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Viking assembly places explored

DELEGATES from across northern Europe will be in Shetland today (Thursday) and tomorrow as part of a four day visit to the northern isles to exchange knowledge of Viking assembly sites, known as things, or tings in Shetland.

After two days in Shetland, the Northern Periphery Programme THING project will move on to Orkney to compare assembly sites in both island communities.

The THING project has partners from Shetland, Orkney, Norway, Iceland, Faroe, Highland Scotland and the Isle of Man.

One of the main aims of the three year project, supported by European money, is to develop sustainable management and business structures at Northern European thing sites.

They also explore the possibility of a transnational World Heritage nomination, expanding on Iceland’s existing World Heritage site Thingvellir.

Archaeologist Dr Sarah Jane Gibbon, from Orkney College, said:  “Thing sites form part of our shared North European past and are physical representations of a once, and still, commonly-held perception of governance and justice.

“One of the most exciting aspects of this project is having the opportunity to share our knowledge with other partner regions enabling us to better understand and promote our own local thing sites.”

Shetland Amenity Trust place names officer, Eileen Brooke Freeman, added: “We can identify many of the assembly sites throughout areas of Scandinavian influence by their common ting, thing, ding and fing place names.

“Examples include Gulating (Norway), Þingvellir (Iceland), Tinganes (Faroe), Tingwall (Shetland and Orkney), Dingwall (Highland), Tynwald (Isle of Man).

“This project enables us to develop a much greater understanding and vastly increase our knowledge of where and why this system of justice was practised through studying historical and oral accounts, archaeological and place name evidence, and by comparing sites in partner regions.”

As part of the visit, Shetland archivist Brian Smith will give a lecture entitled ‘Tings in Shetland: myths and realities’ tonight (Thursday), at 7.15pm at the Shetland Museum and Archive.