What did Scone look like in the Middle Ages

Medieval Scone

A team of researchers have stared a new project that will give us a look at how Scone, one of Scotland’s medieval royal centres, looked like and why it was so important to the development of the Scottish kingdom.

Medieval Scone
A draft artistic reconstruction of the royal centre at Scone in AD 1371 showing mass gatherings for the celebrations of Robert II inauguration at the Moothill and Scone Abbey by artist James Lindsay

The University of Stirling and working in co-operation with Scone Palace, is hosting a free public event in Perth on Sunday 30 March – to reveal what Scone was like in medieval times and develop awareness of Scone’s cultural, historic and symbolic significance.

For six centuries, Scone was the symbolic epicentre of the Scottish state. It was where Scotland’s kings were traditionally crowned and the political community gathered to legislate and to advise their monarch. However, during the Reformation the Abbey of Scone was destroyed by a mob. When the Scottish crown was passed to the Kings of England in the early modern era, the political importance of Scone rapidly decline.  Even the medieval village of Scone was abandoned in the early 19th century.

Professor Richard Oram, project leader and Professor of Environmental and Medieval History at the University of Stirling said: “Despite Scone’s importance in Scottish identity and Scotland’s history, there is currently limited understanding of the site, the function of its components, and the nature of the activities undertaken there.

“Our new project, entitled ‘Royal Scone: parliament, inauguration and national symbol’, will assemble a network of researchers in archaeology, architectural history, legal and political history – including representatives from Historic Scotland – to develop a wider and more accurate picture of what royal Scone was like.

“Our public event will also gather together heritage-management professionals, artists, writers and designers to help tell the story of Scone in a variety of exciting ways.”

Members of the public are invited to drop in to the event to participate in a range of interactive talks and demonstrations. Highlights include a session by Dr Oliver O’Grady, from the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Open Studies – on new findings from the archaeological investigations at Scone; a demonstration by Dr Alan Miller from the University of St Andrews – to show how 3D digital technology can be used to recreate ancient sites like Scone; and an exhibition by artist James Lindsay, whose illustrated reconstructions of Scone Abbey and Moothill reveal what life was like in the medieval period.

The project researchers – who are currently exploring the case for making a UNESCO World Heritage site application for Scone – hope the event in Perth will also raise awareness about the importance of the future safeguarding and development of all European royal medieval heritage sites.

Moothill Scone
Photograph of the Moothill today, by Dr Oliver O’Grady – Photo courtesy Scone Palace

In 2007 Dr O’Grady conducted archaeological research on the site of Scone, which revealed most of surviving ground-plan of the medieval abbey church and also the original form of the Moot Hill royal assembly mound and its enclosures. He explains, “This project is a great opportunity to cut through all the myths surrounding Scone and create a new informed account of Scone’s place in our national story and international heritage sites.”

“We really want the community to get involved, to tell us their stories and memories about Scone and work with our expert interpretation team to articulate Scone’s heritage for future generations.”

The event is the first of series of public activities and academic panels to be held throughout 2014, which will culminate in an international conference held in December. The findings of the conference will be published in a new authoritative account of Scone’s history as a primary royal centre and its relation to wider European sites of governance.

Click here to read Oliver O’Grady’s dissertation: The setting and practice of open-air judicial assemblies in medieval Scotland: a multidisciplinary study

Source: University of Stirling

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