Viking Boat Burial Site at Swordle Bay
The Ardnamurchan Transitions Project is a long running project exploring the archaeology of the Ardnamurchan peninsula. The project focuses on the interaction of man and his landscape at times of acute social change.
The Viking boat burial was discovered in 2011 during excavation in the Swordle Bay. The remains of the boat dated to possibly the late 9th century or early 10th century were discovered under a low lying natural mould close to the shore. The excavations revealed the remains of a warrior (two teeth and two small fragments of bone) and collection of artefacts. The latter included a spear, a shield, a sword, an axe, a whetstone (sharpening stone), a drinking horn, a pan with a 1m long handle, flints for making fire, and a bronze ring pin from Ireland, as well as a small fragment (sherd) of local pottery. In addition, there were some other unidentified metal objects. The remains of the boat included 200 rivets and roves and some fragments of mineralized wood. The boat was made with clinker type technology.
From these discoveries it was concluded that the warrior was probably male, well connected, and had both distant and local ties to the area.
Viking boat burials on the British mainland are very rare. This represents the first complete boat burial found on the British mainland that has been excavated to modern archaeological standards. Whilst any questions remain, it is hoped that the site will reveal important insights into Viking movements, dispersal and funeral rituals. Ongoing plans include looking for other evidence of Viking occupation in the area. The site is also close to a Neolithic chambered tomb and further excavation of this feature will seek to determine whether there is any evidence of reuse of the cairn by the Vikings.
Little remains at the site other than the outline and the site should not be visited without permission of the land owner and the Ardnamurchan Transitions Project Team. However, last year Ardnamurchan Transitions Project ran a number of open days where members of the public had the opportunity to meet the experts and find out more about discoveries made during recent excavations of this site and nearby sites. Look out for details of future events on the Ardnamurchan Transitions Project website. A detailed structure report of the excavation is also available.