Pictured: The stone installed at Dingwall Museum © NOSAS.
Installing the stone at Dingwall Museum © Dingwall Museum.
An important Pictish stone will go on display in Dingwall museum next week.
The previously unknown carved Pictish cross-slab was found in 2019 at an early Christian church site in the Conon Bridge area.
The rare find, described by experts as being “uniquely significant”, was thought to have been carved around 1200 years ago.
It is decorated with a number of Pictish symbols and it is likely to have originally stood over 2 metres high.
At Dingwall, the stone is expected to make an impressive attraction, which will be of significant benefit to both the museum and the town.
Although COVID restrictions mean that the museum will remain closed for the time being, passers-by will be able to view the spectacular find through the window in the high street.
Measured drawing of stone by John Borland © HES.
Ian MacLeod, long serving chairman of Dingwall museum, said:
“This special stone will enhance our collection and it will be safeguarded for future generations to see.
“It should also increase visitor numbers to the Museum.
“I have been very impressed with everyone who has worked along with the Museum team, and special mention must go to the local specialists and tradesmen who gave their time and expertise to complete the installation.
“We look forward to opening the Museum next year.”
Mr MacLeod was awarded a British Empire Medal in 2016 for voluntary service to the museum and to the local community.
The stone was first recognised last year by Anne MacInnes of the North of Scotland Archaeological Society whilst undertaking a survey of a burial ground.
A crowdfunding campaign was then jointly launched by the North of Scotland Archaeology Society and the Pictish Arts Society to raise the £20,000 needed to have the stone professionally removed, cleaned, restored and finally installed in the museum.
Ms. MacInnes said:
“When the Conan Stone is unveiled in the window of Dingwall Museum it will be the culmination of a journey that started when I brushed back some leaves from a graveslab.
“From the moment of realisation that it was a Pictish stone to its installation in the Museum has proved to be quite a journey involving huge commitment and cooperation from many people in different capacities.”
Easter Ross is known to have had particular importance in Pictish times.
John Borland, President of the Pictish Arts Society, said:
“Easter Ross is home to many fine Pictish sculptured stones and yet this latest discovery still manages to add something new and exciting to that collection.
“The two massive beasts that flank and surmount the cross are quite unlike anything found on any other Pictish stone.”
Dr Isabel Henderson, co-author of ‘The Art of the Picts’ and widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Picts and their culture, said:
“The new Dingwall cross-slab is a uniquely significant western extension of the prestigious Pictish symbol-bearing relief sculpture of Easter Ross, notably connected with the tall slabs of Shandwick and Rosemarkie.”
The stone, which had lain on the ground since at least the 1700s when it was reused as a grave marker, currently measures 1.5 by 0.6 by 0.2 metres.
However, it is broken and experts believe it may have originally stood up to 2.4 metres high.
The stone is decorated with a number of Pictish designs including several mythical beasts, oxen, an animal headed warrior with sword and shield, a double disc and z rod symbol and a large ornate Christian cross.
It is one of only about 50 complete or near complete Pictish cross-slabs known in the world, and the first to be discovered on the Scottish mainland for many years.
A conference, at which a number of experts will speak about the importance of the find, is expected to take place online in March 2021.