AN Easter Ross sculptor who devoted five years to a reconstruction of a Pictish stone helped enthusiasts get an insight into the remarkable skills needed to craft a piece of art that now dazzles a worldwide audience.
The intricately decorated Hilton of Cadboll stone was carved around 800AD and stood near the village of Hilton on the Fearn peninsula for hundreds of years.
Barry Groves, who led a recent workshop on the Black Isle as part of a series run by ARCH (Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands), gained insights into the techniques used by the Picts to transform massive slabs into pieces of art.
While the original Hilton of Cadboll stone is in the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh, Barry’s replica has been erected on the site of the original. He told how in 1676 the cross side of the large slab was chipped off for a local laird to reuse as a grave monument for himself and his three wives. For his reworking, he had to use his imagination and understanding of Pictish design to complete the task.
While no Pictish tools survive, the site of the Hilton of Cadboll stone provided some evidence. When it blew over several centuries ago, the remains of the base and lower areas of carving became buried. During investigation before erecting Barry’s replica, an excavation found the base, providing evidence of design and techniques. Some of the chisel marks were clear. The base is currently housed in the Seaboard Memorial Hall in Balintore.
Those attending the workshop got the opportunity to have a go at stone carving on red sandstone slabs.
Susan Kruse, of ARCH, said: "As ever there was appreciation for the skills, especially for motifs with curves – and there are quite a number. We came away with an appreciation of the craftsmanship but also the artistic impact. Barry believes that the craftsmen saw themselves as artists, creating public monuments to last for generations. What, he asked, will be our legacy in this internet age?"