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  The Brough of Birsay

The Pictish well

Lying to the east of the present day remains of the Norse church is a small, shallow well dating from the Pictish period of the island.

This little well is virtually the only remaining visible evidence that the island once housed a Pictish settlement.

Covered by a slab of stone, the well lies to the east of the main entrance, in an area that later became part of a Norse kirkyard.

A mere 75 centimetres deep, the little well seems to have been closely related to the metalworking that once took place on the Brough.

Constructed from smooth stones from the nearby beach, when excavated it was found to be surrounded by artefacts that linked it to the manufacture of fine metal goods.

These included bronze, glass and crucibles, as well as moulds which confirm that a specifically Pictish style of brooch was once created on the Brough.

These were high-status items and presumaby being made in what was once a high-status settlement.

Although the well may have had a purely practical role in the metalworking process, bearing in mind the suspected Pictish veneration of water and wellsl, it may also have had a more ritual or magical significance.

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