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All About Things

by Deborah Leggate -

Shetland Amenity Trust is pleased to announce the commencement of the Thing lecture series as part of the Northern Periphery Programme transnational THING Project (Thing sites International Networking Group).

Following on from the successful Viking Feast in November last year, the lectures will run from February to May, each with a prominent speaker discussing a different element of Viking, Scandinavian and Thing cultures. The lectures, hosted jointly in Shetland and Orkney, are part of a programmed series of events to highlight the importance of these early forms of governance and increase knowledge about the era.

Things are the early assemblies found throughout Northern Europe as a result of our shared Norse heritage. Thing sites throughout Britain and Scandinavia occur wherever Norsemen settled and brought their laws. Many can be easily identified by their thing, ting, ding or fing place names. Tingwall was the site of Shetland's parliament until the late 16th century. The lawthing was an assembly where local people and officials tried offenders, interpreted the law, and enacted new legislation. Several of Shetland's parish names, e.g. Delting, Nesting, Lunnasting, point to district assemblies once being held in the area.

The first lecture will be on Thursday 16th February. Dr Alexandra Sanmark will discuss "Viking and Norse Ting Sites in Shetland." Dr Sanmark is a postdoctoral research associate at the UHI Centre for Nordic Studies in Kirkwall. A native of Sweden, she has written extensively about assembly places in the north.

On Thursday 22nd March Professor Stefan Brink will deliver a lecture entitled "Law in Early Scandinavia". Professor Brink is director of the Centre for Scandinavian Studies at the University of Aberdeen. He is author of hundreds of publications concerning the history and language of the medieval north.

The series will continue on Friday 20th April when Professor Judith Jesch will visit to discuss "Sagas and Things: The Cultural Life of Assemblies." Professor Jesch is director of the Centre for the Study of the Viking Age at the University of Nottingham, and President of the Viking Society for Northern Research. She is the author of many books and articles on Viking Society and sagas.

Dr Peter Anderson will conclude the lecture series on Thursday 24th May when he delivers his lecture on "The Orkney Earls". Dr Anderson, a native of Orkney, is author of Robert Stewart (1982), and Black Patie, earl of Orkney, lord of Shetland (1993). His omnibus volume about both earls will appear in May this year.

All lectures will be held in the Shetland Museum and Archives Auditorium. Doors will open at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start. The lectures are free to attend, however booking is recommended by calling 01595 741562.

Other activities planned for this year include a writing competition for school bairns, the production of a website, leaflet and booklet, and events will be rounded off with the staging of an open-air play at Tingwall inspired by one of the original law cases heard at Tingaholm in Tingwall in 1577.

Posted in: Heritage

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