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Footprint(S) (Period Unassigned), Ogham Inscribed Stone (Early Medieval), Pictish Symbol Rock Carving(S) (Pictish), Rock Carving(S) (Period Unassigned), Rock Cut Bowl (Period Unassigned)

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilmichael Glassary
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll


Reference (1988)

NR89SW 1.01 8365 9356

ROCK-CARVINGS. This remarkable group of carvings (a on the RCAHMS plan) occupies a level ledge forming the S end of the area enclosed by wall B. One feature, a rock-cut basin, lies at the foot of the slope below the entrance through the NE wall of the summit fort. The remaining carvings, beginning with a shallow 'footprint' about 2m NE of the basin, extend a further 3m to the NNE along the gently sloping E face of a continuous rock surface. This is for the most part smooth, although considerably weathered and dissected by ancient cracks. Whereas the rock-basin and the more obvious of the two footprints were known some time before the first published description in 1878, the boar was exposed during Christison's excavations in 1904, the ogam inscription was recognised ip the 1950s and published in 1965, and the second footprint and a further graffito (here identified as modern) were described in 1976. The boar was in 1928 given the protection of a glass-topped box, later replaced by a glass panel on metal legs. In 1978 the entire carved surface, except for the basin, was covered by a protective layer below a facsimile of artificial stone. The accompanying illustrations were prepared from the original carvings shortly before they were concealed.

The rock-cut basin measures 0.25m in diameter by 0.14m in depth, and is bisected by a crack. It is surrounded by a shallow pecked ring about 40mm in width, but parts of this have been worn away, especially to the S where the path from enclosure D passes the basin.

At the S end of the main rock surface there is the lightly-pecked outline of a shod right foot, 0.24m long and 0.1m in maximum width, with a pronounced taper to the heel. There are further peck-marks within the outline, and a sunken footmark was presumably intended but not completed. This print is on almost the same alignment as the more prominent footprint some 2m to the N, which measures 0.27m from NNE to SSW by 0.lm in maximum width and 25mm in depth. It is somewhat broader at the heel than the incomplete mark, and its sides are straighter. There is no indication of the relative age of the two carvings. The carving of sunken footprints is found in Britain from the Iron Age onwards, and their use in inauguration ceremonies, including those of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, is recorded in Scotland and Ireland in the late medieval period.

The incised boar, 0.35m N of the incomplete footprint, measures 0.54m in maximum length. It is shown moving to the right, or N, and the nearside fore and hind legs are juxtaposed, an attitude not found in the two boar-carvings in Pictland, but represented in some other animal-carvings, including the Burghead bulls. Although the upper part of the figure is heavily weathered, a long crest, lozenge-shaped ear, small eye and short tusk can be distinguished, and the short tail, as on the Pictish boar at Knocknagael, follows the curve of the hindmost leg. The underside of the body shows the double outline characteristic of incised Pictish animals, and although it lacks the elaborately scrolled joint-terminals found in many of these carvings, a Pictish origin for the artist seems certain. The carving probably dates from the 7th or 8th century AD.

Immediately behind the boar there is a lightly-incised but unweathered outline of the trunk and head of a man, in profile, smoking a pipe and wearing a hat or crown; an associated inscription reads 'King Fergus'. There is no evidence of any earlier carving incorporated in this graffito, and it was probably incised between 1904, when the surrounding turf was removed, and the installation of the protective box in 1928. Some linear incisions in this area mark the outline of the former box.

At the N end of the rock outcrop there is a much weathered ogam inscription which has been studied in detail by Professor K H Jackson, under whose supervision the accompanying drawing was prepared. It is in two lines, each of which is carved above a natural crack in the rock, but the stem-lines that should define the letters are omitted. Professor Jackson's reading is as follows:

H C S D - T - - V - N H - T


L - - - - V Q R R H M D N H Q


An alternative reading by Padel introduces some vowels but remains unintelligible. Both scholars agree that the inscription is probably Pictish. Comparison of the letter-forms suggests that it occupies an early place in the Pictish series, retaining some traces of Irish influence.

A further graffito is incised on a vertical rock face 11m NNW of the enclosure E (h on the plan). Much damaged by scraping since its discovery in 1929, it shows an animal 0.l7m in maximum length, whose disproportionately large head may be the result of later recutting.

RCAHMS 1988.

Reference (2001)

A rock-cut 0.25m basin on a terrace NE of the summit-fort, and adjacent carvings on a horizontal rock-surface which was protected by a concrete replica in 1978, may have been used in royal inaugurations. The outline of a shod foot, 0.27m long and 25mm deep, and the pecked outline of another, are accompanied by an ogham inscription and a boar. This is 0.54m long and, although much worn, its underside shows the double outline typical of Pictish incised animals. An adjacent graffito figure is of recent origin.

The ogham inscription is in two lines, parallel to natural fissures in the rock but having no defined stem-lines. Jackson and Padel, while differing in their readings, agreed that it was unintelligible and probably Pictish. Forsyth found many ambiguities in the much-weathered upper line, which may begin with the Irish word AES ('folk'). She reads the lower line: FI(nn/rr)MaNA(ch/q), which may represent the Irish personal name 'Finn', with the descriptive manach ('monk' or 'tenant of church-land'). (K S Forsyth 1996, 227-41).

A much-damaged animal of uncertain date is incised on a vertical rock-face about 35m NNE of the main group of carvings.

I Fisher 2001.

Note (27 February 2019)

Date Fieldwork Started: 27/02/2019

Compiled by: ScRAP

Location Notes: The rock cut bowl was visited and recorded during the Scotland's Rock Art project. It was considered unlikely to be of an earlier date than the fort, although there appears to be a partial ring around the outside of the upper rim of the bowl. The site was photographed and a 3D model was created during the survey.


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