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Norse place-names for farms, individual landscape features and general landscape areas are ubiquitous throughout the Orkney Islands. These have an origin during the mediaeval period AD790–1350 when Orkney was ruled by Scandinavian earls. The oldest referenced maps for the parish of Harray (West Mainland, Orkney) suggests that in the past significant waterways crossed wetlands extending between the Loch of Harray and Houseby in an area associated with the earldom power base at Birsay. Subsequent drainage projects, changes in climate and sea level have since resulted in the loss of the waterways. An investigation of the wetlands using geophysical and geological analysis provided a reconstruction of the palaeo-environments. Comparison with place-names of significance allowed interpretation of possible routeways along navigable waters by shallow-draught Viking-Age vessels. The results allow for re-drawing the map of Norse Orkney and postulation of produce transfer corridors from estates in the south to the power centre at Birsay.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Wetland Archaeology
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date4 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Aug 2020


  • Norse
  • Orkney
  • Viking
  • Vessel
  • Waterway
  • Palaeo-environment


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