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Cross Slab (Early Medieval), Cup And Ring Marked Stone (Prehistoric), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish)

Site Name Meigle

Classification Cross Slab (Early Medieval), Cup And Ring Marked Stone (Prehistoric), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish)

Alternative Name(s) Meigle Museum/meigle Stones; Meigle No. 1

Canmore ID 30838

Site Number NO24SE 25.01

NGR NO 2872 4459

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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Administrative Areas

  • Council Perth And Kinross
  • Parish Meigle
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Perth And Kinross
  • Former County Perthshire


Meigle 1, Perthshire, Pictish cross-slab

Measurements: H 2.25m +, W 1.07m, D 0.18m

Stone type: sandstone

Place of discovery: NO 2872 4463

Present location: Meigle Museum.

Evidence for discovery: in the mid nineteenth century, the stone stood on the west side of the original gateway into the churchyard, to the north of the church.

Present condition: narrow faces D and E are damaged and there is overall wear to the carving.


This substantial cross-slab had an earlier life in prehistory, for towards the foot of face C are carved numerous cup marks and cup-and-ring marks, which suggest that it was either a standing stone or an exposed rock surface. In early medieval times it was shaped at the top, probably to form a rounded outline, and it was carved in relief on both broad faces. Face A is edged with a narrow roll moulding, and the entire visible face is spanned by an elaborate cross, also outlined by roll mouldings. The cross-head has rectangular terminals to the arms, deeply rounded armpits closed by arcs and a central roundel. The roundel is filled with seven interlinked spirals, the top arm with triangular knotwork, the side arms with a different form of triangular knotwork and the shaft with two roundels of triangular knotwork. The effect of the knotwork, especially in the top arm and the shaft, offers additional crosses. At the foot of the shaft an extra roll moulding creates the impression of a waisted pedestal filled with interlaced median-incised cords, with a triquetra knot above the waist.

The background to the cross bears all manner of zoomorphic ornament. The top arm of the cross is flanked by single animals with large snouts, while below the side-arms on the right is a pair of intertwined sea-horses above a quadruped whose tail ends in a serpent grasping another serpent in its jaws. To the left of the shaft there is a horned animal above a creature with an elongated body that curves round to form a spiral, its hind legs astride its own midriff. Below are an S-beast and a sea-horse.

Face C is busy, above the cupmarks, with animals, horsemen and symbols. At the top a large salmon faces right above a serpent and Z-rod and a mirror and comb. Tucked in between the top two symbols are a tiny Pictish beast, a triquetra knot and a beast’s head, and an animal lying down completes the group. The lower part of the stone is mostly filled with a hunting scene, composed of five horsemen and at least one hound, all facing left, with on the periphery a winged figure, a kneeling camel and another spiralled animal.

Date: eighth or ninth century.

References: ECMS pt 3, 296-7; RCAHMS 1994, 98; Fraser 2008, no 189.1.

Desk-based information compiled by A Ritchie 2018

Archaeology Notes

NO24SE 25.01 2872 4459.

No. 1 The cross is enriched by seven linked panels of interlace, the arms are hollowed at the intersections and each hollow is spanned by a raised quarter circle, recalling the 'ring of glory' of No 2.

The background to the cross contains beasts only, real and fabulous. At the top, two snouted boar-like animals; on the left, a beast with goat's horns, a snouted beast with long spiral body, and a sea-horse and hippocamp facing one another; on the right, a pair of interlaced sea-horses and a horned animal with a long tail ending in open jaws which bite a snouted serpent.

The back of the slab is treated as a single field for sculpture. The upper half has six symbols - fish, beast-head, triquetra, 'elephant', serpent and Z-rod, mirror-and-comb; the lower half, a kneeling camel, five horsemen and a hound, an angel and a beast with coiled body. This seems to be a re-used prehistoric monument.

The base or socket bears 'cup-marks' such as are found upon Standing Stones of the Bronze Age (approximately 2000 BC-approximately 500 BC). As these are invisible a plaster cast of the cup-marked area has been made; it stands against the wall nearby (No.A4).

S Cruden 1964.

This cross-slab (1.9m in height, 1.05m in width and 0.2m in thickness) formerly stood at the right-hand side of the entrance into the burial-ground. The front is dominated by a cross with a beaded margin and rounded sunken armpits whose moulded outer arcs combine visually to give the impression of a quadrilobate ring; the cross is decorated with interlace (including two roundels in the shaft, above a tangled base) but the central roundel of the crosshead bears worn spiral ornament.

The background is ornamented with beasts in lower relief, including two boar-like animals with large ears above the arms of the cross, intertwined sea-horses on the right, a spirited sea-horse on the left, as well as further animals, one with coiled hindquarters, on either side of the shaft. Both faces of the stone, but particularly the centre of the cross, are pitted by its use as a target for rifle practice. The back displays several symbols above a hunting scene. The symbols include a fish, a 'Pictish beast', an animal head, a triquetra, a serpent and Z-rod, and a mirror and comb. There are five horsemen in the hunt, accompanied by one hound, an angel-like figure (identified by Stevenson as the Persian god Ahura-mazda), and three fabulous beasts, including what appears to be a camel. Lower down the stone there are several cup-like markings and two cup-and-ring markings; these are now partly hidden by the concrete base, but a cast of the area of decoration is displayed nearby and this evidence has been incorporated into the present illustration.

Information from RCAHMS (JNGR) 1990.


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