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Sun illuminates hidden cross on St Kilda

Archaeologists working on St Kilda, the National Trust for Scotland’s dual World Heritage Site have discovered a cross-inscribed slab that had previously gone un-noticed on the island, thanks to the sun.

Staff from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) recently visited the island as part of a special project to investigate and record the rich variety of archaeological evidence that exist on St Kilda.

They discovered the cross on a piece of stone that had been reused as the cover slab of a drain. It had never been spotted before, despite being located in a well-investigated area of the island and experts say they only spotted it when the sun hit the slab as they were passing.

Two other cross-incised slabs have already been recorded in the area – one built into one of 1860s houses, the other into the roof of one of the cleits (the drystane storage sheds that are unique to the archipelago). It is thought that the three stones came from the nearby chapel or graveyard.

National Trust for Scotland archaeologist Jill Harden, who has worked extensively on the island said:
“We are so pleased to have made such an interesting discovery, and almost by chance. The slab would not have been spotted had the sun not hit it just so. This find demonstrates just how much there is still to discover and understand on all our properties.

We are still a little surprised that this has been found here as the settlement area of Village Bay on Hirta is one of the most investigated historic landscapes cared for by the Trust. Nevertheless it is a brilliant discovery and one which will add to our understanding of this amazing location and the unique community it once supported.”

Strat Halliday, the archaeologist from RCAHMS who discovered the cross said: “I was literally just watching where I was putting my feet, and there it was, clear as daylight. And to think I’d walked across the very same spot less than 24 hours previously. It all goes to show how important it is to visit sites more than once and at different times of the day. You never know what’s going to pop up next.”


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