Observations and Discussion

Observations and Discussion pulls together the concluding comments from Investigations into “Shared Space Belief Combinations” etc. and was created as a step towards the final section “Was a Shared Space Successfully Enabled?” but avoids conclusions.

In way of introduction here is an example of  an almost “multipurpose” slab with intricately infilled Crosses on each side, P-M Symbols on one side, what appears to be a

Investigation 2 2
Rossie Priory, Perthshire – Pictish Symbol Stone

hunting scene and what have been described as phantasmagorical animals. It highlights the complexity of decoding the carvings – from the straightforward Christian crosses to what the animals might mean (Celtic, something else specific or, simply, un-decoded.


Why Celtic Attributes and Not Deities? Mithraic and Christian symbols have been straightforward enough to recognise and ascribe a meaning. Animal, bird and fish objects are the bulk of the remainder. Not only do some of these have a relevant Roman context associated with the early 3rd century period and some centuries beyond but they tie in with Celtic “attributes”.

Celtic Attributes and / or Roman Context – deciding on which. Of the ten animal, bird and fish carvings one has a Roman mythology meaning (the serpent/snake as a token of life beyond the grave); additionally, two intertwined serpents could represent the Caduceus which in Roman mythology was carried by Mercury the messenger of the gods. Three have military relevance – the eagle prominent on the ubiquitous Roman army standard, the boar and bull as legionary emblems. Four objects have multiple contexts.

Proximity of Class 2 to Class 1 Stones – coincidence or influence? The selection of Class 2 Stones in the “Clusters” Appendix was taken from a list of Stones that have combinations of a Christian Cross, Pictish-Mithraic Symbols and animals, fish and birds that may have been carved in the context of Celtic beliefs (the subject of Investigations) plus four Stones which have Christian and P-M carvings but do not have Celtic attributes – Kirriemuir 1 (65), Logierait 1 (187), Monifieth 1 (66) and Monymusk (35). This is not an exhaustive Class 2 list – the focus, specifically, is on Class 1 Stones in close proximity to Class 2 ones.

People and Scenes – biblical, military and more With a focus on seeing if the Stones had mutually shared “belief” meanings from their symbols the people/scene category in “types of carved objects” could have been overlooked. Instead, by understanding what they meant (in no different a way to understanding symbols) there was an opportunity to assess if the people and scene carvings were relevant to any theology represented on the Stones – some of them did.

Ogham – a later incidental addition, or not? Ogham text has been carved onto geographically spread Symbol Stones. All the inscriptions are incised appearing as additions and seemingly not an integral part of the original overall designs – that in itself does not actually lend any further indication to dating of the Symbol Stones themselves.

Refining the Categories of Carved Objects on the Stones In “Investigations” evaluations were made using a maximum of six types or groups of carved objects. However, Pictish Categories of Carved Objects on the Stones Symbols comprised both decoded and undecoded; animals, birds and fish had three outcomes – Celtic attributes, Roman mythology and Roman military; people scenes had religious and unclear contexts. By further categorising into all ten elements it is easier to see more relevant detail:-

Observation & Discussion

Beliefs – within a “Shared Space” and otherwise When any two, or more, beliefs are represented on a Symbol Stone they are considered to be in a Shared Space. Two kinds of Shared Space were discovered during the Investigations – labelled “Complementary” beliefs or “Implied Acceptance”.

Shared Space – Complementary Beliefs For any Stone to be designated as a Shared Space with carvings representing Complementary Beliefs there need to be carvings from different beliefs with similar or identical meanings i.e. there is correlation between them.

Shared Space – Implied Acceptance of Beliefs  A table summarises the output from Investigations 1 to 4 for those Stones analysed as having objects with Implied Acceptance of Beliefs. As with Complementary Beliefs, “Seemingly Non-Religious” includes Undecoded, Ogham and People/Scene types of carved objects where a belief representation or interpretation is unclear.

“Single Belief” – Cannot be Shared Space  Although the purpose of the Investigations was to see where there might be “shared” spaces for different beliefs, for completeness it was decided to also include those Stones with objects that might only have had relevance to a single belief.

Exploring Time Frames for “Shared Space” By taking some likely dates (by CE century) for the carving of the objects on the Stones, time frames for any Shared Space prospects can be estimated.

Exploring timeframes

<-  Timeframes – Century CE – for carvings on Pictish Symbol Stones.




Click here for the complete PDF on Observations and Discussion.

The Extent of the Freedom to Carve? Having identified carvings portraying different beliefs on individual Stones being either complementary or suggesting implied acceptance, plus the surfaces of the Symbol Stones being kept intact, it is clear the carvers were at some sort of liberty to express themselves. This liberty extended to the inclusion of secular carvings such as commemorative scenes. Accommodating carved objects from what could be considered vying beliefs has not relied on making space available by erasing or obliterating the work of others.