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Gaelic Territories

Pictish Structure built on Cemetery

Edited from This is North Scotland, 27 July 2007

Archaeologists have spent more than a few years investigating the site of a Pictish monastery in Easter Ross in Scotland in 2007. The monastery was thought to have been founded by St Columba in AD 565. In 2007, the archaeologists discovered that the monastery had been built on top of a prehistoric cemetery showing, perhaps, a continuity of use for the burial site.

The revelation of the discovery followed the excavation of three fifth century graves by a team of experts from York University, who had been working at Portmahomack on the Tarbat peninsula since 1994.

Professor Martin Carver, who was leading the dig, said in July 2007 that these were the first burial sites they had found around St Colman's Church, which now stands on the site of the monastery. The discoveries shone new light on why the monastery site was chosen.

Prehistoric burials

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 described the three new examples of early graves, which came to light during the Tarbat dig, giving their sizes as 1.98m long and over 99.1m deep.

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

A new exhibition of the Portmahomack archaeological discoveries which was funded by Highland 2007, opened shortly before this report was issued, at the Tarbat Discovery Centre.

The general excavation site
The general excavation site in Portmahomack on the Tarbat peninsula, with St Coleman's Church in the background, top right corner



Text copyright © This is North Scotland. Reproduced with permission.