EHG4436 - Excavation - Viking Burial, Balnakeil bay



*Highland Regional Council


May 1991


An archaeological excavation was carried out by Dorothy Low and Robert Gourlay of Highland Regional Council in May 1991 of the remains a viking burial that was eroding from the sand dunes at Balnakeil Bay, Sutherland. The remains were situated in the most northerly dune of the northernmost of the two bays. The bones protuded from the edge of the dune, approximately 4m above the high water mark and 5-6m below the top of the dunes. The wind erosion of the dunes had led to a highly unstable situation and it was thought likely the dune face would collapse. Due to the instability, small sand falls occurred regularly and so the excavation was carried out quickly. The first stage of the excavation involved careful excavation of the visible remains, and the making of a full record through photographs and drawings. The next stage involved the clearance of the sand overbuden before it collapsed and destroyed the burial. All of the finds were then excavated and recovered from the burial; the bones were then lifted and labelled with assistance from the local doctor. Lastly, the sword and scabbard were isolated and slid onto a wooden slat, within a block of sand, and carefully secured prior to transportation. <1> A full analysis and subsequent discussion of the grave goods was then carried by the National Museum of Scotland. <2>

Sources/Archives (2)

  • <1> Text/Publication/Article: Low, D., Batey, C. & Gourlay, R.. 1994. A Viking Burial at Balnakeil, Sutherland. The Vikings in East Sutherland. 27-36. Digital (scanned as PDF).
  • <2> Text/Publication/Article: Batey, C & Paterson, C. 2012. A Viking burial at Balnakeil, Sutherland. Early Medieval Art and Archaeology in the Northern World: Studies in Honour of James Graham-Campbell. 631-659. Digital.



Location Balnakeil bay, Sutherland
Grid reference Centred NC 3865 7067 (20m by 20m)
Map sheet NC37SE
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish DURNESS

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

  • Viking Burial - Balnakeil Bay (Monument)

Record last edited

Jun 13 2016 11:30AM

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