Issue: The Biggings Papa Stour Shetland: the history and archaeology of a royal Norwegian farm

Publication Type
15_1999_CRAWFORD_Biggings.pdf (96 MB): Download (90 MB): Download
Author Barbara E Crawford
Beverley Ballin-Smith
Editor Alexandra N Shepherd
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Other Person/Org Lyn Blackmore (Author contributing)
Paul C Buckland (Author contributing)
Simon Buttler (Author contributing)
Camilla A Dickson (Author contributing)
Kevin J Edwards (Author contributing)
Carole A Morris (Author contributing)
Anthony Newton (Author contributing)
Sonia O'Connor (Author contributing)
Penelope Walton-Rogers (Author contributing)
Andrea N Smith (Author contributing)
Catherine Smith (Author contributing)
Hans-Georg Stephan (Author contributing)
Birthe Weber (Author contributing)
Graeme Whittington (Author contributing)
Robert S Will (Author contributing)
J W Allen (Author contributing)
Torben Bjarke Ballin (Author contributing)
Donald Bateson (Author contributing)
Helen Bennett (Author contributing)
Gordon T Cook (Author contributing)
R M M Crawford (Author contributing)
Anthony Crawshaw (Author contributing)
Andrew J Dugmore (Author contributing)
Alexander Fenton (Author contributing)
Christopher Harrison (Author contributing)
Julian Henderson (Author contributing)
John Hirst (Author contributing)
Denys Pringle (Author contributing)
D J Rackham (Author contributing)
Paul Wilthew (Author contributing)
F R Woodward (Author contributing)
Year of Publication 1999
Volume 15
Number of Pages: 268
ISBN 0 903903 15 6
Source The British & Irish Archaeological Bibliography (BIAB)
Monograph Chapter Title Sort Order Both Arrows Access Type Author / Editor Page
Start/End Sort Order Up Arrow
Barbara E Crawford
Beverley Ballin-Smith
1 - 8
This chapter outlines the natural setting for Papa Stour, its location in Shetland and the environmental factors and features which dictate its nature as much today as in the past. There are separate sections on location, geology, climate, soils, vegetation and natural fauna.
Barbara E Crawford
9 - 23
This chapter sets the scene with a brief description of the island before the arrival of the Vikings. This is followed by a detailed section on the Viking Age which includes information on Norse settlement. There are also sections on the position of Shetland within the Orkney political structure, subsequent severance from the earldom of Orkney, the establishment of administrative structures, and social, cultural and ecclesiastical links northwards. Changes in the later medieval period include the inclusion of Shetland under the Scottish crown. A final section considers the importance of fishing to Shetland in the post-medieval period.
Barbara E Crawford
24 - 46
The former presence of man is visible everywhere on Papa Stour. Prehistoric homesteads and enclosure lies uncovered across the landscape west of the Dyke Hill showing that far more of the island was under some sort of cultivation at a time of better climatic circumstances. Tumuli, burned mounds, a cremation cemetery, and a chambered cairn on Round Hill provide monumental archaeological evidence of prehistoric populations all over the island. A possible broch (Muckle Heogan) indicates Iron Age populations, as does the 'Erd House' (earth-house') recorded on older maps at Northouse, now completely eroded away. This chapter considers the historical and place-name evidence for settlement on the 'Papar' from before the Norse period right the way through to the 19th century.
Barbara E Crawford
47 - 61
This chapter considers the document which is the first extant example to have been written in Shetland. Its survival is both surprising and significant. A historical assessment is followed by a translation of the text and it is placed into the broader historical context in which the distant administration of the Norwegian Duke Hakon regulated and controlled events in Shetland. The document opens a window onto the whole complex world of medieval Norwegian land assessments and the skat and rental incomes levied on the basis of such assessments. It also provide evidence for the existence of a building called stofa at the Duke's farm on Papa Stour. It was this reference which led to the excavation on the island in the hope of locating the ducal farm and maybe even this particular building.
Barbara E Crawford
Beverley Ballin-Smith
62 - 96
This chapter describes how the location of the excavations was chosen, summarises the six seasons of excavation and the manner in which the trenches were laid out. There then follows a detailed archaeological description. The stratigraphy of the main site (east end) is separated into seven phases: phase 1 - earliest activity represented by pits and a stone alignment; phase 2 - the first wooden building, the dyngja; phase 3 - the new wooden building, the stofa; phase 4 - later use of the phase 3 stofa; phase 4-5 - pit construction within the stofa area; phase 5 - building of a new stone structure; phase 6 - 19th-century features and building of the croft-house, the gorl; phase 7 - modern features. In the western half of the main site seven phases of activity were identified: phase 2 - remnant structures: a skali (hall) and possible eldhus (cookhouse); phase 3 - further construction: a new eldhus and skali; phase 3-4 - pit construction and abandonment of phase 3 skali; phase 4 - construction of a new dwelling-house and ancillary building; phase 4-5 - further pit construction; phase 5 - further new construction, a re-aligned dwelling-house; phase 6 - final activities in the western area.
97 - 124
Preservation was favourable towards the plant remains at the expense of the faunal. The acid conditions of the site, with the deposition and possible growth of peat, favoured the preservation of wood, wooden objects, seeds, textiles and also pollen. Conditions that caused the almost total destruction of metal objects also largely removed animal bone and shell. An overview of the environmental evidence is followed by specialist reports on soil pollen studies, plant remains, pollen analysis, wood, cereals, weeds of arable and waste ground, plants of grassland, heaths and mires, seaweed, wood tar/pitch and possible bituminous substances, animal bone, insect fauna and molluscs.
125 - 206
This section concerns the use of local resources for the manufacture of objects, tools, and equipment used in daily life at the Biggings, the material needed for the construction of the buildings, and imported goods. It also includes a range of objects and materials brought to the island which would have supplemented the limited local resources. Represented here are a broad range of goods which were imported from as far away as England, Scandinavia and the continent of Europe. Much of this chapter is concerned with exploring the evidence phase by phase to show a changing picture through time of the various activities and contacts experienced on Papa Stour. An overview is followed by specialist reports on a variety of artefacts: steatite vessels, bakestones and other objects; ceramics; other ceramic objects (clay pipe and tile), glass (vessels, beads and window glass), metal (copper alloy, silver, lead, iron, slag), stone (amber, coal and jet, flint, quartz, jasper, pumice, rhyolite); late Norse and medieval woodworking, wooden artefacts and products; textile, yarn and fibre; horn artefacts.
Barbara E Crawford
Beverley Ballin-Smith
207 - 238
This chapter presents a phased summary of the building history on the site. This is followed by a detailed discussion of the buildings by phase with comparisons as appropriate. Each of the buildings is placed into its historical context.
Barbara E Crawford
239 - 248
The final discussion attempts to draw some meaningful conclusions combining the results of two diverse approaches to the study of the past and to evaluate the how successful the project has been in combining these two sources into a coherent study of the medieval and early modern communities living and farming at the Biggings. The important contribution of the environmental and artefactual material is also considered.
249 - 263
265 - 268
This study of a royal Norwegian farm on the Shetland island of Papa Stour was inspired by a document of 1299 recording the meeting between a Norwegian royal official and a woman who had accused him of treachery to his royal master. Place-name evidence suggested that the building where this meeting took place (described as the 'stofa', a log-timbered house imported from Norway) was most probably located at the Biggings, on the east of the island. Excavations there between 1977 and 1990 uncovered evidence for a succession of buildings, amongst them a timber-built structure whose style and dating identified it as the 'stofa' of the 1299 document. This volume details this and the other structures preserved on the site as well as the range of artefacts, including wood and textiles, pottery and steatite vessels, and the micro- and macro-botanical material. it places the archaeological evidence from the site against the background of the changing political and economic history of Shetland in its Norwegian, Hanseatic and Scottish phases, providing an insight into the story of this enduring community from its high-status moment as an important centre of Norwegian administration through to its 19th-century decline and survival into the present day.
Barbara E Crawford
This section presents the background to the research project, the multi-disciplinary approach, the programme of post-excavation research and the structure of the present volume.