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The Prehistory of the Shetland Islands

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

The Shetland is a Scottish archipelago that, according to history, came under Scottish rule from the Danes after a failed marriage that was to be held between the Princess of Denmark and the Prince of Scotland.

It was common practice in prehistory of the era for people to build using stones and there are many stone relics right from the Neolithic age. There are still many archaeological remains that tell the story so clearly of thousands of years past. These relics have helped to confirm human existence during the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras and even the Bronze Age.

Early evidence of human settlement around the Mesolithic came from past waste dumps also know as middens which was found in West Voe and estimated to have existed around 40 centuries BC. The earliest content of Neolithic age were hoe blades found around Scourd of Broster.

Remains at Staneydale temple are good examples of what could have existed during the Neolithic with some of the ruins being very large and so built as to suggest a well organised population and a relatively dense population for that era.

The Stone Age eventually came to an end and the Iron and bronze Ages took over. Evidence of this era is also not lost in the Shetland with many evidences of this. A site in the Shetland that is well known for its archaeological importance is Jarlshof.

There are wheelhouse and a number of broch that suggest human habitation at this time. Brochs are more common during the Iron Age and their use is not quite clear. Some argue that they are the equivalent for castles that act as fortresses but it still remains unclear what they were used for.

The Pictish lived during the Iron Age and are considered to have occupied most of the northern part of the Shetland islands. The treasures discovered in 1958 by Douglas Coutts in the St Ninian's isle are believed to be Pictish in origin. There remain many works of art and craft that are representative of the Pictish period.

By the 9th century, the Shetland Islands had been taken over by the Scandinavians for the north also known as Norsemen. These Norsemen were later referred to as the Vikings as they occupied the islands and use it to serve as the base for their pirate activities. These pirate activities were focussed mainly against Norway and mainland Scotland. This led the annexation of the area including the Shetland by the Norwegian king. 

While there are a number of relics that are indicative of a particular period in time, there are also many others that are indicative of a transition between different periods. Wonderfully preserved stone relics give a great insight into the prehistory of the Shetlands. There is evidence of Bronze Age artefacts but most show a decline in the building of large structures. 



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