YOU can follow in the footsteps of your Viking ancestors with the launch of a global treasure hunt.
An innovative GeoTour tourism initiative has been developed linking the sites of Norse assemblies – known as Things – in Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Shetland, Orkney, Highland Scotland and Tynwald Hill here in the Isle of Man, the ancient meeting place dating back at least to the late first millennium AD.
Things have been described as the Viking cradle of democracy because their establishment was an early attempt to introduce a representative system, allowing disputes to be settled in a neutral forum rather than by blood feud.
The success of the system led to it being transported from the Scandinavian homelands to Viking colonies throughout Northern Europe.
Many sites can be identified by their thing, ting, ding or fing place names – examples other than Tynwald including Gulating (Norway), Tingwalla (Sweden), Þingvellir (Iceland), Tinganes (Faroe Islands), Tingwall (Shetland and Orkney), Dingwall (Scotland) and Fingay Hill (England).
The GeoTour has been launched by the Thing Project which has hidden geocaches in and around the thing site locations.
Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game played using a GPS or an app on a smartphone.
Players seek hidden items by downloading co-ordinates from www.geocaching.com.
Lauren Doughton, place names assistant at Shetland Amenity Trust, said: ‘We’re really excited to be launching this new GeoTour. Geocaching is an excellent way of encouraging people to get outside and explore their local area.
‘For our Norse ancestors the Thing sites would have been a central location within their landscape. Today the only indication we have that many of them existed is their place names. The GeoTour is a great way of bringing these places back to life, and making them accessible to people again.’
Jenn Seva of Geocaching.com said: ‘The Thing Sites GeoTour harnesses the power of geocaching to bring these significant locations to life.
‘Geocaching has always been a global phenomenon. The first Northern European GeoTour pays homage to the roots of our activity and lets us be modern-day explorers ourselves. It’s an unparalleled adventure for geocachers and history lovers.’
Lauren added: ‘We wanted to create a resource that would show the links between all of these different places, and really let people think about the landscape and how people may have experienced it in the past. Geocaching provided us with the ideal opportunity to do this. There was no need to set up expensive on-site interpretation, or intrusive signs. Anyone can take part so long as they have access to the internet, and most people’s phones come with GPS applications.’
Players can start their Thing Sites geocaching adventure by visiting www.geocaching.com/adventures/geotours/thingsites. From there you can view download cache co-ordinates onto your GPS device or mobile phone.