JUST a few months after neolithic round houses were found on the site of a housing development on the outskirts of Forres, a man living on the other side of town has unearthed more evidence of the area's historic past... continues...
A survey by Tim Blackie and Colin Macaulay
The aim of this survey was to produce an up-to-date and comprehensive list of The Pictish and early Christian sculptured stones which have been found in the modern county of Caithness, and to provide brief details about the stones which might be of interest to the general reader... continues...
Some small stones have been found [in the parish of Wick], which seem to be a species of flint, about an inch long and half an inch broad, of a triangular shape, and barbed on each side. The common people confidently assert, that they are fairies arrows, which they shoot at cattle, when they instantly fall down dead, though the hide of the animal remains quite entire. Some of those arrows have been found buried a foot under ground, and are supposed to have been in antient times fixed in shafts, and shot from bows. Some stones also of a flinty nature have been found, which when broken contained the shape of serpents coiled round in the heart of the stone.
From the Statistical Account of 1791-99 vol.10 p.15 : Wick, County of Caithness.
Not only the common people, but even the clergy, and better sort, in the interior of the Highlands, till about sixty or seventy years ago, believed in ghosts, fairies, brownies, hob-gobblings, and the like. I fell in with an old man, that positively insisted he had seen them, and that a gentleman, belonging to the parish of Boharm, upon shooting among fairies, who were dancing round a green tumulus, one summer evening, wounded one of them, so that it could not fly off with the rest; that he caught it and kept it all night; but that, recovering, it flew away in the morning.
p409 in 'Travels in Scotland, by an unusual route' by James Hall (v2) 1807. (But maybe Boharm was a parish in Moray, rather than the Highlands. Far away enough not to let the truth interfere perhaps).
just a little note the Z-rods that I have given locations of below are the doubledisc-and-Z-rod type only, I have not included the 'broken' rods i.e Z-rod on it's side with either a snake/serpant or with what could be a house /fort (symbol numbers 23 & 45 in the Pictish trail).
Location of Class II Z-rod & V-rod stones
From the book I mentioned earlier in Head heritage ('The Pictish trail') the following information might be of use:
Class I stones are the simplest with only symbols cut into their surface.
Class II stones have symbols but also are dressed and the symbols are in relief and have a cross carved on the other side.
Class III stones have no symbols they have other figures and a cross (a magnificent example being the Sueno's stone ('Sven's stone'), near Forres, Moray, it is thought to illustrate the slaughter of Picts (depicted in groups of 7) that occurred during the unification of Scotland by Kenneth MacAlpin).
All the known symbols on class I & II stones come in pairs except for the mirror and comb, which, if present, is always placed towards the bottom of the stone almost touching the lower of the pair above. Some designs occur only once but apart from these there is a core of 28 symbols plus the mirror and comb. The most frequent symbols found on the stones is the crescent -and-V-rod found in 75% of all pairings, next is the double-disc-Z-rod occurring in 40% of all pairings. (this is both class I & II stones taken together).
It is thought the V- rod is a divining rod and as with the crescent could possibly mean the lineage was involved with determination of moon phase tides etc. The Z-rod may be associated with power and the broken rod may represent the dead (as I think someone mentioned this earlier).
As requested below are V & Z rod stones with cross (class II) locations. The grid ref that I am giving is the original location although some are now in museums. I will not mention all the symbols present on these as with out the illustrations some are quite hard to describe, and I donÕt have a scanner sorry.
Orkney V-rod HY 2398 2850
Caithness V-rod ND 1255 6879
V-rod ND 1309 6205
Sutherland V-rod +Ogham NH 837 002
Ross V-rod NH 915 840
Z-rod + V-rod +mirror & comb NH 8730 7688
Z-rod +V-Rod + mirror (no comb) NH 737 576
Hebrides V-rod NG 5467 3677
Nairn V-rod + Z-rod NH 9364 4253
Moray Z-rod + Ogham NH989 584
Z-rod+ V-rod NJ 2159 6285
Aberdeen Z-rod, V-rod (side by side) NJ 875 154
Z- rod NJ 436 068
Angus Z-rod +V-rod NO 5223 5555
Z-rod NO 389 544
Z-rod + V-rod NO 400 500
Z-rod NO 378 352 (lost)
Z-rod +mirror & comb NO 4953 3235
V-rod NO 4953 3235
Group of 6 stones St Vigeans (1-6) 1,3,5 & 6 Have Z-rods, St Vigeans1 also has a mirror & comb, some of the symbols are not determined on 2,4 & 5. NO 638 429
Perth Z-rod NO 2432 4878
V-rod NO2872 4459(meigle 4)
Z-rod + mirror& comb NO 2872 4459 (meigle 7)
Z-rod ,V-rod (side by side) NO196 212
V-rod NN 9462 5635
Z-rod + V-rod NN 928 240
V-rod NO 096 392
Fife Z-rod NO 423 035
If you want the same information on class I stones either buy the book 'The pictish trail: a travellers guide to the old Pictish kingdom' Anthony Jackson Orkney press 1989, or buy me a scanner! Caroline
"Caithness is well-known for its spectacular prehistoric monuments, but few of us are as familiar with the remarkable
archives that relate to some of them. From the mid-19th century its Neolithic chambered tombs and Iron Age brochs attracted a who's who of Scottish antiquarians and scholars, and the county was amongst the first to be surveyed by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS 1911). This was in itself a remarkable piece of work, documented in a journal written by Alexander Curle, the first Secretary of the Commission, who visited the majority of the 597 monuments then known between May and September 1910 (RCAHMS MS/36/2). Since that survey, the Royal Commission has carried out relatively little archaeological work in Caithness, so an approach in 2003 by the Caithness Archaeological Trust to carry out a survey of the landscape around Loch of Yarrows and Loch Watenan presented an exciting opportunity...."
The archaeology section of the Caithness Community Web site has a growing list of articles and directions to sites in the county of Caithness. There are pages on groups that have an interest in archaeology and history in the area. Caithness Field club is supplying articles from its annual bulletins. Many photogrpahs of brochs and other sites are being added to the web site.
A cist lying in the valley next to the River Bran. The cist was destroyed during road straightening, but added to TMA as it provides a tantalising hint that the apparent dearth of prehistoric occupation in these highland valleys is probably illusory.
Canmore has the following:
A short cist containing a beaker burial was found, late in July 1959, during road straightening through a natural morainic hillock.(W G Bannerman, County Road Surveyor) Only a piece of charcoal was found with the beaker which is in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS)
Next to Brochs souterrains are pretty cool (in both meanings of the word) and this one, as Rhiannon suggests is superb. We had been trying to get around to a visit for a couple of years and as the photos suggest we managed to take a peek.
I believe it is possible to walk from Kingussie but we took the lazy option and took the farm track off the A9 and parked at a place suggested by the homemade P for parking sign.
It’s a short walk following the track and across a field to the site. The souterrain is much as described, crescent shaped and quite large. Unfortunately the middle section has collapsed and been robbed away, a shame but this does permit a closer examination of the construction method.
At the time of our visit (November) the backdrop to the site was a snow covered Cairngorm, this site is well worth a look.
We take the Thurso-John o'Groats bus as far as Brough (pronounced to rhyme with "loch"), then it's a simple road walk of three miles to Easter Head, the most northerly part of Dunnet Head. I had completely underestimated the distance from the map (doh), so it becomes a bit of a rush to get up here. The quiet road climbs steadily, winding its way past a selection of heather-imprisoned lochs, bright mirrors in a dark and impenetrable setting.
The highest point of the headland, where the cairn is, is visible the whole way, but doesn't seem to get any closer for quite a long while. Eventually we round the corner and the lighthouse suddenly comes into sight. A car-parking area is available, which attracts several blink-and-they're-gone other visitors during the time we're here.
The cairn itself has sadly disappeared under a circular seating/toposcope thing, but this place is well worth the effort of the visit on a clear day for the views of the Orkney Islands across the Pentland Firth, almost close enough to touch. As the helpful, albeit cairn-destroying, panels inform us, we can see Hoy, Scapa Flow (which brings schoolboy memories of the sinking of the Royal Oak by Gunter Prien's U-47), as well as the cliff fort of Holburn Head, Ben Loyal, Cape Wrath to the west and Duncansby Head to the east, amongst other things.
We have about three quarters of an hour before the repeat journey back to catch the bus, during which time the wind whips up a frenzy, even on this mild and sunny afternoon. The headland is dotted with abandoned concrete buildings of a military-looking type, casting an air of post-apocalyptic decay onto the scene. I'm sure the weather was all lovely and tropical in the Bronze Age when the cairn was built, but this feels as close to the ends of the Earth as anywhere right now. Perhaps they felt that too, some days. Until we make it across to the Orkneys one day, this is as far north as we get.
For all the howling wind, I find it a wrench to leave here.