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Date 14 August 2008 - 18 August 2008

Event ID 575891

Category Recording

Type Excavation


NO 4008 5001 A series of small-scale excavations was carried out 14–18 August 2008 around St Orland’s stone, a ‘Class II’ Pictish stone. This spectacular cross slab sits at the E end of an E/W sandy ridge, overlooking low-lying marshy ground to the E. The stone has been in this position since at least the late 18th century and excavations in the mid 19th century by Jervaise (1859) revealed a series of six crouched inhumations, all but one in stone cists to the SW of the stone. The stone was enclosed by a metal fence and reset in 1952.

Excavation aimed to determine if the stone was in its original location and find the extent of previous investigations at the site. The slab remained in situ and was braced by scaffolding during this work, which involved two trenches c2m2 within the fenced enclosure, and a series of test pits outside this to provide context.

The cross slab had been reset with concrete running under the base of the stone, and the stone and the ground level within the fence raised 0.3–0.4m. The stone was tapered at its base, coming to a point at its S end 0.6m below the current ground surface and rising to the N. In the SE trench a partly exposed cut feature below the stone may have been an earlier socket, but further excavation would be required to confirm this.

Disturbed soils to the E of the slab were interpreted as part of Jervaise’s excavation, although three 17th-century coins recovered from a layer above this may indicate that this reflects even earlier work. Archaeological deposits below this, including a cut feature at the E end of the trench, indicate that significant deposits survive in this area. In the NW trench a pair of human tibia (not lifted) oriented E/W below a sandstone slab indicate the presence of surviving, albeit damaged, burials. A possible further cist cover (not raised), and two possible unlined graves in the W section were also recorded in this trench.

Both trenches produced evidence of an earlier circular fence around the stone, comprising massive slabs in which fence posts were set, truncating the W end of the human tibia. Test pits were dug to N, E, S and W, with those to the N and W revealing probable ploughsoil over sandy subsoil. To the E (coming off the ridge) darker hill-wash and gleyed soils were encountered, while to the S a more complex sequence of ploughed or windblown deposits was recorded.

Jervaise, A (1859) ‘Notices descriptive of the localities of certain sculptured stone monuments in Forfarshire (Part 1)’, Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 2, 1854–7, 248–51.

Archive: RCAHMS

Funder: Historic Scotland

David Murray (Kirkdale Archaeology), 2008

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