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Cossins Description of stone

Event ID 1033666

Category Descriptive Accounts



Cossans, Angus, Pictish cross-slab

Measurements: H 2.36m, W 0.69m, D 0.25m

Stone type: sandstone

Place of discovery: NO 4008 5002

Present location: in situ within a railed enclosure in a field.

Evidence for discovery: first recorded in or before 1832, by which time it had broken into two fragments, which had been clamped together with one iron clamp on face A and two clamps on face C, and the stone had been re-erected. Sometime in the mid twentieth century, the early clamps were replaced by clamps along each narrow face and the stone was re-set in concrete. Excavations around the stone have taken place in 1855 and 2010, and the stone was again re-set in 2011.

Present condition: the stone is very weathered and there is damage to the edges and where the stone broke into two, together with damage associated with the early clamps.


This is a complex and sophisticated monument, carved in relief on three levels. The narrow faces are dressed but plain, and both broad faces bear intricate ornament which is in need of modern analysis (at present the ECMS account is the most detailed). Face A has a flat-band border with key pattern ornament and a ringed cross which spans the length and breadth of the slab, its arms overlapping the border. The cross has been carved on two levels to accentuate the impression of a free-standing cross, and both levels are heavily ornamented, including the rectangular base. At the centre of the cross-head is a sunken circle with knobs projecting into the armpits, and it is likely that this recess was designed to receive a decorative metal boss. The background to the cross is carved with entwined and confronted fish monsters.

Face C has a wide flat-band border carved with the ribbon-like body of two creatures with fish-tails at the base of the slab, outlined by roll mouldings and filled with interlace. Towards the top of the slab, each creature extends a foreleg to support a circular object between their jaws, perhaps a human head. The space enclosed is edged and dived into four panels by roll mouldings. At the top are two large symbols decorated with spiral patterns: a crescent and V-rod over a double disc and Z-rod. Beneath them is a panel with a specially prominent decorated rectangular frame, open at the top, which encloses an irregular sunken area. An important carving may have been removed in the past (there is space for a horseman), or the recess may have held a portable panel.

The lower three panels contain firstly two horsemen riding towards the right, and secondly another two horsemen accompanied by two hounds, all moving to the right. The lowest panel contains a rowing boat above two quadrupeds. There are six people in the boat: a steersman at the back holding the rudder, a small figure in front of him, then a larger oarsman facing towards the back of the boat, another small figure facing front, another backward-facing oarsman and, in the prow, a particularly large figure. The prow appears to bear a zoomorphic terminal (these details have emerged from Ian Scott’s drawing of the panel). Beneath the boat are two confronted animals, on the left a young steer and on the right an animal with an arched back and exaggerated dewlap claws.

Date range: ninth century.

Primary references: Skene 1832, 16; Jervise 1856, 248-51; ECMS pt 3, 216-18; Fraser 2008, no 56.

Desk-based information compiled by A Ritchie 2018

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