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Mail Cemetery

Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Chapel (Period Unassigned), Ogham Inscribed Stone(S) (Early Medieval), Rune Inscribed Stone(S) (Norse), Comb

Site Name Mail Cemetery

Classification Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Chapel (Period Unassigned), Ogham Inscribed Stone(S) (Early Medieval), Rune Inscribed Stone(S) (Norse), Comb

Alternative Name(s) Dunrossness, Cunningsburgh Church; Mail Graveyard

Canmore ID 938

Site Number HU42NW 5

NGR HU 4324 2791

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/938

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Shetland Islands
  • Parish Dunrossness
  • Former Region Shetland Islands Area
  • Former District Shetland
  • Former County Shetland

EARLY MEDIEVAL CARVED STONES PROJECT

Mail 2 (St Columba/St Paul), Cunningsburgh, Shetland, ogham-inscribed fragment

Measurements: 0.32m by 0.19m, D 0.07m

Stone type: sandstone

Place of discovery: HU 4330 2790

Present location: National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh (IB.115)

Evidence for discovery: found in 1874 or 1875 ‘close-by the burial-ground’ at Mail. It was presented to the museum in Edinburgh in 1883.

Present condition: one edge is broken but the ogham letters are clear.

Description

This triangular fragment is incised with ogham letters along one broad face continuing over to one narrow face, and a second partial inscription on another narrow face. Forsyth suggests that the letter forms may indicate an earlier date compared to the other two fragments of ogham inscriptions from the vicinity (Mail 3 and South Voxter).

Date: seventh or eighth century.

References: Forsyth 1996, (Cunningsburgh 2) 213-19, 225-6; Scott & Ritchie 2009, no 51.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

EARLY MEDIEVAL CARVED STONES PROJECT

Mail 3 (St Columba/St Paul), Cunningsburgh, Shetland, ogham-inscribed fragment

Measurements: H 0.29m, W 0.45m, D 0.05m

Stone type: micaceous sandstone

Place of discovery: HU 4330 2790

Present location: National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh (IB.182)

Evidence for discovery: found during grave-digging in Mail churchyard in 1903.

Present condition: broken top and bottom, but parts of two vertical edges are intact as well as parts of the inscription.

Description

This fragment appears to have come from a larger and probably upright monument, incised on one broad face with parts of three vertical lines of short ogham letters on stems.

Date: possibly ninth century.

References: Forsyth 1996, (Cunningsburgh 3) 219-26; Scott & Ritchie 2009, no 53.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

EARLY MEDIEVAL CARVED STONES PROJECT

Mail 5 (St Columba/St Paul), Cunningsburgh, Shetland, Pictish cross-slab fragment

Measurements: H 0.27m, W 0.45m, D 0.04m

Stone type: fine-grained red sandstone

Place of discovery: HU c 4323 2789

Present location: Shetland Museum, Lerwick (A42.2008)

Evidence for discovery: found in 2008 buried at a depth of some 2m amongst other stones west of the site of the medieval church in Mail cemetery. The addition of the date 1769 suggests that the stone was found and re-used as a memorial in the eighteenth century.

Present condition: the edges are all damaged or broken, apart from a short length of the left-hand edge. The lower part of the surface has flaked, losing part of the carved symbol. The stone appears to have been trimmed into a pedimental shape, perhaps for re-use as a later gravestone.

Description

This fragment is carved in relief and incision on one broad face, and the surviving portion of face D is plain. Face A has a plain flatband border, within which a narrow flatband moulding acts as a frame for the carved design. Spanning the width of the slab is a double disc and Z-rod, although the lower arm of the incised Z-rod is damaged by flaking of the surface. The double disc is outline by a narrow roll moulding, and within each of the two discs is an incised cross-of-arcs with a square centre and a central small pit or compass point. Separated from the symbol by a horizontal flatband moulding is the remains of an interlaced design. This appears to have been a cross-slab rather than a simple symbol stone.

Date: late eighth to late ninth century.

References: Ritchie 2008; Scott & Ritchie 2009, no 5.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

EARLY MEDIEVAL CARVED STONES PROJECT

Mail 1 (St Columba/St Paul), Cunningsburgh, Shetland, rune-inscribed fragment

Measurements: H 1.03m, W 0.16m, D 0.19m

Stone type: sandstone

Place of discovery: HU 4330 2790

Present location: National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh (X.IB.103).

Evidence for discovery: found in 1877 re-used in the churchyard wall at Mail.

Present condition: worn.

Description

The narrow face of the slab bears clear runic letters, forming part of a memorial inscription: ‘in memory of his/her father, Thorbjorn’.

Date: early eleventh century.

References: Barnes & Page 2006, SH 3, 126-31; Scott & Ritchie 2009, no 76.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2017

Archaeology Notes

HU42NW 5 4324 2791

(HU 4323 2792) Chapel (LB) (Site of)

OS 6" map, Shetland, 2nd ed., (1903).

HU42NW 5.01 HU 4330 2790 Pictish Symbol Stone

HU42NW 5.02 HU 4325 2790 Viking Antler Comb

HU42NW 5.03 HU 4325 2790 Whorl

HU42NW 5.04 HU 4325 2790 Stone; Cross (Possible)

HU42NW 5.05 HU 4325 2790 Viking Strap End

HU42NW 5.06 HU 4325 2790 Stone

HU42NW 5.07 HU 4325 2790 Stone

This was the church of Cunningsburgh parish, now part of Dunrossness, which existed as a parish at the Reformation. Nothing is known of the church except that it was the recognised church of the area from a very early date.

G Goudie 1879.

Ogham and Rune inscribed fragments, most of which are in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS), have been found at various dates on or near this site (See also HU42NW 10).

RCAHMS 1946.

Graveyard still in use and well-covered with graves. Low platform on north side, better seen in profile than on ground plan, probably represents site of chapel. Nothing else Early Christian visible.

A MacDonald 1967 (Ms notes).

There are no traces of this chapel now visible. The platform mentioned by MacDonald is unlikely to be the site of the chapel. No further information.

Visited by OS (WDJ) 8 May 1968.

Class I symbol stone.

A Mack 1997.

Activities

Artefact Recovery (2008)

HU 432 279 A fragment of an Early Historic sculptured stone slab with relief carving on one face was found in grave-digging in Mail churchyard. The main feature is a double disc and Z-rod with the unusual addition of a cross of arcs decorating each of the circular fields of the discs. There is also a fragment of interlace above the Pictish symbol, although it is unclear whether the fragment is part of a cross-slab. This example complements the previous find of the ‘Mail stone’ from the same graveyard.

Claimed as Treasure Trove (TT20/08) and allocated to Shetland Museum

Martin Goldberg – National Museums Scotland

Field Visit (30 September 2015)

Slightly more erosion than recorded in 2014 but has not changed significantly.

Visited by Scotland's Coastal Heritage at Risk (SCHARP) 30 Sept 2015

Field Visit

Coastal exposure on the seaward side of current cemetery. Approx 11m long, 1m high. Deep rich soil containing moderate small frags of bone. Human and animal bone observed. Below the topsoil in an approx 3m length of the section a line of flat stones overlies peat ash.

Approx. 20m west a further 2m wide by 1m high coastal exposure contains thick cultivation soil with animal bone fragments.

Visited by Scotland's Coastal Heritage at Risk (SCHARP)

References

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