Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Early Medieval Dunadd Carvings revealed for first time in 30 years

Evocative carvings at what was believed to be the inauguration site of the ancient kings of Dal Riata have been revealed for the first time in 30 years.

Experts from Historic Scotland removed the concrete replica which covers the carved rock at the Dunadd hillfort, in Kilmartin Glen, during a week-long conservation project at the start of June. After three decades they were keen to see whether covering the rock had been effective in protecting it from weathering and vandalism.

The approach had been a pioneering one, so the conservation team was not quite sure what to expect. Michael Burgoyne, Historic Scotland district architect, who led the project said: “We wanted to check the condition of the stone so we can plan its future conservation. Lifting the replica to see if everything was alright was slightly nerve-wracking to begin with but very rewarding thereafter. It was in excellent condition, which helps to show that this is a viable approach to protecting carved stone.”

The original bedrock, on a terrace at the summit of the hill, contains an unusual group of carvings of a basin, two footprints, an incised boar, and has an Ogham inscription and what may be a rock cut throne.

Dunadd was of great importance as the principal royal seat of the Dal Riata, which comprised a series of large tribal groupings whose principal heartland was Argyll from AD 400-800. It is an early medieval hillfort overlooking the River Add. It occupies a series of natural terraces, defined by collapsed stone ramparts.

The site is one of the few places recorded in the early historic annals. The Annals of Ulster record at siege at Dun At in AD 683 and its seizure in 736 by the King of the Picts. It is also thought to be the ‘chief place of the region’ where St Columba met a Gaulish merchant.