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Balblair Stone, symbol stone, Moniak Castle Wineries

A Scheduled Monument in Aird and Loch Ness, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.4594 / 57°27'33"N

Longitude: -4.4158 / 4°24'56"W

OS Eastings: 255172

OS Northings: 843583

OS Grid: NH551435

Mapcode National: GBR H9G0.B1V

Mapcode Global: WH3F8.4RJY

Entry Name: Balblair Stone, symbol stone, Moniak Castle Wineries

Scheduled Date: 18 May 1925

Last Amended: 9 March 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM932

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: symbol stone; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cupmarks or cup-and-ring m

Location: Kirkhill

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Aird and Loch Ness

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Description

The monument comprises an earthfast, upright carved stone bearing abstract and figurative carving which is prehistoric and early medieval in date. It stands within a modern garden rockery immediately to the SW of Moniak Castle. The monument was first scheduled in 1925, but the scheduling document is not consistent with modern mapping standards; the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The stone is 1.3 m high, 0.8 m wide and 0.3 m thick, and displays the Pictish carving of a man apparently walking from left to right holding a staff or sword. This carving is less than half the height of the stone. Both legs are visible and his arm or arms are extended before him, holding the staff or sword with its tip resting on the ground. He wears a kilt or tunic with folds represented, and there are indistinct markings at the back of the head which may represent hair. Fourteen cupmarks are recorded on the front of the stone and these are likely to be of prehistoric date, but only three were visible in 2005. Of the fourteen previously recorded, two are about 1.25 cm deep and the others of varying but lesser depths.

The stone was moved twice during the 1800s from sites close to the old parish school of Kilmorack at Balblair. It was then moved (before 1903) to Moniak Castle by the then tenant of the castle, Miss Campbell, daughter of the Mrs Campbell who excavated the cairns at Clava. In 1969 a second Pictish symbol stone (now in Inverness Museum) was discovered at Balblair close to the earliest recorded site, and probable original location, of the stone now proposed for rescheduling.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, centred on the stone, to include the remains described, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's archaeological significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics: The monument is a well-preserved carved stone bearing prehistoric and early medieval Pictish decoration. At least three of the fourteen suspected circular cups or cupmarks are still visible and belong to a tradition of rock art dating to the Neolithic and Bronze Age (around 5000-4000 years ago). The roughly triangular shaped stone also contains later figurative art, of a walking man, likely to date to the early medieval period (6th-9th centuries AD). The lack of Christian symbolism associated with the man suggests it was carved earlier rather than later, during the period. The carving detail of peck-marked cups and the Pictish man remain clearly visible, despite the stone being moved at least twice during the last two hundred years. The stone and its carvings therefore have good potential to add to our knowledge of prehistoric rock art, the depiction of man by the Picts and significantly, the later re-carving of a prehistoric monument during early medieval times.

Contextual characteristics: During the Early Bronze Age in the region, the carving of individual standing stones and the stones that line burial monuments was a relatively common practice. The circular depressions or cupmarks that are just one of many apparently abstract forms are often connected not just with other monuments, but the wider landscape in which they survive. This is the case with rock outcrops and earthfast boulders like the Balblair stone. This is a good example of this simple, but nonetheless important type of rock art. It has a part to play in our understanding the wider landscape during prehistory, since it belongs to a geographically important group of broadly contemporary monuments along Strathnairn and the Moray Firth.

The presence of the Pictish carving is important for three reasons. Out of the 200 hundred or so known examples, this carving is in the minority because it is a single Pictish design and does not join with others to form a larger artwork panel. Secondly, the intrinsic nature of this carving, of a clothed man on his own, is even less common and perhaps reflects an individual, a person's name or their memory. Other depictions of people have been associated with nearby burials and perhaps Balblair reflects the importance of one person alone. Thirdly, the position of the man appears to respect the earlier prehistoric cupmarks, highlighting a very small class of later carved stones that incorporate earlier, prehistoric designs. One researcher has even suggested that a cupmark was used to form the man's eye, although this is not obvious today.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to add to our understanding of the past, in particular the culture of the Picts in Invernesshire and the integration of a carved, prehistoric monument into their society. This potential is enhanced by the well-preserved field characteristics of the monument surviving today. Single Pictish carving of humans is unusual among the range of artwork seen during the 6th to 9th centuries AD. It is even more unusual to find prehistoric and Pictish carving on the same stone.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as NH54SE9; Highland Council SMR as NH54SE0009.

References:

Allen J R and Anderson J 1903, THE EARLY CHRISTIAN MONUMENTS OF SCOTLAND. EDINBURGH. A CLASSIFIED ILLUSTRATED DESCRIPTIVE LIST OF THE MONUMENTS WITH AN ANALYSIS OF THEIR SYMBOLISM AND ORNAMENTATION' Society of Antiquities of Scotland, 95-6.

Jolly W 1882, 'ON CUP-MARKED STONES IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF INVERNESS; WITH AN APPENDIX ON CUP-MARKED STONES IN THE WESTERN ISLANDS', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 16, 340-1.

RCAHMS 1999, PICTISH SYMBOL STONES. AN ILLUSTRATED GAZETTEER Edinburgh, RCAHMS.

RCAHMS 1979, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF NORTH-EAST INVERNESS, INVERNESS DISTRICT, HIGHLAND REGION, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland Series, 8, 29, No 238, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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