Excavation of an early church and a women’s cemetery at St Ronan’s medieval parish church, Iona
O’Sullivan, Jerry et al.
Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Vol.124 (1994)
St Ronan’s was the medieval parish church of lona. Excavation within the church recorded remains of an earlier building and graves of various dates, from the early medieval to the modern period. The sex of earlier remains could not be determined, but all of the later skeletal remains were of women or children, and records attest to the use of the site as a women’s cemetery until the mid- 18th century. The discussion considers the antiquity and origins of the women’s cemetery and describes some possible Irish parallels. The earliest graves were overlain by the wall remnants of a small, unicameral, stone building — probably a church — with clay-bonded and whitewashed walls. The remains of the building were incorporated into the foundations of the medieval parish church. Parallels for the fabric and treatment of the masonry are known from some other pre-Romanesque Scottish churches. Finds from the excavation included a cross-inscribed slab, bronze and bone pins, coffin fittings and nails, fragments of decorated bronze objects and three medieval coins. The excavation was funded by the lona Cathedral Trust and Historic Scotland.