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Description of stone

Date 11 May 2016

Event ID 1010292

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Early Medieval Carved Stones Project


Dunfallandy, Perthshire, Pictish cross-slab

Measurements: H 1.52m, W 0.66m, D 0.13m

Stone type: sandstone

Place of discovery: NN 9462 5653

Present location: in situ at Dunfallandy.

Evidence for discovery: recorded close to the site of an old chapel by Skene in the 1830s. It is aligned in such a way that the cross faces west, and since the 1970s it has been protected by a glass cover.

Present condition: weathered and some damage to the top edge.


A large rectangular slab, this is carved on both broad faces in a mixture of relief and incision. Face A is bordered by a flatband moulding ornamented with interlace and an equal-armed cross on a shaft occupies the entire height and width of the slab. It is framed by a roll moulding and has square terminals and a square centre. Each of the side arms contains three high-relief spiral bosses in high relief, set against a background of key pattern. The top and lower arms each bear five similar spiral bosses, here set against a background of spiral work. The central square panel contains a roundel of interlace pattern, but, although its roll-moulded frame is in higher relief than the arms, the roundel is not in high relief. The shaft, which has a cusped top, bears two panels of interlace, the upper based on spiral interlace and the lower on triangular interlace. The background to the cross is carved with animals and angels, mostly facing the cross. Flanking the upper arm on the left is an animal with a human head and long hair, while on the right an animal tramples on another. There are three panels on the left of the cross-shaft, separated by roll mouldings: a long-legged animal with pronounced dew-claws looks over its shoulder, above an animal with a small carcass hanging from its mouth and a stag, and in the basal panel an elaborate rendering of Jonah and the whale. To the right of the shaft are four panels containing, from top to base, a long-haired angel with double wings, another similar angel, a very long-legged animal with pronounced dew-claws and a very long neck, and a seated deer biting its own tail, with its front and rear claws clamped together.

Face C is carved in relief, false relief and incision with figures and symbols. It is framed by two elongated creatures with animal heads at the top of the slab and fish tails at the bottom, and the carving becomes gradually shallower towards the base where the sinuous tails are simply incised. The heads have flattened ears and oval eyes and the jaws are parted to allow long protruding tongues to lick the frontal human face between them, whose long hair lies along their tongues. Beneath the three heads are three symbols: Pictish beast, double disc and crescent and V-rod, carved in relief with a blank area between then where the background has not been reduced to the same level. Beneath the symbols is a free-standing cross with rounded armpits set centrally on a flat base. The base is carved as a roll moulding which extends on either side to form the ‘floor’ on which two chairs stand, facing the cross. Each of the chair backs is decorated at the top and at seat-level by incised spirals. On the chairs sit two clerics in full-length robes with hoods, the cleric on the right being larger in size than that on the left. Beneath them there is another robed cleric riding a horse towards the right, and the cleric’s head fits neatly into the base of the cross. The horse is trotting, and the cleric sits on a large saddle-cloth. Immediately in front of the horse are two symbols carved in relief, a crescent and V-rod above a Pictish beast. The space behind the horse and rider is again left empty and raised above the background level. There are three more symbols below, a hammer and anvil carved in false relief and an incised pair of tongs.

Date: eighth or ninth century.

References: Skene 1832, 40; ECMS pt 3, 286-9; Fraser 2008, no 181.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

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