- Painted pebbles
They are small rounded beach pebbles made of
quartzite, which have been painted with simple designs in a dye which is now dark brown in colour. The size varies from 18 mm by 22 mm to 65 mm by 51mm. It has not proven possible to analyse the dye itself from the stains that remain.
The motifs are carefully executed and the most common are dots and wavy lines. Other motifs are small circles, pentacles, crescents and triangles, showing strong relationships with the Pictish symbol stone motifs.Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1971 - 2. Vol. 104. Pps. 297 - 301.]
Over the last ninety years nineteen painted pebbles have been found in sites in the
Northern Islesand in Caithness. Most have come from brochsites which have been shown to have had an extensive post-broch occupation. An ogham- inscribed spindle-whorl was associated with one find at Buckquoyin the Orkneys(see Buckquoy spindle whorl). Several have been associate with wheelhouses or their outbuildings. An example was found at a Pictish site at Buckquoy in Orkney as reported in 1976. It had the 'small ring' type decoration.Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1971-2. Vol. 108. P. 197.]
Painted pebbles have been dated to the period 200 AD to the eighth century AD, the Pictish period. They may have been magically enhanced sling-stones, however local traditions suggest that they were 'charm-stones', often known as 'Cold-stones'. Such stones were used within living memory (1971) to cure sickness in animals and humans.Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1971-2. Vol. 104. Pps.297 - 301.]
In the "Life of
St. Columba" it is recorded that he visited King Brideiin Pictland in around the year 565 AD and taking a white stone pebble from the River Nesshe blessed it and any water it came into contact with would cure sick people. It floated in water and cured the king from a terminal illness. It remained as one of the great treasures of the king and cured many others.
The belief in charm-stones is well documented in medieval
Iceland(Proc Soc Antiq Scot).
Examples of 'charm-stones' or 'cold-stones' are held at
National Museum of Rural Life, Kittochside, near East Kilbride.
Touch piecesSee the 'Lee Penny'
* [http://www.eastkilbride.org.uk/tourism/kittoch.htm The Museum of Scottish Country Life]
* [http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/adsdata/PSAS_2002/pdf/vol_004/4_211_224.pdf St Columba's charm stone]
* [http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/A_Researcher's_Guide_to_Local_History_Terminology A Researcher's Guide to Local History terminology]
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