No fish on Friday - says Dr Curtis- Summers


Dr Shirley Curtis-Summers’ work on 137 skeletons buried under the old Tarbat Parish Church in Portmahomack, Easter Ross, has been hittng yhe press on both sides of the Atlantic. The burials span hundreds of years of Highland history, including two periods of Pictish life: from the 6th century when the land was used by a farming community, and subsequently, as a Pictish monastery.

One particular aspect of the research has attracted attention. Isotope studies suggest a distinct lack of fish in the diet despite the proximity of the sea.

Dr Curtis-Summers said: “It is possible that the monks at Portmahomack followed an early form of fasting that did not stipulate fish as a replacement for meat on fast days, and possibly some residual belief in the avoidance of eating revered fish, such as the salmon of knowledge, led to its absence. It’s not that they didn’t know how to fish, just that they chose not to for their main sustenance.

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Image from “Monastery workshop”, courtesy of John Tosca



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