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Scar Boat Burial

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Education Scotland / CC

About Scar Boat Burial

The Scar Boat Burial is a Viking boat burial near the village of Scar, on Sanday, in Orkney, Scotland. Dating to between 875 and 950 AD, the burial contained the remains of a man, an elderly woman, and a child, along with many grave items which formed a part of the site’s many important finds.

History of Scar Boat Burial

The site was discovered by a local farmer, who, after a ferocious storm which stripped away much of the sandbank, saw a number of bones jutting out from an exposed sandbank, and picked up and took home a small lead object. It was only 6 years later, in 1991, that visiting archaeologist Julie Gibson visited the site, and recognised the object as a lead bullion weight used by Norse traders to weigh gold and silver on a balance scale.

Battling against Orkney’s tumultuous weather, archaeologists swiftly uncovered the remains of a burial boat. All that remained were marks left in the sand by over 300 rusted iron rivets which marked out the shape of the boat, which would have been 6.5m long, wooden, plank-built, and oared rowing boat known as a faering. The boat had been buried in a stone-lined pit which formed a burial chamber.

Alongside the human remains were a treasure trove of grave goods which are unparalleled in Britain in terms of their state of preservation, including a decorated whalebone (now known as the Scar Plaque), a gilded brooch, an iron sword, a quiver containing eight arrows, a bone comb, a set of 22 gaming pieces, a sickle, a weaving sword, and two spindle whorls.

Based upon the artefacts and later radio carbon dating, the site has been dated to between 875 and 950 AD.

Scar Boat Burial Today

Today, artefacts from the Scar Boat Burial are on display in the Viking Gallery at the Orkney Museum, alongside a number of fascinating artefacts. The museum is located in a striking townhouse which dates to the 1570s, which also surrounds a beautifully kept walled garden.

Getting to Scar Boat Burial

The Orkney Museum is located centrally in the town of Kirkwall, which is the administrative centre of the Orkney Islands. It’s a 7 minute walk via Junction Rd/A963, or a 2 minute drive by car. A number of buses also stop outside the St Magnus centre, from where the museum is a 2 minute walk.

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