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Thurso, St Peter's Church

Cross Incised Stone (Early Medieval), Grave(S) (Period Unassigned), Rune Inscribed Stone (Norse)

Site Name Thurso, St Peter's Church

Classification Cross Incised Stone (Early Medieval), Grave(S) (Period Unassigned), Rune Inscribed Stone (Norse)

Canmore ID 8435

Site Number ND16NW 17

NGR ND 1206 6861

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/8435

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Thurso
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Caithness
  • Former County Caithness

Early Medieval Carved Stones Project (2016)

Thurso, St Peter’s Church 1, Caithness, cruciform slab with runic inscription

Measurements: H 0.84m, W 0.15m to 0.20m, D 0.04m

Stone type: Old Red Sandstone

Place of discovery: ND 1206 6861

Present location: Caithness Horizons, Thurso.

Evidence for discovery: found in April 1896 during demolition of houses near the E end of St Peter’s Church. It formed the cover slab of a stone cist containing a crouched inhumation. It was taken to Thurso Museum.

Present condition: damaged but the carving is clear.

Description

The slab is truncated at both ends. It has been dressed roughly into the form of a cross with very short side arms (less than 0.05m) and the runic inscription runs along the shaft towards the cross-head. The centre of the cross-head bears an incised linear cross. The inscription reads ‘(...) made this overlay after Ingulf his/her father’. The use of the term ‘overlay’ and the provenance of the slab are thought to indicate that it was designed to be a recumbent slab.

Date range: twelfth century.

References: ECMS pt 3, 36-7; Liestøl 1984, 228.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

Archaeology Notes (1962)

ND16NW 17 1206 6861.

Two graves lying E-W and formed of rough stones set on edge were found in April 1896 across the street from the E end of St Peter's Church (ND16NW 10), while digging the foundations of a herring kippering kiln. The smaller grave, about half the size of the other, contained the bones of a small body. The large grave measured about 3ft 6ins in length and contained a crouched skeleton. On top of the grave was a runic inscribed cross of Caithness flag-stone, 2ft 9ins long.

The inscription, which has been translated, may be 11th century. As the site of these graves is only 12 yds E of the E end of St Peter's Church, this postulates a greater eastward extent of the burial ground and adds to the probability of the apsidal structure being of 12th century date. The Norse line ended in 1231.

Sources: J Anderson 1897; J R Allen and J Anderson 1903; RCAHMS 1911; A O Curle, M Olsen and H Shetelig 1954.

Activities

Field Visit (21 September 1910)

In the museum at Thurso is a cross roughly hewn out of a slab of Caithness flagstone bearing on its shaft an inscription in Scandinavian runes. It was found when some old buildings were taken down near the E. end of St Peter's Church, Thurso, in 1896. At a depth of some 5' from ordinary level were found in the course of excavation two cists containing human skeletons. On the top of the larger cist, which contained the remains of an adult buried in a contracted position, lay the cross slab. Its whole length is 2' 9". The shaft measures 2' 1 1/2" in length by 61/4 in breadth at the lower end, tapering slightly to 5 3/4" at the intersection of the arms. The cross head measures 8" across, the projection of the arms being less than 2", and their vertical width at the ends 4 3/4". The summit is partially broken away, so that it only rises 1 1/2" above the arms and shows a breadth of 4 3/4". The thickness of the slab throughout is 1 1/2".

The inscription, which is somewhat irregularly cut along one side of the obverse in letters varying from 3" to 4" in height, reads from the base upwards (the lower part of the shaft containing its commencement is awanting), and has been interpreted

-(GE)RTHI UBIRLAK THITA AFT IKLULB FOTHUR SIN

- made overlay this after Ingulf father his

Visited by RCAHMS, 21 September 1910.

Field Visit (18 April 1962)

The grave find was sited to ND 1206 6861 from the information above. Works premises now occupy the site. The runic cross is in Thurso Museum and is dated there to about 1000 AD.

Visited by OS (E G C) 18 April 1962.

References

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