History Files


Gaelic Territories

Pictish Structure built on Cemetery

This is North Scotland, 27 July 2007

Archaeologists investigating the site of a Pictish monastery in Easter Ross thought to have been founded by St Columba in AD 565 have discovered that it was built on top of a prehistoric cemetery.

The revelation follows the excavation of three fifth century graves by a team of experts from York University, who have been working on the Tarbat Peninsula at Portmahomack since 1994.

Professor Martin Carver, who is leading the dig, yesterday said these were the first burial sites they had found around St Colman's Church and they shone new light on why the monastery site was chosen.

Prehistoric burials

Prof Carver said there were Bronze Age and Iron Age burials all along the coast of the Tarbat Peninsula, many of them encountered years ago by builders.

He said the three new examples of early graves, which came to light during the Tarbat dig, were 6ft 6in (1.98m) long and over 3ft 3in (99.1m) deep.

"One had large slabs of sandstone on all four sides of the skeleton, and a roof of slabs over the top," he said.

A new exhibition of the Portmahomack archaeological discoveries funded by Highland 2007, opened recently at the Tarbat Discovery Centre.



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