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Archaeology Notes

Event ID 873891

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Archaeology Notes


HY45SE 17.00 48813 52705.

See also HY45SE 26.

The old parish church of Papay stands above a rocky shore in the now sparsely inhabited NW corner of the island. It is associated with extensive settlement, remains of the Iron Age and Pictish period (HY45SE 26), with two discoveries of Early Christian cross-slabs, and a Norse hogbacked monument; added to the place-name evidence, they indicate that the whole complex was an important early ecclesiastical centre.

The church, still in use in 1920 but abandoned by 1930, is essentially a twelfth- century church, which was extended westwards in 1700. The site of its chancel is occupied by a family burial-place. The building is still entire, but there are holes in the slab-covered roof, and the internal furnishings and some of the structural timbers are succumbing to decay. The hogbacked gravestone lies immediately E of the family tomb, but only its top now protrudes from the grass.

In 1920, when for the first time burials were made on the N side of the church, a slab was found at a depth of about 1m; a portion was left in the ground, but the part now in the Royal Museum of Scotland (RMS, IB 200) has an encircled cross pattee with a small incised cross, of unusual design, above it. In 1966, a second slab, now in Tankerness House Museum, Kirkwall, was found during grave-digging near the NE corner of the church.

W Kirkness 1921; A B Scott 1922; RCAHMS 1946; J T Lang 1974, RCAHMS 1983, visited June 1982.

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