Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

East Lothian skeleton may be 10th Century Irish Viking king

Fiona Hyslop with viking bones
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop with part of the skeleton which historians believe could be an Irish Viing king

A skeleton discovered on an archaeological dig in East Lothian may be a 10th Century Irish Viking who was king of Dublin and Northumbria.

King Olaf Guthfrithsson led raids on Auldhame and nearby Tyninghame shortly before his death in 941.

The remains excavated from Auldhame in 2005 are those of a young adult male who was buried with a number of items indicating his high rank.

They include a belt similar to others from Viking Age Ireland.

The find has led archaeologists and historians to speculate that the skeleton could be that of King Olaf or one of his entourage.

Bones found at Auldhame
A jaw bone was part of the remains found at Auldhame which may belong to King Olaf

Olaf was a member of the Uí Ímar dynasty who, in 937, defeated his Norse rivals in Limerick and pursued his family claim to the throne of York.

He married the daughter of King Constantine II of Scotland and allied himself with Owen I of Strathclyde.

The theory that he could have been buried close to the Auldhame battle site was revealed as Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop visited a Neolithic monument in County Meath, Ireland.

The tour of Newgrange is being used to highlight archaeological links between Scotland and Ireland.

Ms Hyslop said: "This is a fascinating discovery and it's tantalising that there has been the suggestion that this might be the body of a 10th Century Irish Viking king."

Dr Alex Woolf, a senior lecturer in the School of History at the University of St Andrews and a consultant on the project, admits the evidence is circumstantial.

But he said: "Whilst there is no way to prove the identity of the young man buried at Auldhame, the date of the burial and the equipment make it very likely that this death was connected with Olaf's attack."

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