Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Monday, 13 October 2008 12:01 UK

Uncovering north's Christian past

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The dig is examining the Christian roots in the north of Scotland

A group of archaeologists are trying to establish if Norsemen brought Christianity to Caithness before St Columba arrived on Iona.

The question has arisen after a dig at an ancient church site at the coastal village of Dunbeath.

Pottery dating back to the 6th Century has recently been found in the area.

A University of Nottingham team is to carry out further exploration which they hope could show evidence of an even earlier Christian church.

Used continuously

The dig site is on croft land held by archaeologist Nan Bethune and her husband George.

Mrs Bethune said she was confident further investigation would show remains of a wall will be shown to be those of an early church.

St Columba left Ireland for Scotland in AD 563 and went on to found Manachain monastery on Iona, in Argyll.

Mrs Bethune believes the Dunbeath site was used continuously until the Reformation of the 16th Century.

European-wide, the Reformation saw religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics divided Western Europe for over 150 years.


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