St Magnus Graffiti Project, Stage 1

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This report presents the results from survey work undertaken at St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney, between January 2019 and June 2021, as part of the St Magnus Graffiti Project, which was commissioned by Orkney Archaeology Society (OAS) and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and OAS. Volunteers were trained and assisted by Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) archaeologists during four workshops in January and February 2019.
The project has successfully evaluated the potential of the assemblage of graffiti, masons’ marks, and related marks and inscriptions, surviving within the accessible areas of the ground floor of the cathedral. Preliminary findings suggest that a wide range of marks survive in the building, and whilst the assemblage is unsurprisingly dominated by masons’ marks, several examples of ‘dot patterns’, thought to relate to a medieval and early modern folk magic practice, and several incised drawings, which are possibly of medieval or early modern date, have also been recorded. A small number of examples of name-and-date graffiti from the 19th and 20th centuries were also noted during the survey, including inscriptions which can be linked to known
individuals. The number of marks recorded greatly exceeded expectations with a total of 630 marks recorded by the volunteers. Stage 2 work, comprising survey of the upper levels, is planned for 2022.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2021


  • Orkney
  • Graffiti
  • St Magnus Cathedral
  • Public Archaeology


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