Sanday symbol stone is a first for Orkney

Builder Justin Thomas, with the symbol stone visible on the floor.

The symbol stone visible on the floor of a property in Sanday. (Frank Bradford)

A 1,200 year old carved Pictish stone cross has been uncovered in a property in Sanday.

The decorated stone slab was found by Elliot Troop while renovating a house near Lady village.

The Pictish symbol stone was lying prone, under the floor of the property, and appears to have been damaged during the construction of the house, possibly in the 19th century.

Approximately 4ft 6in long, the stone is thought to have been made in the 8th century AD, when Christianity was being brought to Orkney.  The carving shows both a Christian cross and a Pictish “sea creature” symbol.

“This is the first of its kind to be found in Orkney,” said Julie Gibson, county archaeologist.

“We already have a symbol stone featuring  the ‘sea horse’ motif that came up in St Andrews some years ago, but this, featuring a cross,  is the first carved stone that we can definitely say is a Class Two Pictish symbol stone.”

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

The Sanday symbol stone. (Frank Bradford)

The Sanday symbol stone. (Frank Bradford)

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 stones often feature Christian elements, or scenes, alongside the Pictish symbols and are found around the Moray Firth and Tayside in Scotland.

Class Two stones are thought to date from the eighth and ninth century – a time when the Picts were converting to Christianity.

Justin hopes that after conservation the stone could be returned to the people of Sanday and Orkney.

Mrs Gibson is now looking at the rescue and restoration priorities for the stone.

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