Secrets of Viking life on Orkney in the distant past could soon be revealed as archaeologists probe ancient artefacts uncovered in two long-lost graves.  

The two burials, dating back more than 1,000 years, were discovered on the northeast coast of Papa Westray in 2015 are now being subject to detailed analysis to shed light on their history and the lives of the their occupants.

Scientific techniques including bone and genetic analysis and radiocarbon dating will be deployed on the rare garves, said Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which could mark the resting places of two of the earliest Viking settlers on the islands. 

The excavations revealed a number of significant finds, including evidence of a rare Viking boat burial, and a second grave richly furnished with weapons including a sword. 

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Similarities with the type of burials and grave furnishings to those previously uncovered suggest the Papa Westray graves may be those of first-generation Norwegian settlers on Orkney

Items found include evidence of a rare Viking boat burial and a grave furnished with weapons including a sword, and experts have indicated the ancient remains may be those of first-generation Norwegian settlers on Orkney.

The Herald:

The sword recovered from one grave

Specialists from Glasgow-based AOC Archaeology hope to gain new insights into the life and death of Vikings in Orkney during the 10th century, said HES, which is funding the post-excavation work.

HES said it will also work with the Ancient Genome Project “to undertake genetic analysis of the discoveries to determine further information about the individuals in the graves, including genetic ancestry and sex, as well as to gain information on their diet and mobility”.

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Dr Kirsty Owen, deputy head of archaeology at HES, said: “Many of the Viking burial sites we know of in Orkney were excavated in the late 19th and early 20th century, meaning that we have a rare opportunity to investigate this discovery with the cutting-edge methods and techniques available to us today.

“We look forward to sharing our findings as the analysis continues, which we hope will enhance our understanding of the rich Viking heritage of Orkney and reveal more about the people who lived on these islands over one thousand years ago.”

Dr Ciara Clarke, deputy managing director of AOC Archaeology, said: “The programme will help us to understand these individuals, their lives and their culture, telling us more about life in Orkney during the 10th century.

“We will be able to compare and contrast the evidence to other Scottish examples, as well as to similar sites from across the wider Viking world.”