Unusual Roman Iron Age burials on the Links of Pierowall, Westray, Orkney
Iron Age burials, Roman imports, Roman glass cup, Roman silver spoon, Polished stone disc
Pierowall, Westray, Orkney, Scotland, UK
Antiquarian accounts and surviving finds allow two Iron Age cist-burials found in the late 18th century on the Links of Pierowall on Westray, Orkney, to be reconstructed, although no details of the bodies survive (but both were most probably inhumations); the unusual finds have not previously received full attention. One burial contained a polished stone disc, used as a palette for grinding some valued substance, probably cosmetic, medical or narcotic. A review of the type emphasises its particular prevalence in northern Scotland, and places it within the wider context of an increase in artefacts linked to personal appearance and behaviour in the Roman Iron Age. The other burial contained a well-known Roman glass cup and a hitherto ignored ‘metal spoon’ which can reasonably be identified as a Roman import as well, plausibly of silver. Such spoons are rare import goods, known from rich burials beyond the frontier on continental Europe in the late 2nd and 3rd century AD. This suggests that the Roman world adopted similar approaches to its varied neighbours in terms of the goods offered in (most likely) political or diplomatic connections.