Norse settlement in the Inner Hebrides ca. 800-1300; with special reference to the islands of Mull, Coll and Tiree
The thesis aims to elucidate the form, extent and chronological development of Norse colonial settlement in the Inner Hebridean islands of Mull, Coll, Thee and Lismore in the period ca 800-1300. Tiree, Coll and Lismore are studied in their entirety while an area from each of the parochial divisions on Mull is selected. Historically Mull, Coll and Tiree have an essential territorial unity in that they formed part of the territory of the cenel Loairn within the kingdom of Dalriada in the pre-Norse period. With the division of the Isles in 1156 all three islands fell into the hands of Somerled of Argyll and in the immediate post-Norse period remained as a unit in the possession of the MacDougals. Geographically the islands differ greatly from one another and show a wide range of geological structures, landforms, soil types and vegetation, and climatic conditions. They thus offer an opportunity for analysing settlement location, development and expansion within a relatively small geographical area and yet one which encompasses a variety of natural incentives and constraints. Lismore, lying to the north-west of the above group and strategically situated at the mouth of the Great Glen was important in the pre-Norse period as a major Celtic monastic centre. The island is included by way of contrast, for its site and situation and close proximity to mainland Scotland suggested that the Norse settlement of the island may have been of a different character to that found on Mull, Coll and Tiree. An area of the Norwegain 'homeland', the Sunnmore islands lying off the west coast of Norway is looked at for comparative purposes. This allows an investigation of the evolution of Norse settlement and the coining of names within a purely Norse environment. This helps clarify the process of settlement development and expansion and the accompanying naming practices in a colonial setting where, particularly on Mull and Lismore, a dense Gaelic overlay often obscures salient features of the Norse settlement pattern. The methodology employed is both inter-disciplinary and retrospective allowing successive layers of settlement to be 'peeled back' in order to expose the pattern of settlement as it may have existed in the Norse period. The thesis divides into two parts. The first analyses settlement by settlement, the islands in question. The second concentrates on the major issues pertinent to settlement evolution. Norse and Gaelic settlement names are discussed together with the administrative and ecclesiastical organisation of the Isles. This leads to the formulation of a 'model for Norse settlement' for the Inner Hebrides.