Short His­tory

Timeless Travels Magazine - - SCOTLAND -

Orkney has a long his­tory, start­ing in the Mesolithic Age, when hunter­gath­er­ers lived on the is­lands. The Neolithic set­tlers, who ar­rived later (seem­ingly from Caith­ness), re­main mys­te­ri­ous, but are well known ar­chae­o­log­i­cally due to their stone cir­cles, vil­lages, and tombs. Dur­ing the Iron Age, the peo­ple of Orkney con­structed stone round­houses, and then larger round dwellings known as brochs, which can still be vis­ited to­day, and later, around the fourth cen­tury AD, Orkney be­came part of Pic­tish ter­ri­tory, a Celtic cul­ture that had arisen in north­ern Scot­land.

From the ninth cen­tury, Orkney in­creas­ingly fell un­der the con­trol of Norse Vik­ings, who built set­tle­ments and used the is­lands as launch pads for raids fur­ther south. Per­haps the most im­pres­sive mon­u­ment from the Norse pe­riod of rule is St Magnus Cathe­dral in Kirk­wall, built in 1137 un­der Earl Rogn­vald. The re­mains of a Norse set­tle­ment can still be seen on the Brough of Bir­say, an is­land off Main­land that can only be vis­ited at low tide, when a walk­way be­comes ac­ces­si­ble.

By the thir­teenth and four­teenth cen­turies, Orkney’s ties with Scot­land had strength­ened – in the four­teenth cen­tury, for ex­am­ple, though still tech­ni­cally owned by the King of Nor­way, Orkney was ruled by the Sin­clairs of Roslin. Orkney of­fi­cially be­came a Scot­tish earl­dom in the fif­teenth cen­tury. Arte­facts from across Orkney’s long his­tory can to­day be viewed in The Orkney Mu­seum, Kirk­wall.

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