Chapter

Ritual landscape, with portage

Martin Carver

in Portmahomack

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780748624416
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748670703 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748624416.003.0009
Ritual landscape, with portage

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This chapter describes the history of the Tarbat peninsula, where the Pictish monastery at Portmahomack was sited. The peninsula was once more nearly an island, and boats were towed across its isthmus, used as a portage (Gaelic tairbeart). The coast was used for burial from the Bronze Age into the Iron Age. The monastery grew rich and powerful in the 8th century and the whole peninsula was probably its estate. Grand cross slabs marked its landing places, at Nigg, Shandwick, Hilton of Cadboll and Portmahomack – each looking out onto a different area of sea. In the Middle Ages, even if the Pictish monastery had been forgotten after the Viking raid, a new Premonstratensian monastery was founded in the centre of the peninsula at Fearn. Tarbat also had a very large number of chapels and holy wells, witness to a tradition of hermits and seers.

Keywords: Bronze Age; Iron Age; early medieval; medieval; burials; chapels; wells; portage

Chapter.  8349 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History and Theory of Archaeology

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