Iron Age Pictish Stone Sanday

Pictish Cross found in Sanday, Orkney

Orkney’s county archaeologist, Julie Gibson, features in the above video alongside an 8th-10th Century AD Pictish symbol stone found in Sanday last month.

Orkney’s county archaeologist, Julie Gibson, features in the above video alongside an 8th-10th Century AD Pictish symbol stone found in Sanday last month.

The 2.5 metre-long stone was found in the south of the island but its significance was not recognised until rainwater revealed a carved Christian cross on the uppermost face.

The stone, which has eroded considerably over the centuries, may have decoration on the opposite side, but its size and condition means we will have to wait until it can be safely moved to check.

Historians and archaeologists have classified the symbol stones into two distinct groups, depending on the form of the stone and the symbols found thereon.

  • Class One stones are believed to be the earliest, having symbols carved into larger boulders or stone slabs. These are thought to have been carved in the sixth/seventh centuries, but continued to be created well into the period of the Class Two stones.
  • The Class Two stones feature symbols carved in relief on rectangular, shaped slabs. These often feature Christian elements, or scenes, alongside the Pictish symbols and are thought to date from the eighth and ninth centuries AD.
  • Class Three stones feature Christian motifs but none of the earlier Pictish symbols.

Until the rear of the Sanday stone can be viewed it is unclear if it falls into Class Two or Three.

The latest discovery is the second for Sanday, with a carved Pictish stone cross found in 2011 near Lady village.

This artefact, measuring around 1.4 metres, was lying prone, beneath the floor of a property under renovation.