Unique symbols and figures

Some of the later, and more impressive Pictish stone sculptures can lie dated to the eighth and ninth centuries. Christian symbols are widely used, and the Hcts erected cross-slab monuments similar to those produced in Ireland around the same time. The difference between them is that many of the Pictish stones include bas-relief images of the mysterious Pictish symbols, of Christian and secular figures and scenes, and natural or mythical subjects.

The first development beyond simple incised carving was the production of bas-relief carvings. The most notable examples of these include the Birsay stone from Orkney which depicts three warriors, and the Golspie stone, which depicts a Pictish axeman surrounded by animals and fish. The back of both these stones carries a bas-relief Celtic cross, set against a background of interlaced decoration.

Perhaps the most celebrated Pictish stone was located in Aberlemno churchyard in Angus, and now resides in Edinburgh. One side has a bold Celtic cross in relief, surrounded by mythical animals and interlaced decoration. The reverse depicts a battle scene in bas-relief, which is believed to represent the Battle of Nechtansmere, fought between the Picts and the Northumbrian Saxons in 685. A final group arc-stones bearing relief crosses similar to the freestanding high crosses of Iona, but the Picts never produced the splendid high crosses of the Irish type. The Pictish stones reflect a vibrant late Celtic culture, whose artistic roots developed separately from their neighbors'. They also provide us with one of the great enigmas of the Celtic world.

Facing: The rear of Aberlemno Stone II shows Pictish huntsmen and typical Pictish symbols, including the "crescent and rod" and "double-mirror" symbols shown at the top of the stone.

Below: The rear of Aberlemno Stone I shows a shieldwall of Pictish warriors under attack from armed horsemen. It is highly likely that the stone commemorates the Pictish victory over the Northumbrians at the battle of Nechtansmere (ad 685).

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Enneagram Essentials

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