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Last Updated: Monday, 13 September, 2004, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
Ancient graves uncovered at pit
Archaelogists excavate the ground around the
Archaelogists excavate the ground around the "cists"
Quarry workers have unearthed a 1,500 year-old Christian burial ground.

The 20 stone-lined graves were found in a sand and gravel pit at Auchterforfar, near Forfar in Angus.

Archaeologists working for Historic Scotland excavated the scene and have now removed a number of bone remains for examination.

A total of 17 skeletal remains, including two children, were taken from the site. The graves were "cists", which are small, coffin-like boxes.

Experts are analysing the discovery in an effort to find out more about the dawn of Christianity in Scotland and its impact on the native Picts.

The graves were cists, small stone-built coffin-like boxes.

The excavation indicates this was an early Christian cemetery dating to the 5th to 9th centuries AD
Richard Heawood

Cists may have been associated with other monuments, such as cairns or long barrows.

Occasionally, ornaments have been found in a cist which could indicate the wealth of the interred individual.

The AOC Archaeology Group was contracted by Historic Scotland to carry out the excavation.

Mr Heawood, senior project manager, added: "Workers at the quarry found the bone in the first instance, then contacted us.

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"The excavation indicates that this was an early Christian long cist cemetery, dating to approximately the 5th to 9th centuries AD."

He said experts were hopeful the remains from the burial ground would help them learn more about the nutrition and diet of people living in the period.

"All cists shared a similar style of construction, utilising thin sandstone slabs to form roughly shaped rectangular coffins."

Historic Scotland is expected to publish a full report on the site once investigations are complete.

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