by Tim Blackie (NOSAS)
This intriguing carved, reworked and relatively portable piece of sandstone (0.32 x 0.38 x 0.15m) was originally located in a rockery in the garden of 1 High Street, Rosemarkie.
Neither the owners of the house nor the local community have any knowledge of its provenance. The find location at 1 High Street is at the south west top of the High Street close to Rosemarkie Church and ancient graveyard where many Pictish and medieval stones have been discovered. The owners were selling their house and offered it to me as I was intrigued with its most unusual design.
The front of the stone appears to bear the design of a cross carved in relief and the rear is flat. It may have originally been rectangular (possibly square or close to it) with a broad chamfered margin on at least three sides. The very prominent chamfer could be a feature of a cross slab associated with the early medieval Pictish centre at Rosemarkie but could equally point to being an architectural fragment with a later date. The fact that the chamfer has been partly removed and an arc cut out of the stone shows that the stone has been perhaps reworked and re-used for another purpose.
John Borland of RCAHMS recorded the stone in August 2014 and confirmed the prospect of a 10th century cross slab but also suggested that it might be some sort of boss from the crown of an 18/19th century mausoleum/vault/aisle but offers no boss comparisons at this time. Existing Rosemarkie church records make no mention of a large mausoleum, vault or aisle in Rosemarkie graveyard but many historical records were destroyed in a fire.
In addition to the apparent reworking, the top surface of the cross exhibits some droving
lines, visible only in low angle light. Some of lines show a pecking technique in the working, and John suggested an 18/19th century date to these. Why someone would apply that finish onto a re-used stone is difficult to understand.
John has suggested two cross slab designs at as comparisons: a cross at St Vigeans and a cut off corner at Menmuir.
I submitted a TTU report 3 months ago and await their assessment but however believe that the stone will continue to be an enigma. John Borland is encouraging lots of experienced eyes to offer their opinion and all suggestions will be gratefully received.
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