10 December 2020
A previously unknown carved Pictish cross-slab found in 2019 at an early Christian church site in the Conon Bridge area of the Highlands has been unveiled at Dingwall Museum next week.
The rare find, described by experts as being “uniquely significant”, was thought to have been carved around 1,200 years ago. It is decorated with a number of Pictish symbols and it is likely to have originally stood over 2 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.
Measured drawing of stone by John Borland © HES
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 Dingwall 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.'
Removal of stone from find site using gantry © NOSAS
Although COVID restrictions mean that the museum will remain closed for the time being, passersby are able to view the stone through the window in the high street. 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.'
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.
(report courtesy of North of Scotland Archaeological Society)