The ancient Scottish Pictish symbol that broke a farmer’s plough
A huge pink granite boulder from the Picts who lived in the north and east of Scotland hundreds of years ago, incised with a large eagle and a mirror case with mysterious symbols, has been revealed to the public more than a year after it broke a farmer’s plough near Craigellachie.
Spanning more than 1.7 metres and weighing more than a ton, the Dandaleith Stone was originally reported as a “rather large stone with some sort of carving” by the landowner, who reported the solid relic to Aberdeenshire Council’s Archaeology Service in May 2013.
The Picts lived in the region between the 3rd and 9th centuries, and are thought to have created the stones as markers or commemorations between the 6th and 8th centuries. This massive example features a large eagle, crescent and V-rod, notch rectangle and Z-rod – typical of stones found in the area, but potentially unique in being aligned on two adjoining faces.
“Members of the public regularly contact the Archaeology Service about artefacts they have found, but the reporting of the Dandaleith Stone was something truly unexpected – a real rarity,” said Claire Herbert, the council’s Regional Archaeologist, praising the ploughman and landowner for their help.
“To our knowledge, this is a truly unique find which has the potential to alter our understanding of Pictish Symbol Stones.
“We are privileged to be involved in the continued protection of such a wonderful object.”
Sculptors and conservators are examining the stone in Edinburgh, although it will be returned to the Elgin Museum, which won the bid and was allocated the stone in March, later this year.
“The presence of two sets of symbols on a single stone is itself a very unusual feature relative to the corpus of symbol-bearing stones,” said David V Clarke, an Early Medieval specialist and former Keeper of Archaeology at the National Museum of Scotland.
“But the presence of two sets of symbols on adjacent faces may be unique.
“The corresponding orientation of these two sets of symbols is also a very unusual feature.”
Archaeologists hope to carry out a geophysical survey and small-scale trial excavations to deduce whether the stone was in its original setting or had been deposited by one of the large-scale floods to have affected the area across the centuries.
Janet Trythall, of The Moray Society, said the museum was “thrilled” to have acquired the stone, calling it a “marvellous complement” to the venue’s current collection of carved stones.
“All that remains is to raise the necessary funding for restoration and display, and to overcome the logistical challenges of a piece of granite of this magnitude,” she added.
You can see a great collection of Pictish Stones at St Vigeans Museum near Arbroath.
The oldest continuously independent museum in Scotland. Established in 1836, with the purpose built museum opening in 1842. Objects on display from before the dinosaurs to the present day, telling the story of Moray and Moray's connection with the wider world. Recognised collection of local fossils. Pictish and other Early…