute in a statement.

The excavation is part of the project Landscapes of Change — Archaeologies of the Rousay Clearances and Westness Estate.

Although the site is only partly uncovered, archaeologists have already noticed parallels with Norse Halls in other parts of Orkney and mainland Scotland.

Westness is also mentioned in a Viking saga as the home of the chieftain Sigurd.

“The exciting news this season is that we have now found the hall at Skaill, as the place name suggests,” said project co-director Dan Lee in the statement. “You never know, but perhaps Earl Sigurd himself sat on one of the stone benches inside the hall and drank a flagon of ale!”

Other fascinating finds have been made on Rousay. In 2017, for example, experts were thrilled to discover a rare Roman coin on the island. The coin, which is believed to date from the mid-fourth century, was notable because the Romans did not occupy Orkney.

At its height, the Roman Empire extended as far as the Antonine Wall on the Scottish mainland, about 200 miles south of Rousay.

In another project, two Viking boat graves were recently uncovered in Sweden, in what archaeologists are describing as a “sensational” discovery.

And in Scotland, a 900-year-old Viking chess piece that was bought for less than $10 in the 1960s was recently sold at auction for $924,000.

The extremely rare chess piece was bought for 5 British pounds ($6.30) in 1964 by an antique dealer in Edinburgh and then passed down through this family. For years, the Chessman was kept in a drawer at the home of the antiques dealer’s daughter.

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