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A Pictish stone
Pictish stone
is a type of monumental stele, generally carved or incised with symbols or designs. A few have ogham inscriptions. Located in Scotland, mostly north of the Clyde-Forth line and on the Eastern side of the country, these stones are the most visible remaining evidence of the Picts
Picts
and are thought to date from the 6th to 9th century, a period during which the Picts
Picts
became Christianized. The earlier stones have no parallels from the rest of the British Isles, but the later forms are variations within a wider Insular tradition of monumental stones such as high crosses. About 350 objects classified as Pictish stones
Pictish stones
have survived, the earlier examples of which holding by far the greatest number of surviving examples of the mysterious Pictish symbols, which have long intrigued scholars.[1]

Contents

1 Classification 2 Purpose and meaning 3 Gallery of symbols 4 Distribution and sites

4.1 Class I 4.2 Class II 4.3 Class III 4.4 Collections

5 Gallery of stones 6 See also 7 References 8 External links

Classification[edit] In The Early Christian
Christian
Monuments of Scotland
Scotland
(1903) J Romilly Allen and Joseph Anderson first classified Pictish stones
Pictish stones
into three groups.[2] Critics have noted weaknesses in this system but it is widely known and still used in the field. In particular, the classification may be misleading for the many incomplete stones. Allen and Anderson regarded their classes as coming from distinct periods in sequence, but it is now clear that there was a considerable period when both Class I and II stones were being produced.[3]

Class 1 — unworked stones with symbols only incised. There is no cross on either side. Class 1 stones date back to the 6th, 7th and 8th century. Class 2 — stones of more or less rectangular shape with a large cross and symbol(s) on one or both sides. The symbols, as well as Christian
Christian
motifs, are carved in relief and the cross with its surroundings is filled with designs. Class 2 stones date from the 8th and 9th century. Class 3 — these stones feature no idiomatic Pictish symbols. The stones can be cross-slabs, recumbent gravemarkers, free-standing crosses, and composite stone shrines. They originate in the 8th or 9th century. Historic Scotland
Scotland
describes this class as "too simplistic" and says "Nowadays this is not considered a useful category. A surviving fragment may belong to a monument that did include Christian imagery".[3]

Later Scottish stones merge into wider medieval British and European traditions. Purpose and meaning[edit]

The Class I Dunnichen
Dunnichen
Stone, with Pictish symbols including the "double disc and Z-rod" at centre, and "mirror and comb" at the bottom.

The purpose and meaning of the stones are only slightly understood, and the various theories proposed for the early Class I symbol stones, that are considered to mostly pre-date the spread of Christianity to the Picts, are essentially speculative. Many later Christian
Christian
stones from Class II and Class III fall more easily into recognisable categories such as gravestones. The earlier symbol stones may have served as personal memorials or territorial markers, with symbols for individual names, clans, lineages or kindreds, although there are several other theories, and proposed explanations of the meanings of the symbols. A small number of Pictish stones
Pictish stones
have been found associated with burials, but most are not in their original locations. Some later stones may also have marked tribal or lineage territories. Some were re-used for other purposes, such as the two Congash Stones near Grantown-on-Spey, now placed as portal stones for an old graveyard. The shaft of an old cross is lying in the field. Another Pictish stone, the Dunachton
Dunachton
Stone near Kincraig, was later used as a door lintel in a barn. This was discovered when the building was dismantled in 1870. The stone was re-erected in the field. Recently it fell, after being photographed in 2007, but was re-erected again a few years later by the owner of Dunachton
Dunachton
Lodge. Class I and II stones contain symbols from a recognisable set of standard ideograms, many unique to Pictish art, which are known as the Pictish symbols. The exact number of distinct Pictish symbols is uncertain as there is some debate as to what constitutes a Pictish symbol, and whether some varied forms should be counted together or separately. The more inclusive estimates are in excess of sixty different symbols, but a more typical estimate is around thirty,[4] or "around forty" according to Historic Scotland.[1] These include geometric symbols which have been assigned descriptive names by researchers such as "crescent", "V-rod", "double disc and Z-rod", "mirror and comb", "triple disc", and outline representations of animals such as the adder, salmon, wolf, stag, eagle, as well as the apparently mythical Pictish Beast,[5] perhaps intended as a sea-monster. There are also representations of everyday objects such as the mirror and comb, which could have been used by high-status Picts. The symbols are almost always arranged in pairs or sets of pairs, often with the object type, such as the mirror and comb, below the others, hence the thinking they could represent names, lineage or kindred (such as two parents/clans). According to Anthony Jackson the symbol pairs represent matrilineal marriage alliances.[6] The animal group are generally only found in combination with the abstract types.[1] The symbols are found on some of the extremely rare survivals of Pictish jewellery, such as the pair of silver plaques from the Norrie's Law
Norrie's Law
hoard found in Fife
Fife
in the early 19th century,[7] and the Whitecleuch Chain.[8][9] The symbols are also sometimes found on other movable objects like small stone discs and bones mostly from the Northern Isles. Simple or early forms of the symbols are carved on the walls of coastal caves at East Wemyss, Fife
Fife
and Covesea, Moray. It is therefore thought likely that they were represented in other more perishable forms that have not survived in the archaeological record, perhaps including clothing and tattoos. Some symbols appear across the whole geographical range of the stones while, for example, six stones with the single symbol of a bull found at Burghead Fort
Burghead Fort
suggest that this represented the place itself, or its owners, despite other examples appearing elsewhere.[1] A team from Exeter University, using mathematical analysis, have concluded that the symbols in the Pictish image stones "exhibit the characteristics of written languages" (as opposed to "random or sematographic (heraldic) characters").[10][11] This claim has been criticized by linguists Mark Liberman and Richard Sproat on the grounds that the non-uniform distribution of symbols - taken to be evidence of writing - is little different from non-linguistic non-uniform distributions (such as die rolls), and that the Exeter team are using a definition of writing broader than that used by linguists.[12][13] To date, even those who propose that the symbols should be considered "writing" from this mathematical approach do not have a suggested decipherment.[14] However, earlier studies based on a contextual approach drawing on the identification of the pagan pre- Christian
Christian
Celtic Cult of the Archer Guardian have been able to suggest possible clausal meanings for symbol pairs.[15][16] Gallery of symbols[edit] A selection of the Pictish symbols, showing the variation between individual examples. Each group is classified as a single type by most researchers. Only the geometric and object types are represented here, not the animal group.

Pictish Symbol Stones, V-Rod with Crescent design

Pictish Symbol Stones, Z-Rod with Double Disc design

Pictish Symbol Stones, 'Mirror Case' design

Pictish Symbol Stones, 'Comb' design

Pictish Symbol Stones, Horseshoe/Arch design

Pictish Symbol Stones, Notched Rectangle design

Distribution and sites[edit]

Distribution of Class I and Class II stones, as well as caves holding Pictish symbol graffiti

The Nigg Stone, 790–799 AD, Class II, shows a Pictish harp, beasts and warriors in a 19th-century illustration, minus the top section.

Only a few stones still stand at their original sites; most have been moved to museums or other protected sites. Some of the more notable individual examples and collections are listed below (Note that listing is no guarantee of unrestricted access, since some lie on private land). Pictish Symbol stones have been found throughout Scotland, although their original locations are concentrated largely in the North East of the country in lowland areas, the Pictish heartland. During the period when the stones were being created, Christianity was spreading through Scotland
Scotland
from the west and the south, through the kingdoms of Dál Riata, which included parts of Ireland, and the extension into modern Scotland
Scotland
of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Bernicia
Bernicia
and Nothumbria. Areas that show particular concentrations include Strathtay, Strathmore, coastal Angus, Fife, Strathdee, Garioch, Moray, Strathspey, Caithness, Easter Ross, the Hebrides, Orkney
Orkney
and Shetland.[5] Two Pictish Class I stones are known to have been removed from Scotland. These are Burghead
Burghead
5 (Moray), showing the figure of a bull, now in the British Museum, and the Crosskirk stone (Caithness), presented to the King of Denmark
King of Denmark
in the 19th century, but whose location is currently unknown. Class I[edit]

Aberlemno
Aberlemno
1 (The serpent stone), Aberlemno, Angus. Boxed during winter months. The Craw Stane, a six-foot-high Class I stone on top of a hill near Rhynie. A salmon and Pictish Beast
Pictish Beast
are carved on the south-facing side. Dunnichen
Dunnichen
Stone, a class I stone found at Dunnichen, Angus, now on display at the Meffan Institute
Meffan Institute
in Forfar. A replica stands at its former position in front of Dunnichen
Dunnichen
church. Tain and District Museum, Tain — Class I stone in the yard and fragments from Edderton
Edderton
churchyard and Nigg in the museum. Inverness
Inverness
Museum, Castle Wynd, Inverness
Inverness
— collection of 8 Class I stones, including the Ardross Wolf and Deer's Head (two of the finest surviving animal symbols, probably originally parts of the same slab), and a fragment that matches a piece in Dunrobin Castle. Knocknagael Boar Stone, Highland Council HQ, Glenurquhart St, Inverness
Inverness
— Class I stone to be seen through a large window. Found at Knocknagael on the outskirts of Inverness. Churchyard Stone, Strathpeffer
Strathpeffer
— Class I stone Clach a'Mheirlich, Rosskeen — Class I stone in a field.[17] Tarbat Discovery Centre, Portmahomack
Portmahomack
— large collection of excavated fragments and information about the Picts. Sharp Stone (Clach Biorach), Edderton
Edderton
— Class I stone in a field (probable original position), viewable from the roadside. Kincardine Old Church, Ardgay
Ardgay
— coffin-shaped monument. Eagle Stone (Clach an Tiompain), Strathpeffer
Strathpeffer
Class I stone. Tote Stone, Tote on the Isle of Skye
Isle of Skye
— Class I stone in small fenced enclosure. Brandsbutt Stone
Brandsbutt Stone
in Inverurie
Inverurie
— Class I stone

Class II[edit]

East face of Class II Maiden Stone

Aberlemno
Aberlemno
2 (The kirkyard stone) – in the churchyard at Aberlemno, Angus. Boxed during winter months. Aberlemno
Aberlemno
3 (The great stone) – at the roadside, Aberlemno, Angus. Boxed during winter months. Drosten Stone
Drosten Stone
– Rare example of a Pictish stone
Pictish stone
with an inscription in Latin text. At St Vigeans, Angus. Dunfallandy Stone (Clach an t-Sagairt, 'The Priest's Stone'), Pitlochry
Pitlochry
– fine Class II stone (Historic Scotland). Eassie
Eassie
Stone, stands in the ruined church at Eassie. Groam House Museum, Rosemarkie
Rosemarkie
– collection of fragments of Pictish stones and a Class II cross-slab. The museum also has a collection of photographs of Pictish stones
Pictish stones
in Scotland. Fordoun Stone, in the vestibule of Fordoun parish church, Auchenblae there is a Class II 'Pictish' cross-slab which had been used as the base of the pulpit of the church of 1788. The face bears a Latin cross, part of a 'sea monster', a double-disc and Z-rod, a hunting scene with three horsemen and dogs, and two inscriptions, one in Hiberno-Saxon minuscules (on the face) and the other in Ogam (on the edge). Hilton of Cadboll Stone, now in the National Museum, with a replica at the original site. One of the finest pictorial stones Kirriemuir
Kirriemuir
Sculptured Stones, now on display at the Meffan Institute in Forfar. Maiden Stone, at the roadside in Aberdeenshire. Boxed during winter months. Nigg Stone, Nigg inside the former parish church – Class II cross-slab. A fragment of it can be found in Tain Museum Trusty's Hill, near Anwoth, Dumfries and Galloway
Dumfries and Galloway
– a series of Class II stones. Shandwick
Shandwick
Stone, Shandwick
Shandwick
– Class II cross-slab protected by glass shelter.[18] St Orland's Stone, near Kirriemuir, Angus. Woodwrae Stone, from Woodwrae, Angus, now at Museum
Museum
of Scotland, Edinburgh

Class III[edit]

Class III Pictish stone
Pictish stone
in Dunblane
Dunblane
Cathedral

The Camus Cross, high cross near Carnoustie. The Dupplin Cross
Cross
high cross at St Serf's church, Dunning. Dunblane
Dunblane
Cathedral, Dunblane
Dunblane
— this Class III stone was found in the foundations of Dunblane
Dunblane
Cathedral during restoration. It can be found inside the Cathedral. Sueno's Stone, Forres
Forres
— 6.5m-high cross-slab (tallest in Scotland[6]) dating from 9th or 10th century protected by glass (Historic Scotland).

Collections[edit]

The Hilton of Cadboll Stone
Hilton of Cadboll Stone
in the Museum
Museum
of Scotland.

Dunrobin Castle
Dunrobin Castle
Museum, Golspie
Golspie
— collection of over 20 Class I and II Pictish stones
Pictish stones
collected by the Dukes of Sutherland. Elgin Museum, High St, Elgin — large collection, largely from Kinneddar churchyard. McManus Galleries, Dundee. Collection of class I and III stones. The Meffan Institute, Forfar Meigle
Meigle
Sculptured Stone Museum, Meigle, near Forfar Museum
Museum
of Scotland, Edinburgh Montrose Museum Perth Museum, Perth — collection of 3 Pictish stones, St Madoes 1, Inchyra and Gellyburn. Pictavia, near Brechin St Vigeans
St Vigeans
Museum, Arbroath
Arbroath
— collection of Pictish and medieval stones. Includes the Drosten Stone, a class 2 cross-slab, one of only two Pictish symbol-stones to carry a non-ogham inscription. Key from Arbroath
Arbroath
Abbey or keyholder in village (Historic Scotland).

Gallery of stones[edit]

Aberlemno
Aberlemno
1; Class I 

Aberlemno
Aberlemno
4; Class I 

Brandsbutt Stone; Class I with ogham inscription 

Eagle Stone; Class I 

Fiskavaig
Fiskavaig
Stone; Class I 

Invereen Stone; Class I 

Strathmartine Castle Stone; Class I 

Gairloch Stone; Class I 

Eassie
Eassie
Stone; Class II 

Woodwrae Stone; Class II 

Aberlemno
Aberlemno
3, front face; Class II 

Aberlemno
Aberlemno
3 rear face detail; Class II 

Monifieth 1; Class II 

Hilton of Cadboll Stone
Hilton of Cadboll Stone
(replica); Class II 

Dupplin Cross, Class III 

Monifieth 4; Class III 

Camus Cross; Class III 

See also[edit]

Painted pebbles Carved Stone Balls Petrosphere High cross Cross
Cross
stones

References[edit]

^ a b c d Pictish Stones, "The Symbols" ^ Allen, J.R.; Anderson, J. (1903), Early Christian
Christian
Monuments of Scotland, Balgavies, Angus: Pinkfoot Press (1993 facsimile)  ^ a b Pictish Stones, "Types of Stone". ^ Forsyth, Katherine (1997), Henry, David, ed., "Some thoughts on Pictish Symbols as a formal writing system" (PDF), The Worm, the Germ and the Thorn. Pictish and related studies presented to Isabel Henderson, Balgavies, Forfar: Pinkfoot Press, pp. 85–98, ISBN 978-1-874012-16-0, retrieved December 10, 2010  ^ a b Fraser, Iain (2008), The Pictish Symbol Stones of Scotland, Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancienct and Historic Monuments of Scotland  ^ a b Jackson, Anthony (1984), The Symbol Stones of Scotland, Stromness, Orkney: The Orkney
Orkney
Press  ^ Graham-Campbell, James (1991), "Norrie's Law, Fife: on the nature and dating of the silver hoard" (PDF), Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 121: 241–259, retrieved November 25, 2010  ^ Clark, J Gilchrist (1880), "Notes on a Gold Lunette found at Auchentaggart, Dumfriesshire, and a Massive Silver Chain found at Whitecleugh, Lanarkshire, exhibited by His Grace The Duke of Buccleuch" (PDF), Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 14: 222–224, retrieved August 1, 2010  ^ Wainwright, F.T. (1955), Wainwright, F.T., ed., The Problem of the Picts, Edinburgh
Edinburgh
and London: Nelson  ^ Ravilious, Kate. "Mathematics of ancient carvings reveals lost language". New Scientist.  ^ Lee, Rob; Jonathan, Philip; Ziman, Pauline (31 March 2010), "Pictish symbols revealed as a written language through application of Shannon entropy" (PDF), Proceedings of the Royal Society.  ^ Liberman, Mark (April 2, 2010). "Pictish Writing?". Retrieved 17 September 2010.  ^ "Ancient symbols, computational linguistics, and the reviewing practices of the general science journals" (PDF). Computational Linguistics. Retrieved 17 September 2010.  ^ See now the recent hypothesis about, based on the Shannon entropy, in: Rob Lee, Philip Jonathan and Pauline Ziman, "Pictish symbols revealed as a written language through application of Shannon entropy", Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Science, 2010 (published online 31 March 2010): abstract, and open access to the article. The press new in New Written Language of Ancient Scotland
Scotland
Discovered. "Once thought to be rock art, carved depictions of soldiers, horses and other figures are in fact part of a written language dating back to the Iron Age. A new written language, belonging to the early Pict society of Scotland, has just been identified" (J. Viegas, News in Discovery.com, Wed Mar 31, 2010). ^ Griffen, Toby D (March 2000). "The Pictish Art of the Archer Guardian" (PDF). Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Celtic Studies Association of North America St Louis, Missouri. Retrieved 30 May 2011.  ^ Griffen, Toby D. "The Grammar of the Pictish Symbol Stones" (PDF). Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Retrieved 30 May 2011.  ^ Ellen MacNamara, The Pictish Stones of Easter Ross, Tain, 2003 ^ Dougla Scott, The Stones of the Pictish Peninsulas, Hilton Trust, 2004

External links[edit]

Pictish Stones website from Historic Scotland The Highland Council Archaeology Unit — This webpage offers a leaflet in PDF-format about a Pictish Trail from Inverness
Inverness
to Golspie The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
Scotland
— RCAHMS is the principal source of collections for Scotland’s archaeology, buildings and maritime heritage, including Pictish Stones. University of Strathclyde[permanent dead link] — Pictish Stones Search Facility, a useful catalogue of the stones. New Written Language of Ancient Scotland
Scotland
Discovered. Another take on the symbols and images as "part of a written language dating back to the Iron Age".(J. Viegas, News in Discovery.com, Wed Mar 31, 2010).

v t e

Pictish sculptured stones

Ross

Ardjachie Stone Dingwall Stone Edderton
Edderton
Cross
Cross
Slab Edderton
Edderton
Standing Stone Gairloch Stone Hilton of Cadboll Stone Nigg Stone Poolewe Stone Portmahomack
Portmahomack
sculpture fragments Rosemarkie
Rosemarkie
Stone Rosemarkie
Rosemarkie
sculpture fragments Rosskeen Stone Shandwick
Shandwick
Stone Strathpeffer
Strathpeffer
Stone

Badenoch and Strathspey

Advie Stone Ballintomb Stone Congash Stones Dunachton
Dunachton
Stone Findlarig Stone Grantown Stone Inverallan Stone Lynchurn Stone

Moray

Dandaleith stone Rodney's Stone Sueno's Stone

Inverness

Balbair Stones Culaird Stone Dores Stone Drumbuie Stone Garbeg Stone Invereen Stone Kingsmills Stone Knocknagael Stone Lochardill Stone Torgorm Stone

Aberdeen
Aberdeen
and Aberdeenshire

Ardlair Stone Aquhollie Stone Brandsbutt Stone Broomend of Crichie stone Cairnton stone Dyce stones Fordoun Stone Fyvie
Fyvie
Stones Kintore stones Logie Elphinstone Stones Maiden Stone Migvie Stone Monymusk Stone Nether Corskie Stone Newbigging, Leslie Stone Newton House Stones Picardy Stone Rhynie Stones Tillytarmont Stones

Angus

Aberlemno
Aberlemno
Sculptured Stones Balluderon Stone Camus Cross Drosten Stone Dunnichen
Dunnichen
Stone Eassie
Eassie
Stone Glamis Manse Stone Hunter's Hill Stone Kirriemuir
Kirriemuir
Sculptured Stones Monifieth Sculptured Stones St Orland's Stone St Vigeans
St Vigeans
Sculptured Stones Strathmartine Castle Stone Woodwrae Stone

Perth and Kinross

Bullion Stone Dupplin Cross Meigle
Meigle
standing stones

Fife

Abdie stone

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