According to the Irish annals, the Vikings first set foot on the Isle of Man in the year 798. By 820 they had conquered and settled in the Isle of Man, establishing a prosperous Viking colony that benefited greatly from the trade between Ireland and the Scottish islands.
The Isle of Man had a central locationwas on the sailing route from Scandinavia to Ireland. With its excellent fertile agricultural land and good harbours around the coastline, it was an important base not just for raiding and settlement, but also for trading with Scotland and Ireland.
Achaeological evidence confirm the presence of Vikings on Isle of Man. The various findings from burrials and settlements and nordic place names still used creates a fuller picture of Vikings life on the island.
Some of the most important Viking sites on the island include the burial mound at Ballateare, Peel Castle on St Patrick’s Isle and Tynwald.
Peel Castle has been a site of religious and secular importance in Isle of Man history.
I 1982 archaeologist began excavating the ruins of the castle to prove the importance and date the many building faces.
With the walls is a Round Tower from the 11th century, a cathedral from the 13th century and small apartments from the later Lords of Mann, who ruled on the Island.
During the excavations they found seven pagan burrials all located at the later christian cemetry.
One of the most spectacular finds was a burried pagan lady from the Viking Age with an obvious high status in society. The grave had several rich grave goods, including a necklace made of beads. The necklace dates to late 900 AD and consist of 73 beads of glass and amber. The beads are all in different size, shape and colour. The number of beads on the necklace and the variety of them makes this one of the most impressive jewellery finds ever.
During the excavation they also found af golden pin. The fine details and fragility indicates that it was purely ornamental.
Faktum: other grave finds from Isle of Man include the boad grave at Balladoole and the burial mount at Gronk Moar. The boat grave dates to 850 - 950 AD and contained a Vikign ship at 11 metres with a burried mand and woman dressed in fine clothing as well as equipment for horse riding, tools and a shield. In the burial mount was a fully dressed man in a coffin with a cloak, knife, sword and a pin for the cloak.
In 800 AD the Vikings founded Tynwald, the oldest working parliament in the world. This parliament is still in existence on the island today.
Tynwald means open assembly in old Norse and can be linked to similar assemblies on Island (Tingvellir) and the Faroe Islands (Logting).
The Tynwald might have been local and regional to begin with and then later developed into one centralized assembly or goverment. These Tynwalds were already in operation before the establisment of Parliamentary Goverment in England.
At Tynwald old laws or rules from the local areas were made officiel, new laws submitted and punishment were given to law breakers.
Burial Mound at Ballateare
In 1946, during excavations on the north of the island, archaeologists found a burried Viking warrior from 800 AD. The warrior was burried with his weapons, including a two-edged sword decorated with silver inlay. The sword scabbard was found intact and was constructed from wood and layers of leather and other textiles. The sword had deliberately been broken into three pieces.
Other finds from the burial include:
The preserved pieces of the wooden shield revealed that it had once been decorated in red, white and black. The Viking was buried wearing a cloak held in place by a bronze ring-headed pin. Accompanying the warrior into afterlife was a woman who had been killed by a savage blow with a sharp weapon across the back of her skull, as well as the dead man’s livestock.
The myth of Sigurd
Great decorated stone crosses with Viking motitfs are today preserved in many parishes on the Isle of Man. These crosses are all dated to the 1000 - 1100 century and their carvings tells stories of Nordic heroes, legends and myths.
Four of the stone crosses, from the parishes of Andreas, Jurby, Malew and Maghold, tell the myth of Sigurd.
Sigurd grew up in a king's household, but was brought up by the dwarf Regin, who was king's black smith. Sigurd was destined to become a great hero some day.
When Sigurd was young Regin told him the story of how The god Loki had killed the great fisherman Ottar. To recompense Ottar's father Hreidmar, the gods made a cover of gold for Ottar to be burried in. But the gold were cursed and Hreidmar was soon killed by his other son Fafni, the serpent dragon.
When Sigurd got older he convinced Regin to make him a great sword. He also selected one of the finest horses from the king's stables. Following the advice of Odin, Sigurd set out to find the Fafni's gold.
Sigurd dug a pit and hit under some branches, and when Fafni passed by he drove his sword into the monster's belly. He cut out Fafni's heart and roasted it to give to Regin. When touching the meat to see if it was done he burned his fingers. When he sucked the blood, tasting the dragon blood, he could suddenly understand the birds singing.
The birds told him that Regin would kill Sigurd, steal the gold and Fafni's wisdom.
Regin couldn't kill Sigurd, but after several years of adventure the curse of the gold took effect, when Sigurd was killed by his own brother Gunnar.
Gunnar stole the gold, but the curse followed him as well and he later died by a snake bite to the heart.
The Viking rule ended i 1265 when Isle of Man was handed over to Alexander III of Scotland.
By: Louise Kæmpe Henriksen, The Viking Ship Museum