The Scandinavian shieling – between innovation and tradition
Shielings were used mainly in regions whose climatic conditions were difficult or who had limited acreage. The classic Scandinavian shieling consisted of a fenced site in outlying lands which included structures for dwelling, stabling cattle, processing milk and meadows for haymaking. There were two major challenges which faced early shieling scholars. First, it was viewed as necessary that shielings be divided into different typological and geographical groups based on their different characteristics. Second, the age of shieling system needed to be assessed. The first modern excavations of shielings were unsystematic, such as near-accidental excavation of a shieling house at Gammelvallen, Ängersjö, in Sweden. The investigations in western Norway indicate that the farm-shieling association originated as a package. The evolution of Scandinavian shielings was interwoven with changes in agrarian economy and society, and was strongly regional in character. For instance, in Faroe Islands, the use of shielings was abandoned in twelfth and thirteenth centuries and replaced with large-scale sheep breeding.