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Sueno's Stone

Sueno's Stone
Sueno's Stone in Forres
Material Old Red Sandstone
Size 6.5 metres (21 ft)
Classification Class III
Symbols Celtic cross with interlaced knotwork
Battle scene
Created 9th century CE
Present location Forres, Moray

Sueno's Stone stands over 6.5 metres (about 21 feet) high and is a Picto-Scottish Class III standing stone on the north-easterly edge of Forres, Scotland. It is the largest surviving Pictish stone of its type in Scotland.[1][2] It is situated on a raised bank on a now isolated section of the former road to Findhorn. The stone is named for Sweyn Forkbeard, but this association is almost certainly in error.[3]


  • One or two stones? 1
  • Description 2
  • Interpretations 3
  • Legend 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7

One or two stones?

Evidence from Timothy Pont's Mapp of Murray (c 1590), the more modern military maps of Roy and Ainslie (1750 and 1789 respectively) and Robert Campbell's map of 1790 all show Sueno's Stone along with another stone that has now disappeared. The fact that Pont's map shows the standing stones at all indicates their size as Pont does not show any other obelisks anywhere. Ainslie has inscribed on his map "two curiously carved pillars". The fact that these maps show the pillar(s) in their present (at least approximate) position belies the notion that it was found elsewhere and re-erected at its present location.[4] Hector Boece (c1465–1536) (not known entirely for his historical accuracy) mentions the stone and attributes it to Sueno. Lady Ann Campbell, the Countess of Moray, is noted in the early 1700s as carrying out maintenance on the stone in an attempt to stabilise it. This was achieved by constructing stepped plinths around the base and these are what can be seen today. Archaeological excavations carried out in 1990 and 1991 suggest that it may originally have been one of two monumental stones.


Details of base of stone

Sueno's Stone is an upright cross slab with typical Pictish style interwoven vine symbols on the edge panels. It is carved from Old Red Sandstone which is prevalent in the Laigh o' Moray but has suffered considerable weathering in places. The western face has a carved Celtic cross with elaborately interlaced decoration and a poorly preserved figural scene (perhaps a royal inauguration) set in a panel below the cross. The east face has four panels that show a large battle scene. The top panel is quite weathered and shows rows of horsemen. The second panel depicts armed foot soldiers and the third panel shows the decapitated vanquished soldiers, the heads piled up, and soldiers, archers and horsemen surrounding what may be a broch. The base panel depicts the victorious army leaving the battlefield. The sides are also elaborately carved. In the early 1990s the stone was encased in armoured glass to prevent further erosion and also graffiti.


1861 drawing of the stone
Side panel with sinuous vine patterns

George Buchanan. However, this interpretation is no longer supported by historians and archaeologists.

Several more recent interpretations have been advanced. Anthony Jackson suggested that the stone displayed the final triumph of the Christian Gaels of Dál Riata over their, supposedly heathen, Pictish enemies, in which case it would have been erected by Kenneth MacAlpin or his immediate successors. To say that much of Jackson's interpretation is problematic is to understate the difficulties associated with the case. As an alternative, Archie Duncan advances his theory that the stone records the defeat, death and reburial of Dub (Dub mac Maíl Coluim) in 966 or 967.

A modified form of Jackson's theory — stripped of much of the ingenious interpretation — is probably the present orthodoxy. This holds that Sueno's Stone commemorates an unknown victory by the men of Alba, the Gaelicised Picts of the lands south of the Mounth over the men of Moray, those of the lands north of the Mounth.


Local legend says this was the crossroads where Macbeth originally met the three witches. In the legend, they were eventually imprisoned inside the stone—should the stone be broken they would be released. However this tale can date no further back than Shakespeare's play.

See also

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ Jackson, Anthony (1984), The symbol stones of Scotland: a social anthropological resolution of the problem of the Picts, Orkney Press, p. 165,  
  2. ^ Alan Castle (2010). Speyside Way. Cicerone Press Limited. pp. 187–.  
  3. ^ Michelin Travel & Lifestyle (1 April 2011). Michelin Green Guide Scotland. Michelin Travel & Lifestyle. p. 413.  
  4. ^ McCullagh: Excavations at Sueno's Stone, Forres, Moray, 1995
  5. ^ Oram, Richard: Moray & Badenoch, A Historical Guide, Edinburgh, 1996, p. 65
  6. ^ Henderson, I 'Pictish Vine-Scroll Ornament', in O'Connor, 1983
  7. ^ Jackson, 1983; 1993
  8. ^ Sellar, W D H 1993 'Sueno's Stone and its Interpreters', in Sellar, W D H (ed) Moray: Province and People, Scot Soc Northern Studies, 97–116.
  9. ^ Stevenson, R B K 1955 'Pictish Art', in Wainwright, F T (ed) The problem of the Picts, Edinburgh & London, 97–128
  10. ^ Jackson, A 1993 'Further thoughts on Sueno's Stone'.
  11. ^ Henderson, I 1983 'Pictish Vine-Scroll Ornament', in O'Connor, A & Clark, D V (eds), From the Stone Age to the 'Forty-Five, Edinburgh, 243-68.


  • Duncan, A.A.M., The Kingship of the Scots 842–1292: Succession and Independence. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2002. ISBN 0-7486-1626-8
  • Foster, Sally M., Picts, Gaels and Scots: Early Historic Scotland. Batsford, London, 2004. ISBN 0-7134-8874-3
  • Henderson, George & Isabel Henderson, The Art of the Picts: Sculpture and Metalwork in Early Medieval Scotland. Thames & Hudson, London, 2004. ISBN 0-500-23807-3
  • Jackson, Anthony, "Further Thoughts on Sueno's Stone" in W.D.H. Sellar (ed.) Moray: Province and People. The Scottish Society for Northern Studies, Edinburgh, 1993. ISBN 0-9505994-7-6
  • Oram, Richard., Moray& Badenoch, A Historical Guide, Edinburgh, 1996. ISBN 1-874744-46-7
  • Sellar, W.D.H., "Sueno's Stone and its Interpreters" in W.D.H. Sellar (ed.) op. cit.
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