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.
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’.
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.