Incredible discovery sheds light on ‘lost people’

An old stone anvil, discovered during an excavation on the small island of Rousay offers a rare glimpse into the culture of the Pictish people.

(iStock/Stamatoyoshi/University of Bradford/Swandro-Orkney Coast Archaeology Trust)

The archaeologists on a remote Scottish island have found an unusual artifact of the mysterious ancient Pictish people.

The name “Picti” or “painted people” by the Romans, the Picts were a confederation of tribes in the north of Scotland. Many of the Pictish culture, however, remains shrouded in mystery. They have even been described as “Europe’s lost people”, according to the Smithsonian.

However, an old stone anvil, discovered during an excavation on the small island of Rousay offers a rare glimpse into the Pictish culture. Incredibly, the anvil, which is thought to be 1,500 years old, wearing sooty hand prints that have survived through the centuries. Knee imprints are also on the anvil.


The artifact is one of the two stone anvils found in what appears to be an old coppersmith workshop. “The biggest surprise came when we lifted, the greater stone anvil and cleaned; we could see a carbon print of the smith’s knees and hands,” says Dr. Stephen Dockrill, co-director of the excavation, and lecturer in archaeology at the University of Bradford, in a statement.

The old stone anvil (University of Bradford/Swandro-Orkney Coast Archaeology Trust)

The semi-underground workshop dates between the 6th and 9th century A. D. However, experts now face a race against time to find out as much as they can about the site. The workshop is part of a settlement that is gradually being swept away to sea.

“This is an extremely exciting find and we will do everything we can to gather as much information on the site before it is destroyed by the sea,” explained the excavation’s co-director Dr. Julie Bond, senior lecturer in archaeology at the University of Bradford. “A handprint is so personal that you can almost feel the presence of the copper smith and imagine what it must have been like working in there all those years ago.”


The site, called the Knowe of Swandro, a 5,000 year old Neolithic tomb, iron age roundhouses, Pictish buildings, and a Viking settlement and a long hallway, according to the Swandro-Orkney Coast Archaeology Trust.

During the current criticism on the Knowe of Swandro, archaeologists also have a small antler handle that can be a part of a knife and a small Pictish painted pebble.

Last year, experts at the site discovered a rare Roman coin, which is believed to date from the middle of the fourth century, A. D., on the island. The find is remarkable because the Romans did not occupy the Orkney — in the heyday of the Roman Empire extended as far as the Antonine Wall on the Scottish mainland, about 200 km south of Rousay.


Elsewhere in Scotland, archaeologists have also the advantage of impressive finds. Earlier this year, for example, a treasure trove of ancient artifacts, was discovered at a fort by the archaeologists believe, was razed to the ground by the Vikings. Experts at the University of Aberdeen made the remarkable finds at Burghead in Scotland the northern coast of Moray. The fort, which was once used by the Picts, is described as the largest of its kind in Scotland.

Last year, archaeologists and volunteers is also the location of a lost early medieval kingdom in the south of Scotland.

In 2014, a wonderful treasure of old silver, supposed to have been used as bribes by the Romans, was found with a metal detector by a teenager in Dairsie, in the Scottish region of Fife.

Experts in Scotland have also 3-D technology to reconstruct the face of an 18th-century ‘witch.’

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