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19 September 2014
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Pictish Symbol Stones
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  • Aberlemno Sculptured Stone Number II - Factsheet
    The carved symbols stones of the Picts rank amongst the greatest artworks of Dark Age European culture. One of the finest examples is the so called Battle Stone that stands in Aberlemno churchyard, 4 miles north of Dunnichen, in Angus.

  • It may have been carved in the decades after 700 AD and seems to depict the events of the nearby Battle of Dunnichen fought against the Angles of Northumbria in 685AD.
  • The stone stands 2.3m high and is known as a Class II Pictish Stone due to the finesse of the carving and the elaborate cross on its reverse side - features that are missing in the cruder Class I Stones that probably date from around 500 AD.

    Aberlemno Sculptured Stone
  • Class II Stones may to date from after 710 AD when the Pictish king, Naiton, invited Northumbrian masons to built churches in Pictland. The Aberlemno Battle Stone was probably erected to mark the site of a church or monastery, possibly built in thanks to stone God for the Picts' victory over the Northumbrians.

  • This remarkable stone shows an encounter between two sets of warriors. One set, on the right, wear typical Angle helmets, while the others, on the left, have archetypal Pictish hairstyles.

  • Their are four scenes shown from top to bottom of the strone. At the top a Pictish warrior, so skilled in horsemanship he doesn’t require to hold onto the horse's reins, chases away an Angle who has clearly thrown away his sword and shield in the panic of his flight.

  • Below that, a group of three Pictish warriors on foot confront an Angle horseman armed with a spear. The three Picts are armed with swords, spears and shields. Some historians believe that this may show how the Picts actually fought in battle. The front rank wielded sword and shield, covered by the second rank with their spears lowered to protect the swordsmen and ward off mounted warriors. Behind that the third rank of the Pictish battle line would stand in reserve.

  • Below these three Picts, two mounted warriors do battle. Some historians have speculated that the Angle rider may be the Northumbrian King Ecgfrith. If this is the case, then perhaps the Pictish rider could be King Bridei - kind of like a Bayeux Tapestry in stone.

  • In the bottom right of the stone, a Northumbrian warrior lies dead. Perhaps this is also King Ecgfrith, slain on the field of battle with a raven pecking at his body. A dark but popular motif in Scottish Dark Age art.

  • The Aberlemno Stone is just one of the hundreds of Pictish stones that have been discovered across northern Scotland.

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