Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Pioneering laser scanning techniques carried out on ancient Pictish stones on Orkney and Shetland

New laser techniques are being used in the north of Scotland. Pic: Neil Hanna.
New laser techniques are being used in the north of Scotland. Pic: Neil Hanna.

A team of Swedish scientists has visited Orkney and Shetland to use the newest laser technology on a group of carved stones.

This is the first time the science, developed to analyse runestones in Sweden, has been carried out in Scotland.

The pilot project, led by National Museums Scotland and the University of the Highlands and Islands, has been focusing on sites at the Brough of Birsay on Orkney and Cunningsburgh on Shetland.

They are the only two sites discovered in Europe with evidence for the use of runes, ogham – the earliest known form of Gaelic – and Pictish symbols.

Dr Adrian Maldonado, Glenmorangie Research Fellow at National Museums Scotland, said: “Nothing like this has been attempted in Scotland.

“Runes are generally studied by those interested in the Viking Age, but we know that ogham was used before and during the period of Scandinavian settlements in Scotland.

“In fact, we have roughly equal numbers of early medieval inscriptions in both alphabets.

“The Pictish symbols, a related form of inscribed communication, have rarely been studied alongside these other forms of writing.

“The answers might help us answer longstanding questions of interactions between Picts, Gaels and Norse.”

He added: “Like the recent discovery of Old English names written on objects from the ‘Viking’ Galloway Hoard, the evidence of inscriptions shows multiple languages and alphabets were in use across early medieval Scotland.

“This fits into research showing the problematic nature of the ethnic labels commonly used, such as Anglo-Saxon, Pictish and Viking, to describe individuals in this period.”

Dr Alexandra Sanmark, of UHI, added: “Scotland is unique for having evidence of all these forms of writing inscribed in stone monuments. This project will focus on sites where multiple writing systems are used.”

The techniques developed by Swedish scientists, Dr Laila Kitzler Ahfeldt and Henrik Zedig, employ three-dimensional laser scanning to reveal methods of runic carving, and identify different sculptors according to minute details of carving technique.

It is hoped the study will contribute valuable new information for dating damaged inscriptions and feed data into research supervised by both project directors with results expected by next year.

3D models of the inscribed stones will be made available online.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]