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These small memorial stones are usually found in a group at a major church site with a graveyard, and Kinnedar is the only site where they occur above the Mounth. I’ve double checked that there’s no trace of them at Rosemarkie or Burghead. So there is no doubt it comes from the Kinnedar workshop as part of a group of personal memorial stones.

It is very rare to find one of these small memorial stones in isolation, but when they are, they are usually carved both sides (this fragment isn’t) and they have more complex iconography accompanying them. So I think the chances are slim that it was originally placed on a grave at Achareidh, especially as there is so far no evidence of a big church with graveyard there. But, odd things can happen, and I wonder if it was a unique case of a stray gravestone at Achareidh, bearing in mind that it was found when digging a hole, not just a surface find, and that they made a point of saying it was on the highest point of the land, which is definitely suspicious of a cairn/grave. So, curio or grave, I can’t say for sure which. But certainly originating from Kinneddar in the mid-700s.

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Thanks Helen, good points there - and the fact that it seems to have been dug up rather than found on the surface suggests it had been at Achareidh for a long time; probably longer than my "antiquarian curio" theory allows for.

I note that it's also described as 'unweathered' which suggests that wherever it originated, this part of the stone wasn't exposed to the elements for any long period of time. No grave is associated with it, but that doesn't necessarily mean there wasn't one.

Kinneddar is definitely a candidate, but key pattern is everywhere in Pictland and there is (or was) also an assemblage of key pattern fragments from Burghead: https://canmore.org.uk/search/image?SIMPLE_KEYWORD=burghead&COLLECTION=1234669, some of which are "lost". Daniel MacLean also pointed out a similar fragment from Dores: https://canmore.org.uk/site/12617/dores, which is also unassociated with any known ecclesiastical/burial site.

We don't know the actual size of this fragment as RCAHMS only describe it as "small" and ECMS says the photo is "not to scale". There's also a possibility that the stone was also carved on the reverse but this fragment has laminated off the whole stone.

So basically, a lot of uncertainty! I wouldn't rule out Kinneddar, but given all the other uncertainties I wouldn't be confident in saying it definitely came from there either.

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Nov 10, 2022Liked by Fiona Campbell-Howes

I think I'm right in saying that Achareidh is Gaelic for 'anchorage', and that is entirely possible on that shifting coastline, as you know.

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Hi Brian, that's interesting - I have near-zero Gaelic (other than to recognise "acha" as "field") so I don't know. George Bain says it meant "the cleared field", but "The Anchorage" would be a much more romantic name for a house! In any case, the name only dates to 1839 in this location, so not much help with identifying early medieval church sites.

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Turns out I was wrong. The gaelic for anchorage according to the dictionary is 'acarsaid'.

It's more likely that achareidh means 'acreage', which kind of ties in with 'cleared field'.

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HI Fiona, yes there are lots of instances of key pattern used all over Pictland, but there are many different versions of key patterns. The Burghead and Dores (and Rosemarkie) fragments of key pattern are all different to the Kinnedar group of memorial stones.

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The Achareigh fragment appears to originate from Kinneddar, and there’s a few reasons why. The main reason is that there is a group of small personal memorial stones (about 1m high) which come from there, and surprisingly four of them, Drainie 9 11 15 and 32, all have exactly this same key pattern on their arms, although their centres are each different. I say surprisingly, because, it’s almost like Kinneddar is discovering mass production, and I’ve not seen that anywhere else in Pictland. It’s a pity we don’t have the Achareidh fragment, because I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a piece off one of these other Kinneddar stones, especially Drainie 15. Otherwise it is part of a fifth example from Kinneddar, all with the same key, which is pretty impressive!

And, this is very helpful, because in my research I dated these to the mid 700s, and Dr Jane Geddes in her research says the St Andrews group must start c 740 and go for a few decades.

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