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The Chronology and Context of Pictish Relief Sculptures

The Chronology and Context of Pictish Relief Sculptures

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Published by Sergio Mota
The Chronology and Context ofPictish Relief Sculpture
By LLOYD LAING
SEVERAL altr:mative schemesfor the dating 4 Pictish relufsculpture have bern advanced during the Last century. Representations qf artifads which can be dated archaeologiJ;alry, decorative devices associated with the Viking Period and details qfanimal ornament are used to provide new date-rangesfor some stones usually dated earlier. The earl>' dating often advancedfor some (owreliefsculptures is accordingly questioned. and a ten
The Chronology and Context ofPictish Relief Sculpture
By LLOYD LAING
SEVERAL altr:mative schemesfor the dating 4 Pictish relufsculpture have bern advanced during the Last century. Representations qf artifads which can be dated archaeologiJ;alry, decorative devices associated with the Viking Period and details qfanimal ornament are used to provide new date-rangesfor some stones usually dated earlier. The earl>' dating often advancedfor some (owreliefsculptures is accordingly questioned. and a ten

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Sergio Mota on Sep 25, 2011
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10/12/2012

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The
Chronology
and
ContextofPictishRelief
Sculpture
By
LLOYD
LAING
SEVERAL
altr:mative
schemes
for
the
dating
4
Pictish
relufsculpture
have
bern
advanced
during
the
Last
century.
Representations
qf
artifads
which
can
be
dated
archaeologiJ;alry,
decorative
devices
associated
with
the
Viking
Period
and
details
qf
animal
ornament
are
used
to
provide
new
date-rangesfor
some
stones
usuallydated
earlier.
The
earl>'
dating
often
advancedfor
some
(ow
relief
sculptures
is
accordingly
questioned.
and
a
tentative
scheme
for
the
dating
of
Pictish
relief
sculpture
proposed.
VIEWSOF
THE
DATINGOFPICTISHSCULPTURE
There
haslongbeenageneralacceptancethatthethreeclasses
of
Pictishsculpturesdefined
by
RomillyAllen
and
Joseph
Anderson
in
'9°3
are
sequential,even
if
someoverlapbetweenthem
is
allowed.
I
Fundamentaltothisscheme
is
anevolutionaryas'>umption
that
Pictishsculpturefollowedaprogression:incisedwork-incisedworkcoupledwithshallowrelief-shallowreliefwithoutincisedwork-high.reliefmodelling.
This
wastheviewfollowedbyR.
B.
K.
Stevenson:
The
typologicalposition
of
highreliefsculptureinthesuccession
of
Pictishmonuments
is
that
it
comesasaclimax.
It
follows
lower,generallyquitefiat,reliefwhoseearlieststageincludesstonesonwhichtheoldincisedtechniquecontinuesto
be
usedfortheirsymbols,such
as
theBirsaystonefromOrkney
...
andtheprincipalone
at
GlamisnotfarfromDundee.'
Asecondassumptionoften
made
is
thattheuse
of
symbolsdied
out
followingthetake·overofPictlandby
KennethMac
Alpininthe
840S,
and
thatsubsequentlyverylittle
art
of
anykindwas
created
inwhatwasformerlyPictland.MrsCecil
Curle
summarizeditthus:
alllhat
was
characteristic
r
of
the
J)ictsJ
graduallydisappeared
...
owingtotheVikingraidsthenewKingdom
of
SCOlland
was
cutofffromthecentres
of
culture
of
theScots-lona
and
Ireland-andconsequentlythequality
of
its
art
was
very
POOLs
I
J.
R.
AIltn
andJ.
i\n<krson,
£Il'!1
ClrtiJtiatl
MOlfIllllDlts
~ S c H U m i ( E d i n b u r g h ,
1 9 o ~ ,
repro
B a l ~ \ < i e s ,
1993).
1R.
B.
K.
S , , ~ \ " e m o n ,
'Sc:ulpturein
Scol.1andin
the
6th---9th
centurit:t:AD',
65-74
m
W.
Schrickd,
V.
H.ElbcmandV.
Milojtit
(eds.),
1iMltHptu-
.btr
sJMilmttiU
IINJ.ftt;Jtmit1nahnUdw
Sht/pbu,
Hritklbtrz,
'970
(Mainz,1971),
at
p·r·
c.
LCurle,
'1hc
Chronology
or
the
Early
ChristianMonuments
of
ScOl:land',
!'TrK.
S«.
,wit.
SuI.,
74
(1939-40),60-116,at
105.
 
82
LLOYDLAING
This
vIew
wasvigorouslydisputed
by
RaleghRadford,4
but
hasbeenfairlypersistent.AnoverallchronologyforPictishsculptureshasbeen
attempted
on
severaloccasions,sthoughmoststudies
tend
toavoidmakingcategorical
pronouncementsabout
date,
exceptinrelationtoindividualmonuments.
6
The
positioncurrentlyheld
by
mostscholars
is
that
stated
by
Isabel
Henderson,
namely
that
reliefsculpture
made
its
appearance
inPictlandintheearly
8th
centuryasaresult
of
influencefrom
Northumbria.
7
This
datinghas
been
recentlyelaborated
upon
in
Douglas
MacLean's
consideration
of
thelow-relief
cross-slabs
of
southernPictland,
in
whichhehascataloguedfeatureswhichhehas
seenaspointingtoa
Northumbrian
inspirationforPictishreliefwork
in
theearlier
8th
century.s
There
are
few
fixedpointswhich
can
be
used
to
build
up
ameaningfulchronology
oflhe
PictishmonumenlS.
The
'Droslen'
slone(SlVigeans
I),
daled
to
839-42,9
and
recentlytheDupplinCrosssupposedly
of
c.
820+,10
have
beendated
throughtheidentification
of
thepeople
apparently
named
on
them,
though
thereareproblemswiththis
procedure
sincethe
monuments
were
not
necessarilyerected
in
thetime
of
the
named
individuals,
11
and
in
any
casetheidentification
of
theindividuals
named
on
the
'Drosten'
stone
is
opentodebate.Bothcases,however,ifvalid,providedatesforthesetwo
monuments
inthefirst
halfofthe
9thcentury.Epigraphicevidencesuggests
that
reliefsculpturemayhavebeen
produced
in
Pictlandinthe
8th
century.12Sincethey
are
withoutsymbols,neither
of
thetwoinscriptionssofar
datedcan
beusedtoarguefor
an
8th-century
date
forrelief
C.
A.
R.Radford,
'The
earlyChristianMonuments
of
Scotland',
Anliquity,
16
( 1 9 4 ~ ) ,
I-IB,
at
2-3.
)Curle,op.eit,
in
nOte
3;Radford,op.eit.innote
4;
R.
B.
K.Stevenson,'PictishArt',
97-128
in
F.
T.
Wainwright(cd.),
TheProbkm
o/the
PiLI.f
(London,1955);id.,
'The
Inchyrastone
and
someotherunpublishedEarlyChristianmonuments',
Prot.
50.:.
Anliq.
Seol.,
92(1959),
33-55,
esp.Appendix;id.,op.cit.
in
n o t e ~ .
~
Allen
and
Anderson,op.cit.
in
noteI,cxiii,dated
all
theClass
II
stonestothe
9th-loth
centuries.Radford,op.cit.
in
note4,
16,
sawreliefworkcommencingafter750,whileStevenson,op.cit.
in
note2,72,
opted
for
rdiefin
thesecondhalf
of
the8thcentury.MrsCurle,op.cit.
in
note
3,
78-Bo,
believedreliefworkcommenced
in
thelate
7th/early
8lhcentury.
71.
Henderson,'PictishArtandtheBook
of
Kells',
79-105
in
D.Whitdock,D,
R.
McKil1erick
and
D.N.DumviUe(cds.),
Ir!land
in
EarIJ
MtdifiJol
Europe
(Cambridge,(982),
at
83-4;
id.,
lWIemarkU'I
PiLluh
MOllwmml.f
(Rosemarkie,1990),nopagination
but
13.
.a
D.
MacLean,
'The
NorthumbrianPerspective',179-201
inS.
Foster(ed.),
TIu
51
AndrtwI
SarcopMgus
(Dublin,
t 9 ~ B ) ,
at
345.
1'.
O.
Clancy,
'The
DrostenStone;anewreading',
Pro&.
50.:.
Ani.
Seol.,
123
(1993),345-53.
10
K.Forsyth,
'The
InscriptionsontheDupplinCross',
237-49
in
C.Bourke(cd,),
From
the
Isles
tf
the
North
(Belfast,1995).
Se<:
also
L.
Alcock
and
E.
A.
Alcock,
'The
context
of
theDupplinCross:areconsideration',
Proc.
50.:.
Anliq.
Seol.,
126(1996),
455-8.
It
Forsyth,op.cit.
in
note
10.
\2
This
is
made
dear
fromthedating
of
theinscribedstonefromTarbat,Highland,whichhasatype
of
displayletterin$thatHiggitthas
a r g u ~ d
belongstothe
Bth
century,probablylhelatterhalf
(I'
HiWIt,'The
Pictishinscriptional
Tarbat
in
Ross-Shire',
Pro&.
&01.
Anliq.
&01.,
I
12
(1982),300-21),adatebraeetwhIch
he
also
seesasreasonablefortheLcthnotl,Angusinscription(op.eit.,315).Behindbothinscriptions
he
hasseentheinfluence
of
Northumbria.
The
decoration
on
the
Tarbat
stonehasnofeaturesthat
are
distinctivelyPictish-boththepatternslhat
AUen
idenlified
a r ~
foundnowhereelse
in
Pictland,althoughtheinterlacecanbefound
in
theBook
of
Kells
and
onsomeIrishcrosses.Arecentlydiscoveredfragmentfrom
Tarbat,
however,appearstobefromthesamemonument,
and
hasaleoninebeastdevouringmonstersandthcremains
of
fourfigures.ThismighlseemtoconfirmthePictishcharacter
of
thestone,
but
couldalso
SUsgeSI
alalerdatefortheinscription,perhapsin
the
9thcentury
(I
am
indebted
to
Dr
RossTrench:Jellicoefordrawmgmy
auention
to
this).
 
PICTISHRELIEFSCULPTURE
cross-slabswithPictishsymbols,though
of
coursethatdoes
not
precludetheirexistence.
There
are
few
sculpturalremainsinnorthernScotlandthat
can
becategoricallydescribedasrelatedto8th-century
Northumbrian
sculptureratherthantobefragments
of
moredistinctively'Pictish'cross-slabs.
Those
thatmighthavequalifiedthusareveryfragmentary,
and
mightbeseentohavebeenparts
of
crossslabs
had
largerportions
of
them
sUl\1ived.
13
The
only
method
that
can
beemployedindatingPictishreliefsculpture
is
the
traditionalart-historicalone-acomparativestudyhas
lO
be
made
of
the
iconography
and
ornament
whichmatcheselementsinmorecloselydatableInsular
art
elsewhere.
The
problems
of
studyingCelticsculpturehaverecentlybeendiscussedbyStailey,whohasdrawnattention
lO
theunreliability
of
theconcept
of
typologicalprogressionasameans
of
establishingasequence.
14
Hisconcernwaswiththe
dating
oflrish
crosses,but,giventhelinksgenerallyseenbetweentheIrishcrosses,those
of
lonaand
thePictishcross-slabs,hiscaveatsseemequallyapplicablehere.
DATING
EVIDENCEUSEDIN
THIS
STUDY
The
followingslUdyconsidersa
numberof
details
on
Pictishreliefsculptureswhichit
is
arguedprovidedatingevidenceforthestonesdisplayingthem.
This
evidencetakesfourforms:(a)depictions
of
artefactswhichonanalogywithsurvivingartefactselsewhere
can
beattributedtoparticularchronologicalhorizons;(b)decorativedeviceswhichhaveacurrencyinaparticularperiodoutsidePictland
and
which
can
beassumedtohavebeen
current
in
asimilarperiodinPictlandaswell;
(c)
types
of
figuralwork;
and
(d)
types
of
animalmotif.
Throughout
thestudythestonesaregiventhe
numbering
assignedtothembyAllen
and
Anderson
in
Earry
Christian
Monuments
of
Scotland
(
Ig03)-
monuments
discoveredafterthisbookwaspublishedaregiventhenumbersassigned
lO
themontheirdiscovery.ReferencestoAllen'smotifnumbersderivefromhisschemeinthiswork.
There
areinevitablyproblemsinevaluatingthematerial.
As
many
of
thesculpturesarcconsiderablyweathered,detailhasbeenlost.Inthecase
of
crucialdetails,an
attempt
hasbeen
made
lO
examinethemfromdifferentangles
and
in
differentlights,
and
lO
studyarange
of
photographs
and
engravingstakenatvarioustimesfromthe19thcenturyonwards.
Thereare
stillambiguitiesina
number
of
instances,however,
and
thesewillbepointedou[inthediscussion
that
follows.Secondly,there
is
aproblemwith'sculptor'Slicence'-formscouldbemodified
lO
fitavailablespaces(theswordpommelonFowlisWester
2,
forexample,appearsmoresmoothlyprofiledthanitsprOlOtypedue
lo
theneedto
fit
itintothe
"
Some
of
themonumentsfrom
Tarbat
and
Drainiemight
appear
tobelong
to
aseparatetradilionfrom
that
of
the
main
cross-slabseries,forexampleDrainie6
andTarbat
7
and
9(for
Tarhat's
sculpturesgenerally,J.
Harden,
'A
potentialarchaeologicalcontextfortheearlyChristiansculpturedstonesfrom
Tarbat,
EasterRoss',inBourke(cd.),op.cit.innote
[0,22
!-7),
astheyemployspiral
and
confronted
trumpetpatterns
whichinvitecomparisonwithbothInsularmanuscript
and
metalworkexemplars
of
the8theentury,bUlthequestionremainsopen.
!<
R.Sialley,
'The
towercrossatKeUs',1
[5-41
in
C.
E.
Karkov,M.Ryan
and
R.
T.
Farrell(eds.),
TMInsuwr
Tradilion{NewYork,
(997),
at
118-19.

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