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Princess Stone, cross-slab 250m SSW of Glenferness House

A Scheduled Monument in Nairn and Cawdor, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.4612 / 57°27'40"N

Longitude: -3.7743 / 3°46'27"W

OS Eastings: 293652

OS Northings: 842604

OS Grid: NH936426

Mapcode National: GBR K910.3T3

Mapcode Global: WH5HT.ZQVJ

Entry Name: Princess Stone, cross-slab 250m SSW of Glenferness House

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1923

Last Amended: 2 March 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM1233

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: cross slab

Location: Ardclach

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Nairn and Cawdor

Traditional County: Nairnshire

Description

The monument comprises a symbol-bearing Pictish cross-slab, known as the Princess Stone, that probably dates to the 8th or 9th century AD. First scheduled in 1923, it is being rescheduled because it has been moved and because the original scheduling documentation is missing.

The monument lies close to the River Findhorn, at a height of around 175 m above sea level. In around 1957 it was moved a short distance from its original position, next to a cairn, in order to protect it from flooding. It is a roughly pointed slab of greenish sandstone with quartz veins, standing 1.6 m above the ground and carved on both faces. The stone broke when it was moved and has been repaired. It is now supported by two stone flankers. On the front-face there is a cross, the interior of which is infilled with knotwork. Beneath the cross are a series of geometric designs and the silhouettes of two figures embracing or wrestling. On the back-face there are two panels, one with interlaced work on it and the other showing several so-called Pictish symbols - two Pictish beasts, a double disc and Z-rod, and a crescent and V-rod - and a hunter with a cross-bow and a hound.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, centred on the cross-slab, to include the upstanding monument, the supporting flanking stones and an area around for its support and preservation, as shown in red on the accompanying map. It specifically excludes the top 20 cm of the path running past the monument, to allow for its maintenance.

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, elaborately carved symbol-bearing Pictish cross-slab. It survives despite having been broken while being moved from its original location next to a cairn. The combination of Christian and apparently non-Christian symbols carved on the monument vividly represents the establishment of Christianity in NE Scotland amidst the prevailing culture of the Picts.

The carving has the potential to enhance the study of Pictish symbol stones, the development of the so-called Insular art that was created in parts of Britain and Ireland in the early medieval period, and technical aspects of carving stones. Carved stones such as this are particularly important evidence for the early church in Scotland because we have little other archaeological evidence for contemporary sites, as well as a low survival of Pictish liturgical metalwork and an absence of manuscripts that art in other media suggests will have existed. They also hint at the nature of some of our missing liturgical resources, such as holy reliquaries made of fine metals.

Contextual characteristics: The Picts used symbols in a range of contexts, but we find the majority of surviving examples carved on stone. Only 60 or so symbol-bearing cross-slabs survive in Scotland; these are mostly in the NE of the country and concentrated in Southern Pictland. They are relatively rare in the Inverness area. This indicates regional diversity in the use of different types of sculpture in the Pictish church.

Comparing and contrasting the geographical location and artistic detail of this monument to other early medieval carved stones in Scotland provides information about the spread of Christianity into NE Scotland, cultural influences and the relationship of early church sites to the subsequent establishment of the parish system.

The stone seems originally to have been associated with a cairn. While this may simply have been a clearance cairn of relatively recent date, it remains a possibility that this was contemporary with the monument (this is the case with some symbol-incised stones).

The Pictish beast, double-disc and Z-rod and crescent and V-rod are amongst the most common symbols on Pictish sculptured stones. The Pictish beast may be related to the Kelpie, the malevolent water-horse of later Scottish folklore. The hunter figure is not as common. A small number of Pictish monuments depict crossbows and the image of the hooded man kneeling with his bow on the Princess Stone bears comparison with the hunter figures depicted on The Drosten Stone, St Vigeans and the Shandwick Stone. It is possible that this figure relates to a particular person or story, of which no other trace survives. Whether it does or not, it bears witness to the practice of stalking boar and other wild animals.

The meaning of the symbols is much debated, but they may represent personal names. Such carvings provide evidence for the cultural links that existed between different parts of the British Isles in the early medieval period. While the symbol designs are unique to the Picts, their content provides evidence for how the art of the Picts relates to the Insular art style of this period, and the relationship to art in different media, such as metalwork. This provides important evidence for extensive connections between the Picts and their early medieval neighbours.

The cross-slab stands close to its earlier location on a bend in the River Findhorn. The sculpture is likely to have been associated with an early church; a promontory location is often characteristic of such sites.

Associative characteristics: The stone is known, and marked on all editions of the Ordnance Survey map, as The Princess Stone. It is associated with a local legend about a Pictish princess who drowned in the river nearby with her Danish lover, having been pursued after eloping.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it is a relatively rare, elaborately carved Pictish symbol-bearing cross-slab. It therefore has the potential to contribute to our understanding of Pictish art and monumental sculpture, the introduction and development of Christianity in Scotland and cultural contacts in the early medieval period. The loss of the monument would affect our ability to understand the Pictish people who inhabited much of Scotland N of the Forth between the 4th and 9th centuries AD, particularly as the historical record covering this region in this period is extremely limited.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as NH94SW10; Highland SMR as NH94SW0010.

References:

Allen J R and Anderson J 1903, THE EARLY CHRISTIAN MONUMENTS OF SCOTLAND: A CLASSIFIED ILLUSTRATED DESCRIPTIVE LIST OF THE MONUMENTS WITH AN ANALYSIS OF THEIR SYMBOLISM AND ORNAMENTATION, Edinburgh.

Farrell S 2000, 'Glenferness (Ardclach Parish): Survey', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT 1, 46.

Gilbert J M 1976, 'Crossbows on Pictish Stones', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 107, 316-317.

Henderson G and Henderson I 2004, THE ART OF THE PICTS: SCULPTURE AND METALWORK IN EARLY MEDIEVAL SCOTLAND, London: Thames and Hudson.

MacBean H 1845, 'PARISH OF ARDCLACH, PRESBYTERY OF NAIRN, SYNOD OF MORAY', New Statistical Account of Scotland Vol 13, Edinburgh.

Murray G 1986, 'The Declining Pictish Symbol - a reappraisal', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 116, 223-253.

RCAHMS 1978, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF NAIRN DISTRICT, HIGHLAND REGION, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland Series, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Other nearby scheduled monuments

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