MHG42402 - Pictish Stone (Ackergill I) - Cemetery, Ackergill


No summary available.

Type and Period (2)

  • OGHAM INSCRIBED STONE (Pictish - 300 AD to 900 AD)
  • INSCRIBED STONE (Pictish - 300 AD to 900 AD)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

See records for ND35SE0318 for damage to the cemetery that occurred during sand quarrying operations up to December 2003. The also appears to be extensive rabbit damage in the area to the S of the main mound. Some of these areas appear to be tuning up human as well as other bones - HAW 4/2004

ND35SW 12 3489 5496.
Dark Age Burial Ground (NR) (site of) Symbol Stones found (NAT)
OS 25" map, (1965)

A linear inhumation cemetery in a natural, elongated, sand mound was excavated in 1925 and 1926 by Edwards who found sixteen burials in ten separate graves. All except one of the burials were extended inhumations, and, again excepting one, none was accompanied by grave goods. Most were in long cists, about 6ft in length and 1ft 6ins in breath and height, covered by low, rectangular, kerbed deposits of stone.
The mound, cut 400ft from its NW end by drain from decoy pond at ND 3493 5494, had also been cut lengthwise by a road, during construction of which human remains had been found. For a distance of about 200ft from its NW end mound was heavily eroded exposing stones including edge-set slabs, but remainder was still turf-covered. An Ogham-inscribed Class I symbol stone had formerly stood erect at NW end of mound, and a fragment of another was found on surface at its centre.
Graves 1 and 7 (on Edward's 1926 plans) were simple long cists. Graves 2, 3, 4, 8, 9 and 10 were rectangular or square kerbed deposits of stone ranging in area from 6ft by 7ft to 12ft square, and in height from 1ft to 1ft 9ins, either incorporating (graves 2 and 4) or overlying long cists. In some of these structures corners were accentuated by upright stones or large slabs (graves 2, 3 and 4) and mid-points of N and S sides of grave 4 were similarly accentuated. Graves 3 and 4 were covered by a layer of white quartzite pebbles. Graves 5 and 6 were apparently more sophisticated than others although they possessed enough points of similarity to suggest kinship.
Grave 5 was, in effect, a sub-oval built chamber 10ft NW-SE by 3ft 6ins across and 1ft 6ins high with walls 5 to 7ft thick kerbed externally by a 20 by 13ft 6ins rectangular setting of large slabs on edge, corners and mid-points of long sides being accentuated. The chamber was divided by edge-set slabs, 1ft high, to form two adjoining long cists, slab-covered. Apart from a slight corbelling of the walls there was nothing to suggest that chamber had been roofed; in fact contrary was suggested by wall-tops having been over- laid by white quartzite pebbles.
Grave 6, at NW end of mound and on N side of road, differed from others in its cairn-like form and in mode of burial but there were similarities between it and grave 5. It was circular, 18ft in diameter, and consisted of a sub-oval, built chamber 7ft 3ins long ENE-WSW by 4ft across and 3ft 3ins high, within a wall 5 to 7ft thick with an external built kerb 1 to 2ft high. As in grave 5, chamber wall was slightly corbelled, but otherwise there was no evidence of its being roofed. White quartzite pebbles, possibly fallen from the sloping sides of structure, lay near kerb on SE side. The chamber was filled with sand and contained four uncisted skeletons, the earliest being than of an elderly man lying extended on floor of the chamber. At a slightly higher level was extended skeleton of a young person about 15 years old. Very slightly above this, on a level with top of side walls, was a flexed skeleton of a middle-aged man, and at approx same level was extended skeleton of a female, a little over 20 years old with, around neck, a possibly 10th century bronze chain 15.75ins long, with iron rust adhering to one of its terminals. The site of this grave was marked by a notice prohibiting the removal of sand.
In the same locaility a similar structure, 16.5ft diameter with a well-defined kerb surrounding a cairn-like mass of stones, 3.5ft high, was discovered in 1902 (info from John Nicolson, Nybster), and a circular construction, 15f diameter, some years before 1925 (info from Simon Bremnar, Feswick).
Analysis of skeletal remains from cemetery indicated that burials were of both sexes and of all ages from babies to the elderly; and that people were dolichocephalic and lightly built, averaging in height only 5ft 5ins for males and 5ft for females. The conclusion was that they belonged to a native population of mixed origin, such as occupied north of Scotland in Viking period (Edwards 1926).
The Ogham-inscribed symbol stone, which formerly stood upright at ND 3483 5499 (info from Mrs Duff-Dunbar, Ackergill), was found, broken, on links towards S side of Keiss Bay in August 1896 by John Nicolson, Nybster, who brought it to Sir Francis Tress Barry at Keiss Castle, who in turn donated it to NMAS in 1897 (Acc No: IB 168). It is a slab of grey slate, 4ft long, 2ft broad and 3ins thick with, incised on one face, lower part of the fish symbol and rectangular symbol, divided and decorated with spirals. Ogham inscription has been read as 'NEHTETRI' and translated as 'Neht, son of Etrios'.
The other symbol stone fragment was found on surface near head of grave 1, about ND 3487 5497. It measures 12.5ins high, 16.5ins wide and 1 5/8ins thick and bears, incised on one face, a rectangular symbol and part of another. It, together with other finds from excavations and a polished stone disc, 2 5/8ins in diameter, found on surface of mound, was donated to NMAS by Mrs Duff-Dunbar.
Certain features of this site, eg. accentuation of corners of rectangular kerbed structures and occurrence of symbol stones, have been compared with other extended inhumation cemeteries, either proved or supposed, eg. Garbeg (NH53SW 15), Whitebridge (NH41NE 2), Lundin Links (NO 40 SW ) etc, and with single graves, eg. Golspie (NC80SW 16), but closest parallel is possibly with cist cemetery at Stain (ND36SW 5). The occurrence of Class I symbol stones and comparison with Golspie and Lundin Links graves would suggest an earlier date for cemetery than that suggested by poss 10th century necklace.
A J H Edwards and T H Bryce 1926; A J H Edwards 1927; T H Bryce 1927; J Anderson 1897; J R Allen and J Anderson 1903; J Close-Brooks 1981; P Ashmore 1981.

The mound is about 120m long with a max width of 27m and 2m high. It has been considerably mutilated by World War 2 defence works, so that the many depressions in mound cannot be positively identified with 1925-6 excavation trenches.
Visited by OS (R D L) 21 April 1963.

Active erosion revealing two separate possible graves.
C E Batey 1981.

No change. Two poss graves noted by Batey were not identified.
Visited by OS (J M) 17 July 1982.

Photographs in Inverness Museum
Cist 4 (1902) skull only N/N 977.P79.24.
Unidentified and unlabelled picture of skull. May be that from Ackergill Links, cist 4 as it is filed with a labelled picture of the skull from that site. 977.P79.25

No. 2 This fragment of clay slate is much weathered, and measures 0.3m x 0.42m x 0.03m. A notched rectangular symbol is discernible decorated inside with a trumpet-like shape above a horizontal divide.
Donated to RMS(NMAS) by Mrs Duff-Dunbar in 1925. Acc No IB 206. Info from R Jones 1980.

Ackergill I : a Class I symbol stone bearing a salmon above a rectangle with a slanting Ogam inscription on the left.
A Mack 1997 p.29

Ackergill 1, Caithness, Pictish symbol stone
Measurements: L 1.22m, W 0.61m, D 0.08m
Stone type: Caithness flagstone
Place of discovery: ND 3483 5499
Present location: National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh (IB 168)
Evidence for discovery: found in August 1896 by John Nicholson on a mound on the links beside Sinclair’s Bay. It was given to the museum in 1897.
Present condition: slab has flaked but the surviving carving is crisp.
The broad smooth face of the slab is finely pecked with a large rectangle symbol containing spiral ornament, above which is the lower part of a fish with two fins. To the left of the symbols and cut at an acute angle to them is an ogham inscription reading NEHTETRI.
Date: eighth century.
Early Medieval Carved Stones Project, A Ritchie 2016

Sources/Archives (13)



Grid reference Centred ND 3487 5496 (10m by 10m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND35SW
Civil Parish WICK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (1)

  • SYMBOL STONE (Pictish - 300 AD to 900 AD)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (2)

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