by Martin Carver, Justin Garner-Lahire, Cecily Spall
Portmahomack on the Tarbat peninsula overlooking the Dornoch Firth is a fishing village with a 1,500-year-old history. In the sixth and seventh century it was a high-ranking centre with monumental cist burials and links to the equestrian class in England. In the eighth century it was a monastery, creating manuscripts and making church vessels and a stunning repertoire of carved stone monuments, its monks looking to Ireland, western Scotland and Northern England for their intellectual alliances. Around 800 AD the monastery came to an end
following a Viking raid, but swiftly revived as a manufacturing and trading centre, now serving the protagonists of the Norse-Scottish wars.
By the eleventh century the site was abandoned, but was remembered again in the early twelfth century when it became the parish church of St Colman. In the later middle ages it experienced an upsurge of activity with fishermen and metalsmiths settling beside an enlarged community church. When the Reformation arrived at Portmahomack about 1600, the village moved to the harbour and the old church of St Colman remained on its own, acting for another four hundred years as a weathervane of local society and its beliefs.
Rediscovered by archaeologists in the 1980s, from 1994 to 2007 the site at Portmahomack saw one of the largest research excavations to have taken place in Scotland. This richly-illustrated, voluminous book presents the archaeological discoveries made at and around Portmahomack, and considers their significance.
The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland gratefully acknowledges funding towards the publication of this volume from Historic Environment Scotland.