MHG1154 - Ogham Inscribed Symbol Stone - Latheron


No summary available.

Type and Period (2)

  • OGHAM INSCRIBED STONE (Early Medieval - 561 AD to 1057 AD)
  • INSCRIBED STONE (Early Medieval - 561 AD to 1057 AD)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A rectangular slab bearing on one face a double rectangular figure in relief with double-spiral and interlaced patterns; below it, incised, a bird, a fish, and two horsemen; and down the left side of these inscriptions, a line of Ogham characters reading DUNNODNNAT MAQQ NETO, which was noticed in 1903 in the inside wall of a barn 1/4 mile S of Latheron Post Office, was donated to the NMAS in 1905 by Sir Francis Tress Barry (Acc No: IB 183).
J Anderson 1904; Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1905; RCAHMS 1911.

Built into the wall, in the interior of the old barn mentioned in the previous paragraph, was found a few years ago a sculptured stone bearing an Ogham inscription. It is a rectangular slab of Caithness sandstone and measures 3' in extreme height, 1' 5" in breadth, and about 4" in thickness. The top and bottom are broken away, the fracture at the top passing obliquely across the stone. The inscription runs the whole length of the stone on the left-handsidem but is probably incomplete owing to the fracture. What remains shows eighteen complete characters and possibly part of a nineteenth. The sculpturing, which is partly in relief and partly incised, and occupies the whole face of the stone, consists of a double spiral ornament arranged in C-shaped scrolls placed back to back, the lower narrower filled with an interlaced pattern; and below, incised (1) a bird, (2) a fish, and (3) two horsemen (partly broken away).
The stone was discovered in 1903 by Mr John Nicolson, Nybster, who brought it to Sir Francis Tress Barry, and the latter presented it to the National Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh, where it now is. It is fully described and illustrated in an article by Dr. Joseph Anderson in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries (Antiquaries, xxxviii, p.134 (illus.)).
Visited by RCAHMS, 18th July 1910.

This symbol stone was found at ND 1981 3315.
Visited by OS (N K B) 25 March 1968.

A stone incised with a portion of Celtic cross (ND13SE 26) was also found at this position and is now at ND 1990 3341.

Class II symbol stone (fragment) showing on the carved face an eagle and salmon with an Ogam inscription.
A.Mack 1997 p.37

The stone to build the barn is thought locally to have come from a site to the south known as 'Chapel stones' (see MHG1159). There are historical sources which refer to Edward I of England sending officials to Caithness to meet the ill-fated Maid of Norway in 1290 AD, and his envoys spent the night of 3 October at a place on the route north called 'hospital'. It would have meant a long and inconvenient detour inland for St Magnus' Hospice at Spital to be meant here, whereas such a foundation at Latheron would fit in perfectly with the English party's itinerary. A field visit by T Blackie revealed a line of massive foundation stones approximately 40m long. A modern boundary fence lies on the line of these stone blocks and thus gives the impression from a distance that this is a cairn of stones cleared from the fields on either side. However, the size, alignment and regularity of the stones all argue strongly that these are dressed stones froming the lower course of a substantial building. An unpublished paper by a local clergyman in the 1940s gives a sketch of the site and states that it is 'thought to be the remains of an abbey', but otherwise there do not seem to be any modern references. <1>

Latheron 1, Caithness, Pictish symbol stone inscribed in ogham
Measurements: H 0.91m, W 0.43m, D 0.10m
Stone type: grey sandstone
Place of discovery: ND 1981 3315
Present location: National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh (IB 183)
Evidence for discovery: found by John Nicholson in 1903 in the interior face of the wall of an old byre, taken to Keiss Castle and presented to the museum in 1905.
Present condition: broken
The carved face appears to have been bordered by a deeply pecked line, which survives along the left-hand edge, where just within it is a long inscription in ogham. Forsyth’s reading of the ogham is DUNNODNNA(I)T or Dunodnait. At the top the lower part of a cross carved in relief shows double-spiral ornament within the shaft and very simple two-cord interlace in the basal tenon. Below are incised a stylised eagle standing on a salmon, above an incomplete motif of two horsemen.
Date: eighth or ninth century.
Early Medieval Carved Stones Project, A Ritchie 2016 <2>

NGR adjusted based on 2015 aerial photographs. <3>

Sources/Archives (11)



Grid reference Centred ND 1981 3314 (10m by 10m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND13SE
Civil Parish LATHERON
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (1)

  • SYMBOL STONE (Pictish to Early Medieval - 300 AD to 1057 AD)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (2)

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