I. Ralston, H. K Murray and A. N Shepherd, eds., (1982). Pictish and Norse finds from the Brough of Birsay 1934-74. Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. https://doi.org/10.5284/1000184.

Title
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Title:
Pictish and Norse finds from the Brough of Birsay 1934-74
Series
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Series:
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Monograph Series
Volume
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Volume:
01
Pages
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Number of Pages:
141
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Mono1.pdf (11 MB) : Download
DOI
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DOI
https://doi.org/10.5284/1000184
Publication Type
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Publication Type:
Monograph Chapter (in Series)
Author
Author
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Author:
Cecil L Curle
John R Hunter
Christopher D Morris
Editor
Editor
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Editor:
Ian Ralston
Hillary K Murray
Alexandra N Shepherd
Publisher
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Publisher:
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Year of Publication
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Year of Publication:
1982
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ISBN:
0903903016
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Date Of Issue From: 1982
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ADS Archive
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Created Date:
10 Nov 2017
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Abstract
1 - 141
The finds from the Brough of Birsay discovered over the last half century have added more to the knowledge of Scottish history of the first millennium than any other single site in the country. In particular much detail of the manufacture and embellishment of metalwork on the site in pre-Viking times has been revealed.
10 - 17
This chapter describes the site location and some historical references. A brief account of the various seasons of excavation is provided. It was possible to identify Pictish, lower, middle and upper Norse phases in part of the settlement. Most of the artefacts were recovered before WWII.
18 - 52
The assemblage includes bone and antler pins, needles, combs, clay moulds, crucibles, dishes, sheet bronze, cast bronze, brooches, an iron spearhead, stone moulds, spindle whorls, vessel and window glass and an iron bell. The many hundreds of fragments of clay moulds indicate that Birsay must have been an important centre of bronze casting in the Pictish period. The technology of the moulds is discussed.
53 - 84
The artefacts are described by phase (lower, middle and upper Norse horizons. They include bone and antler pins, needles, picks and pointed implements, combs (only three of which are Norse types), a seal's tooth pendant with runic inscription, a bone vice or clamp, a weaving tablet, bone beads, clay tuyeres and blowpipes, bronze pins, finger rings, a penannular brooch, tweezers, a bronze bar, iron nails and rings, jet beads and armlets, stone spindle whorls, weights and line stretchers, steatite vessels and a whalebone line stretcher,
85 - 88
A very summary account of the artefacts associated with 11 house sites. Object descriptions appear in the catalogue.
89 - 92
The artefacts included part of a gaming board of whalebone and a playing piece of polished antler along with pottery sherds and a fragment of window glass. Two sculptured grave slabs were decorated with two wheel-headed crosses and two Celtic crosses. The latter overlaid a grave containing a very decayed skeleton. Fragments of a Pictish symbol stone are now in the National Museum of Antiquities. The symbols comprise a mirror case, a crescent and V-rod, an elephant and an eagle. Below these is a procession of warriors. A stone with an incised cross was found in Area II.
93 - 102
Several aspects of the assemblage are of particular importance. They include the time span covered from the Pictish bronze casting period of the late 8th-century through several Norse phases to the medieval period, and of equal importance the size of the assemblage, the multiplicity of objects of each type and their range of variation in different phases. Contacts, although not necessarily direct ones, are indicated between the Picts and Irish, between the Norse and Irish, and between the Norse and their home country. The insight given into the technology of bronze casting in the Pictish period is of great value. There is also the possibility of continuity from the Pictish period although the discussion is organised into distinct phases.
103 - 123
A detailed catalogue of all artefacts with an index. Provenance and phasing is provided for each object.
124 - 138
Excavation of this area aimed to relate artefacts of known type paralleled elsewhere on the site to clear stratigraphic contexts. Evidence from earlier excavations on the island indicated that room 5 would be stratigraphically representative of the full range of occupation observed elsewhere. Eight phases are described and the artefacts are listed by phase. Specialist reports on animal bone, charcoal and shell are included.