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New Pictish Find

Pictish stone found by gravedigger most significant in decade

Heather Baillache
A stone found in Cunningsburgh has been described as the most important archaeological discovery in Shetland for 10 years.

It was found in Mail cemetery by gravedigger Malcolm Smith, his second such find in 16 years.

The sculptured stone is inscribed with mysterious symbols and dates back to the dark ages.

It is the ninth stone of its kind to be discovered in the same area in the last 130 years.

Its significance has been high­lighted by Dr Ian Tait, collections curator at the and Archives.

“It is extremely exciting because it is a single find which was not associated with an archaeological dig. It was just in the course of his work.“It had probably not see the light of day for a couple of centuries, but we suspect it dates back to around 700AD.”

The graveyard has been a centre for religious belief for 2,000 years, and may have been a centre of cultural or political power during Pictish times.

This is shown by the four stones which have been found there bearing the ancient alphabet known as ogham, and the amazing stone found in 1992 – the well known Mail Stone – depicting a mystery figure in dog-head mask.

In the Middle Ages the site was a burial ground, and three parts of gravestones have been found with inscriptions in Norse runes.

The meaning of the old Pictish stones would probably have been unknown by then, but the latest stone, or at least part of it, was still above ground in 1769, when some­body scratched that date on the stone.


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