Its biggest festival involves burning a longboat, the local tongue is littered with Scandinavian words, and now Shetland is to become one of the world’s top centres of expertise on Vikings.
The Centre for Nordic Studies, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, has been awarded £17,000 by the Royal Society of Edinburgh to establish the Hjaltland Research Network. Hjaltland is the old Norse name for Shetland.
It will bring together international scholars of place-names, archaeology, folklore and genetics for a research project entitled Mapping Viking Age Shetland. It will physically map Viking sites on Shetland to help preserve them, and look at the depth of cultural and familial links with Scandinavia.
It is also hoped the two-year project will be the blueprint for a much bigger project mapping Viking migration throughout the world. The results will be published online.
Dr Andrew Jennings, from the Centre for Nordic Studies, based in Scalloway, said: “Shetland is the perfect place to study the Viking period. It was in a central position within the Viking world. It has remained a focus for Viking studies, attracting scholars from abroad. However, it has also maintained its own tradition of high-quality research.”