Carved Stones Executive Summary

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.



Listen to the Stones cover

Download the popular version of the framework ‘Listen to the Stones’ here

You can download illustrated PDF’s of the full text and case studies from here.

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