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Golspie, Dunrobin, Dairy Park

Cairn (Period Unassigned), Long Cist (Early Medieval), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish)

Site Name Golspie, Dunrobin, Dairy Park

Classification Cairn (Period Unassigned), Long Cist (Early Medieval), Pictish Symbol Stone (Pictish)

Alternative Name(s) Dunrobin Castle Policies

Canmore ID 6567

Site Number NC80SW 16

NGR NC 8470 0039

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/6567

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

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Golspie
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Sutherland
  • Former County Sutherland

EARLY MEDIEVAL CARVED STONES PROJECT

Dunrobin, Dairy Park, Sutherland, Pictish symbol stone

Measurements: H 1.20m, W 1.50m, D 0.15m

Stone type: pink sandstone

Place of discovery: NC 8470 0039

Present location: Dunrobin Museum (ARC 572), Dunrobin Castle.

Evidence for discovery: the slab was uncovered during ploughing in 1977, and subsequent excavation showed that it overlay a rectangular platform cairn.

Present condition: good, but the lower left-hand side of the slab is broken, and there is an area of wear which includes the central part of the double crescent and the head of the serpent. There are also many small solution holes and they, together with the wear, suggest that the stone lay face up, collecting rainwater, for many years before it became buried.

Description

The slab bears four Pictish symbols executed by fine pecking: at the top a double crescent, above a serpent and Z-rod, above a mirror with a double-sided comb close beside it on the left. Both the double crescent and the serpent are elaborately ornamented.

Date: seventh century

References: Close-Brooks 1980; Fraser 2008, no 139.

Compiled by A Ritchie 2016

Archaeology Notes

NC80SW 16 8470 0039.

(NC 8470 0039) A symbol stone was found during ploughing in the Dairy Park on 23rd February 1977 by Messrs David Low and Graham Park. Subsequent excavation by Dr Close-Brooks established that the stone overlay a low, rectangular cairn, covering a long-cisted extended inhumation of an adult female, lying ENE-WSW and unaccompanied by grave-goods.

The cist, unpaved, was set in a pit dug into the gravel subsoil, and measured about 2.3m long by 1.0m wide by 0.6m deep. It was composed of sandstone slabs and there is some question as to how it was covered as none of the capstones were of any great size and they had partially collapsed into the grave. The cist had been completely covered by a layer of clean, yellow sand lying on the natural gravel and overlaid in turn by a thin covering of pebbles, bounded by a kerb of laid boulders on the N and W, and presumably originally also on the S and E, though no trace survived on these sides. The cairn is estimated to have measured about 9.5m by 7m by 0.5m to 0.6m high. There was no trace of a ditch. Carbon-14 dating of the skeletal material gave 660 +/- 50 AD and 625 +/- 50 AD (uncalibrated), dates consistent with that of the Class I symbol stone which may have at one time marked the site.

It is an unworked slab of sea-smoothed, pink sandstone, 1.2m long, 1.5m wide and 0.15m thick, with the incised symbols on one face only. They consist of a double crescent, a serpent and Z-rod and a comb and mirror. The stone, which is presumed to have stood erect over the cairn although no socket was identified, is now in Dunrobin Castle Museum.

Ackergill (ND35SW 12) offers the closest parallel for the cairn and long cist, while other instances occur of the association of symbol stones and burial cairns. Two other Class I symbol stones associated with cists have been found near Dairy Park (NC80SW 9 and NC80SW 24 ), but in each case the use of the symbol stone was secondary.

J Close-Brooks 1977; J Close-Brooks 1981.

Class I symbol stone - Dunrobin 2 - showing a double crescent over a serpent and Z-rod and a mirror-and-comb

A Mack 1997.

Activities

Excavation (1977)

A symbol stone was found during ploughing in the Dairy Park on 23rd February 1977 by Messrs David Low and Graham Park. Subsequent excavation by Dr Close-Brooks established that the stone overlay a low, rectangular cairn, covering a long-cisted extended inhumation of an adult female, lying ENE-WSW and unaccompanied by grave-goods.

The cist, unpaved, was set in a pit dug into the gravel subsoil, and measured about 2.3m long by 1.0m wide by 0.6m deep. It was composed of sandstone slabs and there is some question as to how it was covered as none of the capstones were of any great size and they had partially collapsed into the grave. The cist had been completely covered by a layer of clean, yellow sand lying on the natural gravel and overlaid in turn by a thin covering of pebbles, bounded by a kerb of laid boulders on the N and W, and presumably originally also on the S and E, though no trace survived on these sides. The cairn is estimated to have measured about 9.5m by 7m by 0.5m to 0.6m high. There was no trace of a ditch. Carbon-14 dating of the skeletal material gave 660 +/- 50 AD and 625 +/- 50 AD (uncalibrated), dates consistent with that of the Class I symbol stone which may have at one time marked the site.

It is an unworked slab of sea-smoothed, pink sandstone, 1.2m long, 1.5m wide and 0.15m thick, with the incised symbols on one face only. They consist of a double crescent, a serpent and Z-rod and a comb and mirror. The stone, which is presumed to have stood erect over the cairn although no socket was identified, is now in Dunrobin Castle Museum.

Ackergill (ND35SW 12) offers the closest parallel for the cairn and long cist, while other instances occur of the association of symbol stones and burial cairns. Two other Class I symbol stones associated with cists have been found near Dairy Park (NC80SW 9 and 24), but in each case the use of the symbol stone was secondary.

J Close-Brooks 1977; J Close-Brooks 1981.

References

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