Historians had long wondered whether Dingwall was a site of a Viking parliamentary gathering known as the Thing because the word Dingwall probably originated from the word thingvellir, which means “the field of the assembly.”
Such Thing sites are scattered from Iceland to Norway to the Shetland Islands, and Norsemen traveled from far and wide to get to the seasonal gatherings, often to settle disputes that would otherwise end in bloodshed. But Things were held mostly at open-air fields, and people only stayed temporarily, leaving relatively few archaeological traces of their presence.
“Many archaeologists have said, ‘How do you find the archaeology of a bunch of people gathering together?'” O’Grady told LiveScience.
O’Grady and his colleagues at The Thing Project, which works on similar sites around Europe, were not deterred, because traces of temporary dwelling booths had turned up at other Thing sites.