A stone bearing 1,400-year-old Pictish markings has been discovered, and its placement might reveal how Scotland’s early past shaped it. Residents of what is now Scotland carved several big symbol stones with forms whose meaning has never been discovered in contemporary times. With only a few hundred of these stones known, each new one is a rare find – but when archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen unearthed one, the context made it much more valuable.
“We were startled to see a symbol. There was a lot of yelling “In a statement, the stone’s discoverer, Dr. James O’Driscoll, remarked. “Then we discovered additional symbols, which resulted in more yelling and a little tears! It’s a sensation I’m unlikely to have again on an archaeological dig. It’s a significant find.”
The majority of symbol stones have been discovered independently of other historical elements, such as by farmers plowing fields, providing little insight into the enigma behind their creation. The most recent treasure, however, was discovered as part of an endeavor to better comprehend the location around some of the most important remaining symbol stones in Alberlemno.
The Alberlemno stones include specimens of the oldest style, which is considered to date from the 5th or 6th century, as well as later examples that indicate Christian influence. Aberlemno II is particularly notable because it contains figures believed to depict the Battle of Nechtansmere in 685, when invading Anglo-Saxon soldiers were pushed back, preserving northern independence for generations. Historians disagree over whether Aberlemno was the location of the fight.
The archaeologists were looking for abnormalities around the stones with imaging equipment when they discovered a signal strong enough to prompt them to excavate. They assumed they’d found a village, but were taken aback when they saw the sign stone. Whereas most stones appear to be from a single historical period, this one has numerous layers on top of each other, representing the evolution of styles over time. It needs to be seen whether this makes it a type of Rosetta stone, with modern symbolic language throwing light on previous symbols that were less well understood.
Despite the fact that the first markings on this stone appear to predate Nechtansmere, it appears to have been deemed significant for a long time later. “The stone was discovered embedded in the pavement of a massive edifice dating from the 11th or 12th centuries.” Pictish stones and Bronze Age rock art were among the paving stones. Professor Gordon Noble noted in a statement that “the 11th-12th century edifice appears to be built immediately on top of settlement strata dating back to the Pictish period.”
The rising Scottish nation appears to have viewed Pictish relics as valuable and sources of pride, as evidenced by the incorporation of stones cut centuries earlier into the foundations of their most magnificent structures. “The finding of this new Pictish symbol stone, as well as proof that this location was occupied for such a long time,” Noble said. “It will help us better understand how and why this section of Angus became a vital Pictish landscape, and later an essential component of the kingdoms of Alba and Scotland.”