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Feb 23, 2023Liked by Fiona Campbell-Howes

Thanks Fiona, for another thought-provoking blog. I like the direction this is going! Anent stones with 'sword' marks. There are definitely other examples elsewhere in Scotland (e.g. Lethendy https://canmore.org.uk/site/79896/lethendy-house) and, as I recall, Wales. That doesn't mean the practice didn't originate in Ireland, but it was also known in southern Pictland.

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Thanks very much Katherine - yes, I think I may have been reaching a bit to look for an Irish origin for the practice, as they certainly appear elsewhere in Wales and Scotland. Ruth's dissertation also mentions Lethendy as well as St Vigeans 11, and I hear that the same sorts of marks are present on at least one of the Govan hogbacks. There are also some on the Kebbuck Stone near Nairn: https://fortrenn.substack.com/p/the-kebbuck-stone-ardersier.

I must admit I've been thinking about Megan Kasten's 3D groove analysis and how it might be applied to these marks on Sueno's Stone - especially to understand what kind of blade might have been used, to determine whether it might have been a Pictish, Norse or Dalriadan-type weapon. (If there are even differences between them.)

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Feb 22, 2023Liked by Fiona Campbell-Howes

Yet more fresh food for thought Fiona! As I’ve said previously I am fairly certain there was a separate northern, Moray based kingship. That there is no direct historical record is not surprising given the paucity of any surviving sources and especially when those that we do have were written from a southern (Alban) perspective. The acceptance of the “usurper” MacBethad by Alba certainly suggests that his claim to overall kingship must have had a credible constitutional basis. Similarly the ongoing struggles of the Alban kings through the 11th and 12th centuries to get the folk of Moray to accept their sovereignty also suggests a tradition of an independent kingship or polity.

So having the mound that Sueno’s stone stands as a place of coronation certainly makes sense to me. I think it is also worth noting that Cluny Hill, sitting directly behind the mound, is very prominent in the landscape and can be picked out from afar, especially the northern coast of the Moray Firth. Perhaps that visibility was also significant

Really enjoying your posts. Keep up the good work - once you regain your throne from the usurper 🐈‍⬛

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Hi Alastair, thanks very much for this. I almost did try to argue that Sueno's Stone could be evidence for a separate, northern kingship, but then stopped (like everyone else) because there's no corroborating evidence. I definitely need to dive deeper into the emergence of Clann Ruaidri, Macbeth and Lulach - I'm hampered slightly by the fact that I find succession rules (and all the speculation about who might have been the parent of whom) eye-wateringly boring. Not a great stance for a would-be historian! Until now I've been working backwards from Dubh in 966 AD to see which context best fits Sueno's Stone, but I think I need to start working forwards now into the 11th century. Stay tuned :)

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Forgot to say - that is a very good point about the visibility of Cluny Hill from the Black Isle (and/or the Tarbat peninsula?) One of my many thoughts is that it would be great to do a viewshed analysis of where Sueno's Stone (and Cluny Hill) could be seen from in their day, and how they would have appeared, like Howard Williams and Patricia Murrieta-Flores have done for the Pillar of Eliseg: https://howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/12/the-pillar-of-eliseg-from-llandysilio-mountain/ There are lots of parallels between Sueno's Stone and the Pillar of Eliseg generally, although that monument is definitely in frontier/contested territory. Another topic for another time...!

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Feb 23, 2023Liked by Fiona Campbell-Howes

Loved reading this--and thinking about it! How intriguing to work out how ideas around oaths, boundaries, kingship, and other power was being wielded in the landscape. Thanks so much for sharing these ideas and the research into them--wonderful stuff to think more on.

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Thanks Freya! It's getting harder and harder to imagine how Sueno's Stone interacted with the landscape as it's now virtually surrounded by roads and houses, but it must have been an incredibly imposing monument at a time when there were no settlements and no stone buildings. I often think about how incredible it is that it's survived intact all this time.

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Feb 22, 2023Liked by Fiona Campbell-Howes

It may be that the stone commemorates some final (local) battle when the "northern Picts" were conquered but includes the coronation scene from Scone as part of the same story. As in the battle happened somewhere near the stone, Cináed was victorious and crowned at Scone, then the stone was erected to commemorate the decisive victory in Cináed's ascension to the throne.

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Thanks Andy - that is a very plausible explanation. The difficulty is in proving it, or at least making a convincing case for that battle rather than any other. The evidence is so thin on the ground that it's not surprising that no single theory has yet gained general consensus. One day I'm probably going to have to admit defeat too, but not yet!

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