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Banffshire
Chapter 16. Antiquities


The prehistoric period of man's existence is divided by archaeologists into the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age, according to the materials of which implements of industry or weapons of war were constructed. It must not, however, be supposed that bronze implements, when first fashioned, immediately displaced stone implements or that weapons of iron at once superseded those in previous use. The different periods overlapped, and the introduction of the newer and better implements was gradual.

Of the Old Stone Age no examples have as yet been unearthed in Scotland; but of the Neolithic or New Stone Age examples are everywhere abundant. In Banffshire finely formed arrow-heads, celts and scrapers have been discovered in various districts, as Tarlair, Portsoy, the Cabrach, and Cullen. Near the Bin Hill there is believed to have been a flint factory.

The Bronze Age is regarded as having begun about 1300 B.C. Examples of bronze celts, spear heads, rings and armlets have been found in the Cabrach, at Inverkeithney, and at Auchenbadie in the parish of Alvah. The Auchenbadie armlet is particularly fine, with bold ornamentation. A most interesting relic is a boar's head of thin sheets of bronze hammered or moulded by pressure, which was unearthed in 1817 at Leitchestown in Deskford parish. It is now in Banff Museum.

Of stone circles known to have existed in the county in former days, some have disappeared, as in Rathven parish, while others are fragmentary, as at Feithhill. At Rothiemay is a recumbent stone with cup-markings.

Many cairns too have been obliterated in various parts of the county. Some, as at Aberlour, have, when opened, been found to contain sepulchral pottery and signs of cremation. These have been attributed to the Stone Age. Cists with skeletal remains and urns have been discovered in the Cabrach, for example, in the region of the Baads (inland from Findochty), and at East Lyne in Kirkmichael parish.

Sculptured stones occur. One is in the churchyard of Inveraven, another at Arndilly House, and a third at Mortlach church. The Inveraven stone has the crescent and sceptre, the triplet of circles, and the mirror and comb.

The Mortlach stone hears a cross and representations of various living creatures.

A Roman sword from what were formerly the bogs of Rettie, and Roman coins from Deskford and Dufftown have been associated with a probable march of Roman legionaries.

Cave dwellers lived at Tarlair, but circles have been recognised in the Cabrach, the kitchen midden at the Craig of Boyne (whatever be its earliest date) has relics coming down to mediaeval times—one has been definitely dated as of the fourteenth century.

Besides such ecclesiastical antiquities as the sacrament houses of Deskford and Cullen, a highly interesting relic (dug up in the old churchyard) of the pre-Reformation church of Banff exists in the only known example of a stone Pieta found in Scotland. It represent the Virgin in a sitting posture holding the body of Christ on her lap.


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