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National treasure found in Moray field

By SPP Reporter

Elgin Museum will house the Pictish Dandaleith Stone.
Elgin Museum will house the Pictish Dandaleith Stone.

A RARE archaeological treasure of national importance has been found in a Moray field.

The Dandaleith Stone was uncovered near Craigellachie by a farmer last May, who advised he had “broken his plough on a rather large stone with some sort of carving on one side”.

The 1.7metre long block, which weighs over a ton, is a Class I Pictish Stone, with incised decoration on two adjoining faces.

It features a large eagle on one side and the second is carved with a mirror case symbol. Whilst previously recorded stones in the Strathspey area have similar symbols, the presence on the Dandaleith Stone of incised symbols on two adjoining faces, aligned on the same orientation, is unusual.

Dr David Clarke, former Keeper of Archaeology at the National Museum of Scotland, said: “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, but the presence of two sets of symbols on adjacent faces may be unique. The corresponding orientation of the sets of symbols is also a very unusual feature.”

The stone was declared a Treasure Trove following its discovery, and was reported to Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service (ACAS), who act as the regional archaeology service for Moray Council. Claire Herbert, regional archaeologist at ACAS, said: “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. I would like to thank the ploughman and landowner for reporting their find to us, and for their continued help and cooperation.

“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.”

At a meeting of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel (SAFAP) this March, Elgin Museum was named as the successful bidder and the stone has been allocated to them.

Janet Trythall, vice-president of The Moray Society, said: “We are thrilled at Elgin Museum to have been allocated this fantastic Pictish stone. It will be a marvellous complement to our existing collection of carved stones and an attraction for a wide range of visitors.

“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.”

The stone has been relocated to Edinburgh for conservation and recording by Graciela Ainsworth Sculpture Conservation. It has undergone an initial assessment, and conservation works will be undertaken later in the year before it is returned to Elgin Museum for display.

The Picts lived in the North and East of Scotland between the 3rd and 9th Centuries AD; Class I symbol stones are generally thought to date from the 6th to the 8th Centuries AD. The exact purpose of Pictish Symbol Stones, and the meanings of the various symbols, is not clearly understood, and is the subject of much research and debate.

One theory is that the symbols may represent the names of individuals or groups, possibly acting as some kind of land marker or commemoration stone.

New discoveries of Pictish symbol stones are rare, so the finding of a new stone, featuring such an unusual pattern and form of decoration, is said to be very significant, and is of local and national importance.

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