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Raasay House, Raasay

Cross Slab (Pictish), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish)

Site Name Raasay House, Raasay

Classification Cross Slab (Pictish), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish)

Alternative Name(s) Rassay 1

Canmore ID 11475

Site Number NG53NW 3

NGR NG 5467 3677

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Portree
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Skye And Lochalsh
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Early Medieval Carved Stones Project (7 September 2016)

Raasay 1, Skye & Lochalsh, Pictish cross-slab

Measurements: H 1.24m, W 0.56m, D 0.18m

Stone type: granite

Place of discovery: NG 5467 3677

Present location: in a Forestry Commission plantation east of the road to Oscaig, 190m NNW of Raasay House.

Evidence for discovery: found in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century prior to 1824, during the construction of the road from the pier to Raasay House. It was erected in a modern base on a stony mound in its present position.

Present condition: some flaking has occurred and the right-hand edge has been damaged, but most of the carving is intact.


This rectangular slab has been dressed with a slightly rounded top and is incised on one broad face with a cross above two Pictish symbols, apparently contemporary. The cross-head consists of a cross-of-arcs within a square frame, with a very clear chi-rho scroll attached to the right-hand side of the upper arm. The deeply incised wedge-shaped arms are emphasised by an inner incised line, and the centre is marked by a raised circle around a pit. The shaft is outlined by an incised line and is cusped. Beneath the foot of the shaft is a horizontal tuning-fork symbol and below it a decorated crescent and V-rod.

Date range: seventh century.

Primary references: Richardson 1907, 435-6; Fisher 2001, 103; Henderson & Henderson 2004, 174; Fraser 2008, no 133.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016


Field Visit (22 May 1914)

Symbol Stone near Raasay House.

On the summit of a rockery some 15 feet from the east side of the road 200 yards north-northwest of Raasay House is a dressed slab of stone 4 feet 8 inches long, 1 foot 9 inches broad, and 6 inches thick, bearing on the upper part of one face a cross of the same type as the example at the pier (NG53NW 2) with the tuning fork and crescent with divergent floriated rod Symbols below. This stone originally stood near the pier. (Fig. 265.)

See Proc. Soc. Ant. Soc., Vol. XLI. , p. 435.

RCAHMS 1928, visited 22 May 1914.

Field Visit (12 June 1961)

A symbol stone as described above.

Visited by OS (A S P) 12 June 1961.

Reference (1997)

Class II symbol stone bearing a cross with underneath a tuning fork over a crescent and V-rod.

A.Mack 1997.

Reference (2001)

(Raasay 1) This slab is said to have been found when James MacLeod of Raasay (d.1824) was building the road from the landing-place to Raasay House, about 90m from the rock-cut cross no.2 (NG c.5462 3637).(i) It now stands at the entrance to a conifer plantation, 7m E of the road from Clachan to Oscaig and 190m NNW of Raasay House. It is fixed in a turf-covered modern base on a stony mound about 0.5m high and 4m in diameter.

The slab is a rectangle of granite, 1.56m in visible height (ii) by 0.56m and 0.18m in thickness. The surface is slightly irregular and has flaked, especially at the left, both before and after carving, while the edges show signs of rough dressing. At the top of one face there is an incised cross-of-arcs adapted to a 0.39m square frame, and with a scroll attached to the right side of the top arm to represent the rho of the Chi-rho symbol. Each arm has a flat margin formed by a triangle whose outer end is convex, perhaps showing the derivation of the cross from the more common circular form. At the centre there is a raised ring round a hollow, 40mm in overall diameter. The cross is supported by a shaft of the same height as the square and 70mm wide at foot and top, whose sides curve out into cusps just above mid-height.

Below the foot of the shaft there is a 'tuning-fork' symbol, set horizontally with a damaged double-spiral handle at the right and a small boss with a central hollow at its junction with the prongs. The ends of the four prongs extend onto a flaked area to the left, and their terminals, which should define two bars with a central notch (RA 135), are lost by further flaking. Below this there is a crescent-and-V-rod symbol, with ornament of the 'dome-and-wing' type. Both terminals are damaged, but remains of double spirals suggest that they were of identical type.

(i) J S Richardson 1907, 435.

(ii) Richardson records the overall height as 2.13m (J S Richardson 1907, 435).

NMS cast, X.IB 223; RCAHMS 1928, No.582 and fig.265; J S Richardson 1907, 435-6; PSAS, 67 (1932-3), 63; J J Galbraith 1933, 318-20; R B K Stevenson 1955, C2; D McRoberts 1963, pl.27; R Sharpe 1977, 21-5; A Mack 1997, 113.

I Fisher 2001, 103.

External Reference (2011)

This cross slab with Pictish symbols and the cross-incised stone found nearby (MHG5725) exemplify the earliest phase of the interface between cross and symbol (Henderson & Henderson 2006, 174).

Currently (2008) at the entrance to a conifer plantation some 190m NNW of Raasay House (Fraser 2008).

Information from the ARCH Community Timeline course, 2011

Laser Scanning (11 July 2016)

NG 546 367 (NG53NW 3) A laser scan survey of the Pictish cross-slab at Raasay House, was undertaken, 11 July 2016, for conservation management purposes. The slab is a rectangle of granite. At the top of one face of the rectangular granite slab there is an incised cross-of arcs with a scroll attached to the right side of the top arm to represent the rho of a Chi-rho symbol. Below the cross-of-arcs there is a ‘tuning fork’ and a crescent-and-V-rod symbol.

The laser scanning and photogrammetry produced datasets which were processed into high-resolution geometric meshes for visualisation under simulated raking light conditions, as well as being prepared for processing in GIS software. From the point cloud data a terrain model of the carved surfaces of both the cross-marked slab and the cross-marked rock was produced. This terrain model was then used to produce hill-shaded and local relief models to highlight the carved decoration.

Archive: NRHE (intended)

Funder: Forestry Commision Scotland

Jamie Humble – AOC Archaeology Group

(Source: DES, Volume 17)

Note (May 2017)

The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland

In 1890 the Council of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland commissioned John Romilly Allen to undertake a survey of the Early Christian Monuments of Scotland by compiling a detailed register complete with photography and illustrations. With the help of Joseph Anderson, Keeper of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, the survey was published in two volumes in 1903. Although this was the first comprehensive study, individual examples had been documented and depicted by antiquarians in the 18th and 19th centuries. Scotland’s long tradition of carved stones illustration was explored by Graham Ritchie in ‘Recording Early Christian Monuments in Scotland’ (1998).

Allen and Anderson described three distinct classes of sculpture, arranged in broadly chronological order: Class I stones bore Pictish symbols incised onto undressed stones; Early Christian Class II stones were those carved in relief onto dressed slabs, depicting crosses, dramatic contemporary and biblical scenes, Pictish symbols and many fantastic beasts; while the repertoire of Class III stones was Christian in its entirety. Although this scheme has largely stood the test of time, it is perhaps more satisfactory to think of our early carved stone heritage in terms of a continuum reflecting developing social influences and symbolic inferences.

Contemporary survey and visualisation

In the spring of 2016, AOC Archaeology recorded a Class II Pictish cross-slab on the Isle of Raasay, on behalf of Forestry Commission Scotland. The slab stands a little over 1.5m in height and features an incised cross-of-arcs within a squared frame above a cusped shaft. Below the cross are two distinctive Pictish symbols, a horizontal ‘tuning fork’ symbol and a decorated crescent-and-V-rod. The slab was probably carved over 1300 years ago, in the 7th century AD, and it is a good example of the mixture of Early Christian and Pictish symbols. The stone was apparently discovered during road building before 1824, but it escaped the notice of both T S Muir and Romily Allen. A note and drawing by James Richardson in 1907 provided the first detailed record, followed by RCAHMS (1928, 185), Galbraith (1933) and, most recently, its inclusion in a survey of Early Medieval Sculpture (Fisher 2001, 103).

The recent programme of archaeological measured survey included both laser scanning and photogrammetry. Both methods allow the creation of what surveyors call a ‘point cloud’ – a 3D digital view of the millions of vertices (or points) recorded during the survey. These in turn are processed into a ‘polygonal mesh’, effectively a surface draped over the point cloud, which can then be coloured or shaded to produce the desired effect. In the case of carved stones, the effects of very subtle lighting can be used to enhance the carvings, making them easier to understand and visualise. The resulting models can then be presented in 3D or as a plan, section or elevation.

Archaeological measured survey has always been a powerful illustrative tool, enhancing knowledge, raising awareness and providing a baseline of information for conservation and management. As we have seen, Scotland has a long and proud tradition of measured survey and recording – the Raasay stone itself has been photographed, rubbed and drawn (and pondered) many times over the last 100 years. Further investment in survey and recording is a crucial element in our management of the historic environment.

Matt Ritchie - Archaeologist, Forestry Commission Scotland

Desk Based Assessment

NG53NW 3.00 5467 3677

NG53NW 3.01 NG 546 368 Gate

(NG 5467 3677) Standing Stone (Sculptured) (NAT)

OS 6"map, Inverness-shire, 2nd ed., (1904)

On the summit of a rockery some 15' from the E side of the road 200 yards NNW of Raasay House is a dressed slab of native grey granite 4' 8" long, 1' 9" broad and 6" thick, bearing on the upper part of one face a Chi-Rho Cross set in a square, with the Pictish symbols a tuning-fork and crescent with divergent floriated rod below (RCAHMS 1928). The stone, which is not in situ, is said to have been found when the road from the pier to Raasay House was made, about 100 yards from the rock bearing a a similarly incised Chi-Rho cross (PSAS 1907). (NG53NW 2) Shown on a distribution map and dated to the second half of the 7th century on the evidence of the cross by Curle (1940), but see Radford (1942) and Stevenson (1955) who criticise this paper.

Information from OS.

RCAHMS 1928; Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1907; C L Curle 1940; C R Radford 1942; R B K Stevenson 1955; J J Galbraith 1933.


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