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Carloway Broch Carvings

Carvings on the Carloway Broch. Oh yes there is…

The Carloway Broch external door lintel, in a brilliant white low light, the first week of September in 2010, revealed a series of carvings which have never been recorded. The entire external door lintel is one canvas of symbols.

Working as a tour guide, on this day in September 2010, it was my second visit to the broch, around 4.30pm. Shepherding the remaining five people on the site towards the coach, the low setting sun was above the Uig hills and possibly reflecting from the vast Atlantic just behind us. As I turned around a shaft of bright light hit the lintel of the one entrance to the broch, revealing an extensively carved slab.

I asked those five people on the site, to describe the image to me and they described exactly what I was seeing. I didn’t have a camera, but I had a sketch pad and quickly drew the image, before we continued to the next scheduled stop.

I returned about 6.30pm that evening with an archaeologist the bright shaft of light long gone, the image could no longer be seen with the naked eye.

I returned in early September 2011 at the same time of day and took some photographs. Alas the light was not as good as the previous year. But thanks to the position of the sun, the sketch and having my eye in, I could pick out some of the features I had seen highlighted twelve months before. The image is in relief, figurative as can be seem on the sketch, and on the far right has four box like symbols with potentially some ogham or linear markings.

My original sketch from 2010 is attached and two pictures of the lintel in 2011 with the not so favourable lighting conditions.

I have shared those items, with a number of archaeologists. Now some years later, I realise fast advancing, laser technology may bring the carvings to light, for all to see. This is an appeal to any archaeologist working in the rock art field, to scan, photograph or survey the carvings on the external lintel at the Carloway Broch.

Having attended the Pictish Arts Conferences in North East Scotland, 2012-2018, subsequent to this find, I have not seen similar carvings exhibited, during the excellent papers on Pictish Art.

In 2018 I realised that I should be looking at Pictish Art research in Ireland. As the natural sea links with Ireland and the Hebrides could provide similar symbol conventions.

As there are only a few sites which are labelled ‘Pictish’ or sites with carvings from the Iron Age, recorded in the Outer Hebrides, it has been difficult to raise the profile of this find. That and my inability to light the panel to give indisputable proof. I know this panel is a very exciting previously unrecorded find and feel compelled to share this giant text message from the past with the wider public.

To date I have been unable to devote the time to trace Pictish/Iron Age/ Broch Art research in Ireland.

Magaidh Smith Dec 2021

Note: Another point which could be relevant is that the Carloway Broch is recorded in the School of Scottish Studies, as Dun Dearg. Dearg a character from Irish Mythology, was said to have been in the Hebrides for some time. Interestingly due west of the Carloway broch in the Uig district is the well-known Abhainn Dearg (Dearg’s river).






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