Research Report

Future Thinking on Carved Stones in Scotland: A Research Framework (Case Studies)



Foster S, Forsyth K, Buckham S & Jeffrey S (2016) Future Thinking on Carved Stones in Scotland: A Research Framework (Case Studies). Scottish Archaeological Research Framework: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Aim: Our appreciation of the past relies heavily on the survival of stone monuments, buildings and landscape features. They shape our sense of place and identity. If carved, this adds further dimensions and depth to that appreciation and can tell us much more about past peoples, their identities, beliefs, tastes, technologies and lives. And we are fortunate-carved stone monuments are all around us: prehistoric rock art, Roman, early medieval, later medieval and architectural sculpture, gravestones, and public monuments. This Framework aims to link, inspire, mobilize and direct the efforts of anyone with an interest in carved stone monuments in Scotland. It is driven by a desire for a more strategic approach to the opportunities and challenges carved stone monuments present. Despite including some of Scotland's most iconic monuments and most significant contributions to European art and culture, the significance of this resource is often not fully recognized, nor is the seriousness of the threats to it.  Background: The Framework is part of the Scottish Archaeology Research Framework (ScARF)and its production was led by Dr Sally Foster (University of Stirling) and Dr Katherine Forsyth (University of Glasgow), with co-authors Dr Susan Buckham (University of Stirling) and Dr Stuart Jeffrey (Glasgow School of Art). Funding came from the RSE and from HES via the NCCSS. A key source for the Framework were three workshops, each summarized here, which took stock of existing and ongoing research activities to identify priorities for future research, with a particular focus on digital recording technology and carved stones associated with churches. In addition, many contributors have subsequently supplied invaluable ideas, advice and text, including case studies of their own work.  Structure: After an Introduction, the Current State of Knowledge is critically assessed for the categories of carved stones listed above, and also for heritage and conservation in relation to carved stone monuments. Thereafter the Framework is structured around heritage practices and government strategies: Creating Knowledge and Understanding, Understanding Value, Securing for the Future, and Engaging and Experiencing. An extensive Bibliography of published work and resources is provided. Carved stones are in many ways a touchstone for wider attitudes to the historic environment and to heritage practices because they cross so many boundaries and therefore expose so many issues. They invite, indeed demand, interdisciplinary and cross-cutting approaches. The Framework's structure is designed to draw out a holistic understanding of the value and significance of Scotland's carved stone heritage in the 21st century, and reflect on what this knowledge then offers us. This emphasis on value provides the best hope of making a difference. To this end the Framework identifies research principles, problems, practices, and ideas for projects, some enhancing existing initiatives and others suggesting new directions. Materiality, cultural biography and landscape recur as particularly helpful lenses for exploring carved stones and their context.  The Future: With its wiki-format, users can continue to breathe life into this Framework so that it continues to reflect current practice and research priorities as they inevitably develop over time. This is just the beginning of a process of broadening engagement. Ongoing communication and capacity building is crucial. There is much existing data, research, knowledge, experience and enthusiasm across the many existing communities of interest that can be readily brought together and utilized. But new directions and more significant investments of effort in particular areas are also needed.  This document comprises the case studies submitted for the Scottish Archaeology Research Framework website, launched on 24 August 2016 at  The figures appear on the online version. It should be read alongside the core text (available with the online version at: or in a separate pdf available at​ or at and appendices (online only).

Carved stones; Scotland; heritage; historiography; creating knowledge and understanding; valuing; protecting; engaging and experiencing; prehistoric rock art; Roman; early medieval sculpture; later medieval and post-Reformation sculpture; architectural sculpture; architectural fragments; gravestones and memorials; public monuments

This Framework is published as a website. With contributions from: Marcus Abbott, Laila Kitzler Åhfeldt, Tertia Barnett, Bruce Bishop, David Breeze, David Caldwell, Murray Cook, Neil Curtis, Audrey Dakin, Fiona Davidson, Stephen Driscoll, Iain Fraser, Shannon Fraser, Simon Gilmour, Moira Greig, Marta Díaz Guardamino, Mark Hall, Strat Halliday, Isabel Henderson, John Hughes, Fern Insh, Andy Meirion Jones, Siân Jones, Dianne King, Murdo Macdonald, Cait McCullagh, Peter McKeague, Adrián Maldonado, Gilbert Márkus, Hugh Morrison, Colin Muir, Gordon Noble, Emma O’Riordan, John Picken, Edwina Proudfoot, John Raven, Anna Ritchie, Matthew Ritchie, Judith Roebuck, Christa Roodt, Nigel Ruckley, Jeff Sanders, Ian G Scott, Bill Stephens, Antonia Thomas, George Thomson, Sharon Webb, Iain Ross Wallace, Kelsey Jackson Williams

FundersHistoric Environment Scotland
Publication date24/08/2016
Publication date online24/08/2016
PublisherScottish Archaeological Research Framework: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Publisher URL…case_studies.pdf

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Professor Sally Foster
Professor Sally Foster

Professor, History

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