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Experts say Columba graves site was already a sacred place

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

The revelation follows the excavation of three 5th-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 outwith St Colman’s Church and said they shone new light on why the monastery site was chosen.

“The early mediaeval monastery at Portmahomack flourished between the 6th and the 9th centuries. In about 800AD, it was burned down by the Vikings, but it continued into the Middle Ages as a smithy.

“It had been thought that the monks came to a piece of waste ground that nobody wanted, perhaps given to the saint by the Pictish king Bridei, son of Mailchu. Now we can see that it was already a sacred place – and had been for centuries,” he said.

• Full story at the Aberdeen Press & Journal.

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