A Pictish Symbol-Stone

07 Jan

A Pictish symbol-stone engraved with a possibly unique distribution of markings has been hailed by archaeologists as ‘probably Morays most important Pictish finds for a decade’.

Measuring some 1.7m in length and weighing over a ton, the stone was identified by Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service (ACAS) after a Craigellachie landowner reported that his ploughman had ‘broken his plough on a rather large stone with evidence of some type of carving on the side’.  It has been interpreted as a class one  symbol-stone (that is, an unworked stone with symbols-but not crosses incised on it), a type usually associated with the 6th-8th centuries AD.  One face is decorated with an image of a large eagle, with a crescent and V-rod design below, while a second face bears carvings of a mirror-case symbol ,notch rectangle, and Z rod . These are all fairly typical Pictish symbols, found on other stones in the area such as at Arndilly and Ineravon.

Pictish - stone with synbols (1)

Photo courtesy of Aberdeenshire County Archaeology Service.

ACAS Regional Archaeologist Clair Herbert said. What makes this stone more unusual  however, is the presence  of symbols on two adjoining faces that are aligned the same way. This is such an exciting and rare find. As far as I have been able to establish there are no other known examples- certainly not from north-east Scotland- of carved Pictish stones with this distribution of symbols, where two pairs of images are present on adjoining faces that could be visible at the same time’, she said. ‘ I don’t think that both sets of symbols were carved at the same time- there are subtle differences in their style, but for a stone to have had this kind of reuse , and it not to have been turned upside down in the process obscuring the original design, is unusual, in  fact unique’.

Pictish-stone with symbols (2)

Photo. courtesy of Aberdeenshire County Archaeology Service.

New finds of any kind of carved Pictish stone of this scale are incredibly rare. There have been a handful of small fragmentary stones found in the north-east over the last 60  years, but in terms of large-scale stones ( of any classification ) the most recent has been is the Rhynie Man, found in 1978. The stone has since been declared Treasure Trove, and will be displayed in Elgin Museum, likely in 2015.

ACAS hope that geophysical survey and exploratory excavation over its floodplain findspot will shed more light on whether this was its original location, or if the boulder had been carried there by a later inundation.


Posted by on January 7, 2015 in Uncategorized



5 responses to “A Pictish Symbol-Stone

  1. Silver in the Barn

    January 7, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    It’s so incredible and amazing that the earth continues to offer up traces of ancient lives. FAscinating stuff, Rita.


  2. ritaroberts

    January 8, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Thanks Barbara. And with modern technology of today there’s is going to be many more discoveries I think don’t you ?


  3. dorannrule

    January 8, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    So fascinating to know that early man wished fervently to leave signs of himself for future generations. By the way, I am deeply immersed in your book Rita and I can hardly put it down! I love it and find the similarities in our backgrounds to be astonishing, while the differences are so prevalent at the same time. I too played the role of Dale Evans…… and helped Mom with the wringer washing machine…… but more amazing is the fact you went on to loftier goals and reached them. I am even more glad to know you now that i have your book in hand.


    • ritaroberts

      January 8, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      Hi Dora, I am so pleased you are enjoying my book, and thanks for the lovely comments. I bet you had a giggle at my imaginary horse eh. When I wrote my book it was just like living my life over again. And yes I would do the same things again. By the way the pictures in black and white are on my blog (In colour).


  4. vallance22

    January 8, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Reblogged this on Linear B, Knossos & Mycenae and commented:
    Fascinating! I just work with Linear A Linear B & Linear C, but this is something else! I have to at least look at it! Thanks, Rita. Richard



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