A new exhibition, featuring a Pictish symbol stone which is on display for the first time, is open now at the Orkney Museum.

The Newark Project exhibition outlines the history of Newark, in the parish of Deerness. Although perhaps best known as the site of an extensive medieval cemetery, Newark is a complex, multi-period site with evidence of human activity going back to the Bronze Age. It is, however, badly affected by coastal erosion and its archaeology under constant threat.

It was erosion that led to the discovery of the symbol stone, which was spotted eroding from a bank in 2016. A rescue excavation, funded by Historic Environment Scotland and led by the Archaeology Institute UHI’s ORCA, was launched to recover the stone before it was lost or damaged.

Featuring a cross on one side and Pictish symbols on the other, the Newark stone is one of two Class II symbol stones found in Orkney.

The Orkney Museum exhibition, which runs until October 29, focuses on an ORCA project that launched in 2019.

Funded by Historic Environment Scotland and led by a team from ORCA and community volunteers, the Newark Project has been piecing together the story of the site based on past excavations, surveys and modern scientific analysis of the human remains.

And what a remarkable story it is – with prehistorical burials, Picts, Vikings, Norse and the descendants of kings and Orkney’s merchant lairds.

A Bronze Age burial is the earliest evidence so far with several suspected barrows also detected in a recent geophysical survey. In the Iron Age, two underground structures were built, one of which had human remains deposited within.

Newark is the resting place of a large number of people who were buried there over a period of 800 years (AD600-1400). The full extent of the cemetery, which continues to erode into the sea, is uncertain but itsuse spans one of the least understood periods of Orkney’s history – when the Late Iron Age population encountered Vikings and when, somewhere along the line, the ancestry of some of Orkney’s population came into being.

The Newark Project: the story so far runs at the Orkney Museum until October 29, 2022. The opening hours are Monday-Saturday, 10.30am – 5.00pm from May-September and 10.30am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-5pm in October. Admission is free.