Jan 08 2014

The Isle of Iona may be an ancient burial site

TyIona Bay at the Isle of Iona

TyIona Bay at the Isle of Iona

Pic: Wiki

An archaeological survey on the famous Scots isle of Iona – where St Columba landed 1450 years ago to spread Christianity in Scotland – has shown signs of ancient burials reports the Scotsman. This is the first geophysical investigation to be undertaken away from the core focus of the Columban monastic enclosure and the Benedictine Abbey. The surveys were carried out on National Trust for Scotland land on the island by Dr Sue Ovenden and Alastair Wilson of Rose Geophysical Consultants.

The pair examined two areas in the fields to the south of the village – one close to the current village hall and south of the Nunnery and the other at Martyr’s Bay. The area close to the village hall seems to show features of recent or natural origin which will be excavated later this year. However, the more interesting result came from Martyr’s Bay where there is a mound beside the road where skeletal remains were excavated in the 1960s.

Excavations

Derek Alexander, the Trust’s Head of Archaeology Derek, said:

The geophysical survey shows that on the landward side, this mound may have been revetted by stones and surrounded by a shallow ditch. This could be a sign of burials. It has always been suggested that there are numerous burial sites on Iona and there have been various finds over the years, the most famous of which is in the graveyard at Relig Odhrain to the south of the Abbey.

The burials that have been discovered so far are absolutely fascinating. For example, those unearthed by excavations at Martyr’s Bay in the 1960s were quite unusual – there were some 40 skeletons packed into an area about 4m long by 2m wide. These appeared quite jumbled and many may have been reburied, especially as the carbon dating showed that one skeleton dating from the 13 – 15th century was below one dating from the 6 – 8th century.

It’s possible that this mound has some connection to another graveyard that’s marked on an old map, known as Clad Nan Druineach. We plan to investigate the area further in September, and hope that the findings will add more to what we already know about this fascinating island’s cultural and spiritual story.

The findings are revealed as the island prepares for a special Service of Thanksgiving at Iona Abbey to mark the 1450th anniversary of Columba’s arrival on Iona.

Read more about the story and the service on The Scotsman website.

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “The Isle of Iona may be an ancient burial site”

  1. Andrew McIntyreon 08 Jan 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Interesting report on burials on Iona. Funny Ive known and suspected this for years. it stands to reason as many of the old Kings are already buried on Iona. Colum Cille was related to the gaels of dal Riada and as such most of the ruling family would be buried on Iona. I fully beleive that the grand son of Aedan mac Gabran who was called Artuir is buried here. In fact Iona or I as it was once known is in fact Avallon.

  2. Garyon 08 Jan 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    There is so much fascinating history here and nowhere near enough serious research has taken place. I’m very excited to see some exploratory geo-physics surveys! Let’s hope they share the news and discoveries with us :)

    Many blessings

    Gary xxxx

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