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Portmahomack: Monastery of the Picts [Paperback]

Martin Carver
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 July 2008
A trail of chance finds on the outskirts of Portmahomack during the 19th and 20th centuries culminated in 1996 in the first exposure of a Pictish settlement in northern Scotland. The area soon became the subject of one of the largest research excavations ever to have taken place on the Scottish mainland. Discover the world of the Picts with this unique account of the discovery and excavation of an early monastery. Dating from the 6th to the 9th century AD, Portmahomack is one of the earliest Christian sites to be revealed in Britain and the first in the land of the Picts. The monastery was destroyed between 780 and 830 AD and was then lost to history before being unearthed by Martin Carver and his colleagues. In this highly illustrated book, Martin Carver describes the discovery of the site and the design and execution of the research programme, then traces the events that occurred from the mid-6th century to the 11th century when the parish church was founded on the former monastic site. The book ends with the subsequent history of the church of St Colman and a study of the Tarbat peninsula. The author's conclusions advance the theory that this was a prehistoric place before the monks arrived, and that they marked out the boundaries of their estate in the late 8th century with the lives of local saints carved on some of the greatest stone sculptures of the age.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Edinburgh University Press (3 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0748624422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0748624423
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 17 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 737,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

A gripping tale of discovery and detection, at once accessible and scholarly. -- William Dalrymple This is the popular book of that (ten-year) project ... a true academic, Carver has the confidence to write fresh, clear, direct, prose. Current Archaeology A highly readable and very personal, not to say personable, account of both the project and the interpretation of the site. -- Alex Woolf, University of St Andrews History Scotland Beautifully written and beautifully clear... it is impossible to imagine a better example of complex and subtle ideas made comprehensible without distortion. -- Peter Davidson, University of Aberdeen A gripping tale of discovery and detection, at once accessible and scholarly. This is the popular book of that (ten-year) project ... a true academic, Carver has the confidence to write fresh, clear, direct, prose. A highly readable and very personal, not to say personable, account of both the project and the interpretation of the site. Beautifully written and beautifully clear... it is impossible to imagine a better example of complex and subtle ideas made comprehensible without distortion.

About the Author

Martin Carver spent twelve years as a freelance archaeologist before being appointed to the Chair of Archaeology at the University of York in 1986. He is Director of Research at Portmahomack and editor of the journal Antiquity.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insight into Scottish antiquity 24 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a child in the late 70s, I lived near Portmahomack, and attended Tarbat Old Primary School, just along the road from the old church. I even remember going on a class outing to look in the crypt. But at the time, we had no idea just how ancient a site it was. There were all sorts of rumours in the area, though. An old man, walking near the lighthouse, pointed to a grassy bump and told me that he reckoned it was a Viking burial mound. I was always interested in history, even at such a young age, and it always irked me that I had no way of investigating further - although maybe that's for the best. I hate to think of the damage I could have done with my Dad's spade!

So when I was feeling nostalgic and looking up information on my childhood home, I was amazed to come across the stunning discoveries that were made after I left. This book tells the story of the monastic settlement at Portmahomack, stretching back possibly to the mid-6th century - the time of Columba and other wizard-saints, wandering the country, performing miracles, banishing monsters, and - more reliably, perhaps! - founding churches.

The book tells the story of the archaeological dig, uncovering the story of the monastic settlement from its founding to its probably destruction at the swords and torches of the Vikings in about 800AD, and beyond, right up to the present day. It's comprehensive and readable, even for those of use who've never been on digs but have picked up all of our archaeological knowledge from books.

Highly recommended if you have any interest in the Picts, or Scottish history in general.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on a Pictish archaeological site 1 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A really good book for all readers both the layman & those of an archaeological bent, whether an armchair archaeologist or those that have studied the subject/go on digs et al.
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