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Publication Account

Date 1987

Event ID 1016954

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


The caves formed in the sandstone cliffs to the northeast of East Wemyss have been the focus of antiquarian and archaeological interest since 1865 when Professor James Young Simpson visited them and found their walls 'to be covered at different points with representations of various animals, figures and emblems'. What particularly excited the discoverers was that several of the the incised markings could be compared to those on Pictish symbol stones, the significance of which was at that time becoming apparent as a result of John Stuart's work on cataloguing them. Careful drawings of the markings were made for the second volume of Stuart's 'The Sculptured Stones of Scotland' (published in 1867) and these, amplified by photographic surveys in the early years of this century and again in the 1920s, have provided the basic record. Between 1984 and 1985 further drawing was undertaken, and it is clear that several areas of carvings have been lost, and perhaps even more sadly other markings in 'Pictish style' have been added; here we list only the most interesting and apparently authentic markings.

...The Doo Cave contained several interesting groups of symbols, but a collapse of the roof has meant that now only the hewn-out nesting hollows for the birds that give the cave its name survive. Simpson described the cave as 'one of the most magnificent of the series, being high in the roof nearly a hundred feet in length, and about sixty or seventy in breadth. In some lights the cryptograms on its high walls and dome like ceiling show masses of beautiful and changing colour'. One of the most interesting symbols was a double-disc and Z- rod with a beast's head touching it; this may be closely compared in layout to the symbols on one of the silver plaques from the Norrie's Law hoard.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Fife and Tayside’, (1987).

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