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Community / Viking artefacts found by children in Sandwick gardens

One of the cross-headed pins. Photos thanks to Shetland Amenity Trust

HISTORIC artefacts dating back to Viking times have been found by children in Sandwick.

Three cross-headed pins were found by Lewis Nodroum when he was helping his mum, Beth Cumming, to create a sunken garden.

The pins were found when Lewis was helping to move some stones.

Shetland’s regional archaeologist Val Turner said each pin is different, with the most elaborate piece having a cross carved at one end.

One of the others had an eye and might have been a bone needle, rather than a pin. Pins were usually used to keep clothing in place and were intended to be seen, Turner said.

“Although it is very hard to tell from a few stones at the side of a hole, it is certainly possible that these might be the end of a longhouse,” she added.

“It is very curious that three pins had been lost in the same place, and that there were no other Viking finds. The mystery won’t be solved anytime soon since, if the stonework is a house, it is currently underneath a polycrub.”

Turner said the discovery was made at a house beside the bay which the Ordnance Survey map calls the Sands of Sandwick, from which the village presumably takes its name.

Iris Bartlett and the piece of Viking lamp.

Iris Bartlett, meanwhile, found a piece of a broken Viking lamp in a garden in the Swinister area of Sandwick.

The piece came to light when the eight-year-old’s parents saw the unusual stone in their garden.

They contacted Turner, but Iris said she had already known about the item – which she thought was just a “funny stone”.

Turner said the object is made out of a very fine grained and hard green soapstone.

“It is possible that the stone came from Unst, where the soapstone is green,” she said.

“Alternatively, it may have been imported from Norway. Iris is incredibly excited that her stone was once used by Vikings. They would have probably filled it with fish oil and used the inner pith of a reed as a wick.

“Of course, the presence of a lamp might suggest that there was a house which needed lighting somewhere nearby.”

The archaeologist highlighted that the name of Sandwick comes from the Old Norse for sandy bay.

“It is therefore not surprising that there should be evidence of Vikings here, although archaeologists have found very limited evidence of that,” she said.

“What is more surprising is that, like buses, hints of two different sites in the village have come to light at the same time.”

Anyone who comes across any archaeological finds in Shetland is asked to report them to Val Turner or Jenny Murray at the Shetland Museum and Archives.

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