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Main Details

Primary ReferenceNJ05NW0001
NRHE Card No.NJ05NW1
NRHE Numlink 15785
HES SM No. 90292
Site Form Standing Structure
Site Condition Complete 2
Details Class III Pictish symbol stone. It was found lying flat, and raised to present position after recovery. One of the most magnificent carved stones in Britain, and the tallest and most complex piece of early medieval sculpture in Scotland. It stands over 6.5 m high, and weighs circa 7.6 tons. It is sandstone, probably brought from the coast near Covesea. On the west side is a relief carving of a ring-headed cross, the shaft filled with interlace spiral knotwork. Below, two long bearded figures confront each other with smaller attendants behind. The sides are highly decorated, bearing linear art, vine scrolls and beasts. The obverse depicts a great battle scene in four panels which can be interpreted as a heroic narrative reading from top to bottom. The top panel depicts a number of horsemen, possibly a leader and his guard arriving for battle. The central panel is divided into three sections. The top section depicting a scene of battle with the combatants fighting on foot. The middle shows a besieged stronghold, to the left of which a number of headless corpses are depicted which can be interpreted as an account of the fate of the defeated defenders of the besieged stronghold. The bottom section depicts a group of horsemen fleeing from a group of infantry. The lower two panels of the east face appears to show the final defeat of the defending army, one depicting piles of headless corpses and severed heads, and the other panel shows the dispersal of the defeated army. Badly weathered, the stone was housed under a specially constructed glass canopy in 1991. Excavations in 1926 established that the stone was not counterbalanced by a deeply buried footing but set into a larger base stone. Resistivity and magnetometer survey immediately around the monument in 1978 did not identify any archaeological features, nor did evaluation in the adjacent field to the west in 1989 (NJ05NW0339). A programme of archaeological investigation (excavation and watching briefs) was carried out in 1990-1991 before and during construction of the protective glass canopy that now encloses the stone. The work re-exposed the lowermost panel of carving on the east face and the massive socketed block that forms the socle for the monument. Two adjacent oval settings, dated to the first millennium BC, may relate to emplacement of the stone at its present location, and raises doubts about the long standing tradition that the present location of the stone dates from the 18th century. These excavations did not identify any particular features which were the cause of anomalies recorded by geophysical survey that was carried out in 1990 over an area around the stone considered for landscaping. In 1995 AOC conducted the total excavation of area affected by proposed bus turning hammerhead. The subsoil surface was hand cleaned. Four features were identified within the subsoil surface, two of which were modern in origin and one, a gully, was only tentatively identified as anthropogenic in origin. The fourth feature was a truncated pit that contained a quantity of burnt wood charcoal. Alba Archaeology carried out a watching brief adjacent to Sueno's Stone in Forres in February 2005. A single trench was excavated by machine in preparation for a cycle path. Nine archaeological features were found at a depth of approximately 0.8m below the ground surface. No significant finds were uncovered but a single radiocarbon date of approximately 100 BC suggests an Iron Age providence for the features perhaps associated with settlement in the area. No features that could be securely related to the stone itself were uncovered. A watching brief was maintained by Kirkdale Archaeology in July 2015 during the excavation of two trenches to house the concrete foundations for a bench to be installed to the southwest of the stone, but this disturbed only modern landscaping.
Last Update31/08/2023
Updated Bycpalmer
Date of Compilation14/07/1977

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National Grid Reference: NJ 0465 5953

Event Details

Event DateEvent TypeOASIS ID
1995 Excavation
2005 Watching-Brief
1978 Geophysical Survey
1926 Excavation
1990 Geophysical Survey
2015 Watching-Brief Kirkdale1-311411
1990 Watching-Brief

Excavations and Surveys

Date MDate YTypeDurationDirector / OrganisationAuspicesFundExtent
 1995 Excavation  AOC   
 1978 Survey  IAM IAM 
 1926 Excavation  Mr BainIAM  
 1990 Survey  Gater and Gaffney   

Artefact and Ecofact


Ecofact Notes

Monument Types

Monument Type 1Monument Type 2Monument Type 3OrderProbability