WORK to excavate a Pictish stone of potentially “international significance” is set to begin near Doune.

People across the Stirling area have joined forces with historians from around the world to fund the retrieval of a stone which is believed to date from between the 6th and 8th century.

The Rescuers of Old Kilmadock (Rook) discovered the Pictish artefact in Old Kilmadock cemetery in 2019.

Since then they have been working with Stirling Council archaeologist Dr Murray Cook, who said the stone had to initially be reburied in order to maintain its structural integrity.

He said: “The Rook team found the stone by accident and it soon became clear it could be something of international significance, with engravings of animals in the Pictish tradition and what appear to be examples of Ogham script, a form of Irish writing that’s rarely found in Scotland.

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“The stone is very, very delicate and was re-buried to retain its structural integrity before we undertake a more detailed examination. We’re excited to get the next stage of this discovery under way later this month.”

A campaign to fund the retrieval of the stone had so far raised £10,000, which will go towards funding both the excavation and storage of the stone for a further two years.

It will also allow for an in-depth examination of the script and engravings which appear on both sides of the stone.

It’s believed the stone dates from around the period of the Battle of Dun Nechtain in 685, when the Picts expelled the invading Northumbrians from the south and paved the way for the creation of Alba and, ultimately, Scotland.

The National: Dr Murray Cook and Moira BuchananDr Murray Cook and Moira Buchanan (Image: Rook)

Most Ogham scripts on previous stones in Scotland have been discovered further north than Stirling, including in Argyll, Shetland and Orkney, although examples have also been found in Galloway.

If the engravings on the stone at Doune are Ogham script, it would be the first such discovery of its type in the Forth Valley and would almost certainly mean there was a monastic settlement at the site of Kilmadock around 1300 years ago.

Rook is currently exploring funding options for a full restoration and stabilisation project, with a view to ultimately putting the stone on public display.

Moira Buchanan, chair of Rook, said: “We are delighted and very excited to have reached this milestone in the retrieval for stabilisation and conservation of this unique stone.

“Now we need to begin a major fundraising initiative to pay for the restoration and the eventual return of the stone to its rightful place in the beautiful and peaceful setting of Old Kilmadock.”

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Stirling Council leader Chris Kane said the passion of local communities was integral to such discoveries.

“As we begin Stirling’s 900th anniversary as a burgh, this is a reminder that the important contribution our area has made to Scottish history stretches back even further in time.,” he said.

“The work undertaken by the Rescuers of Old Kilmadock, assisted by Murray, is testament to the passion in local communities such as Doune to tell the stories of our fascinating past.”

Further details about the project, and how you can help, can be found on the Rook Facebook page.