Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Moothill of Dingwall

It has long been suspected that the small Scottish town of Dingwall was the site of a Norse assembly place during the period of Viking settlement across the north. The obvious source of the name would be Thingvellir, the Old Norse word for a place where people met to settle lawsuits and do other business.

There is even a mound once called the Moothill, which is so perfect that it chills my blood, even if it has become a car park. Last year archaeologists decided to dig into the mound to see what they could find, and they found charcoal that dates the mound to the 11th century. (And see here.) So the Vikings did indeed build it, quite likely to provide a place for speakers to stand during moots. This sort of work -- tracking down and combining clues from place names, old documents like the 13th-century charter that names this place Moothill, the notes of Victorian archaeologists, and contemporary fieldwork to reconstruct the past -- is my favorite sort of scholarship, and my fantasy of how I will spend my retirement.

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