In which I try to puzzle out the origins of a cross-slab fragment found near Nairn in 1890
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.
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.