Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement

The name Jarlshof originates from the Old House of Sumburg, constructed in the seventeenth century and named in the novel “The Pirate”, by Sir Walter Scott. And so the three-acre site became known as the Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement. This is an extremely unique attraction in Scotland, as it is a visual display of history. An exhibit that you can see, touch and experience, and be drawn back into the times of Norse warriors, the Bronze Age, Middle Ages and Iron Ages. It has been estimated that this site has been home to many inhabitants for over 4 200 years and through untimely storms that eroded the sand that protected this site, a window into the past was opened.

Visitors to the Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement must be prepared to devote a relatively long amount of time to the viewing of all the huts, settlements and wheelhouses, as guides are required to lift gates to allow access and some areas have quite narrow entrances. Jarlshof is an important and very significant archaeological site in Scotland and excavations to the area started before the outbreak of World War II. Excavations have revealed that the Shetland region was occupied as far back as 2500BC. The Bronze Age is represented through the oval house of a bronze smith. The clay moulds for swords and axe heads that were found, are confirmation of the smiths’ existence, as are the other oval houses that were uncovered.

This beautifully preserved archaeological site in Scotland has also revealed the presence of the troubled Iron Age, with the excavation of the brochs, which were constructed as wheelhouses. There are also outbuildings visible and the wheelhouses are dated back to approximately 200 – 600 BC. It is believed, that the Norse settlements at Jarlshof remained here for more than 400 years and the artifacts that were discovered here gave archaeologists insights into the daily activities of the Norse people. Items recovered have included fishing equipment, board games and revealed evidence of cloth weaving and wool spinning.

The site also has an interpretation center, where visitors are able to learn more about the daily lives of the people that constructed the ruins and how they went about their daily activities. There are also artifacts displayed here, and visitors will be able to gain knowledge and hear the stories of these turbulent times and the clues that were left behind, for us to find.


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