Bone from Broch of Burrian, North Ronaldsay, Orkney

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Postcard of Bone from Broch of Burrian, North Ronaldsay, Orkney.
© National Museums Scotland

Bone from Broch of Burrian, North Ronaldsay, Orkney

This ox bone was found at the Broch of Burrian on North Ronaldsay in Orkney. It may have been used as a playing piece. The object dates from between 500 and 800.

The bone is a phalange (toe bone) which has been decorated on both sides. On this side it has been carved with a Pictish symbol commonly known as the crescent and V-rod.

Monumental stones and some portable objects were decorated by the Picts with a range of unusual symbols, some of everyday objects and others more abstract. Many theories have been proposed to explain their meaning which nevertheless remain obscure.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-000-136-622-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0035: Early Scottish Shelter - Life in the Prehistoric Home (multimedia essay)
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  X.GB 227
Date: Between 500 and 800
Material: Bone, ox; incised on one side with a crescent and V rod and on the other with a circular disc and rectangle with square indentations
Dimensions: 2.20" L
What: Phalanx, ox / playing piece
Where: Scotland, Orkney, North Ronaldsay, Burrian
Description: Ox phalanx with incised Pictish symbols, possibly a playing piece or king piece, from Burrian
  • MacGregor, Arthur. The Broch of Burrian, North Ronaldsay, Orkney. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 105 (1972-4), pp 63-118, esp. pp 88, 102-3, 111. 
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