The Orkney Islands
Celtic Guide, Volume 2, Issue 5 (May 2013)
The Islands of Orkney are a mystical place steeped in history and legend. Like the rest of the British Isles, Orkney is an amalgam of influences. The ancients left their mark from pre-history with their standing stones and neolithic settlements. Then came the Picts, however they remain even more of a mystery as the Picts left very little evidence of their existence in Orkney behind. So scarce is the evidence, in fact, that until recently scholars questioned whether they were there at all. It was the Vikings that left their stamp on Orkney so strongly that their influence can be found in the culture to this day.
The Vikings first began settling Orkney in the late eighth century. From the records available, we can only speculate what happened to the Picts who had been living on the Islands prior to Viking settlement. Due to Pictish tools being found in Viking settlement excavations, it is thought that some Picts remained on the Islands after the Viking conquest.
Whether they intermarried and assimilated, or whether the majority disappeared, while a few remained as slaves, is unknown. Genocide has been suggested. As has abandonment of Orkney by the Picts to join their Scottish mainland cousins. However, some have wondered about the relations between the Picts of Orkney and mainland Picts and Gaels, and if the Vikings were not welcomed by the Picts of Orkney due to conflict with their mainland cousins.