500-900: Becoming one with the land – Dunadd’s coronation stone footprint

Dunadd Fort Carved Foot by rockartwolf. Dunadd Carved Foot, uploaded to flickr by rockartwolf

Scottish history from Scottishweb

Scotland’s history is dotted with battles and skirmishes around these fortifications, some of which have had a massive impact on the future of Scotland as a nation. There is one place however that stands out as a landmark both in its physical appearance and on the pages of Scottish history: Dunadd hill fort in Argyll, Scotland.

Dunadd could be regarded as the crowning place for the original Kings of Scotland. This fist of stone on the edge of Crinan Moss in Argyll, near the village of Lochgilphead, is believed to be the “capital” of the ancient kingdom of Dalriada. It makes for a perfect defensive position, prominating from a flat moss all around. The sides of the hill are terraced in such a fashion as to protect the small fort on the top.

It was built around 500AD at a time when Fergus MacErc and two of his brothers led a Scottish invasion from Ireland and established their kingdom of Dalriada with Dunadd as its seat. In climbing the hill its easy to appreciate how well defended it is. Several obstacles must be surmounted before reaching the top, which at the time was a solid built stone fortification.

On the slope near to the summit there are rocks containing what appear to be a carved out human footprint and a stone basin. There is also a slab of stone with a carved wild boar on it, as well as an inscription in Ogam writing. Its said that the would be king would place his foot in this stone ‘footprint’ during the crowning ceremony. This ritual was certainly a large influence on the Lords of the Isles, who based their ceremonial inaugurations on the said rituals at Dunadd.

Many items have been found in the three times the site has been officially excavated. Items such as beautiful broaches, quern stones and fine examples of metal working all tie in with the theory about Dunadd being the seat of the King.

However – to the north was still the kingdom of the Picts. Many years of Viking battering on the Pictish nation had taken its toll, and by 843 with Dunadd being an established political centre, Kenneth MacAlpin, the king of the Scots based at Dunadd, attacked the Picts in an attempt to gain rule over the Pictish kingdom.

He enjoyed success in his efforts and united the two kingdoms under his rule, thus becoming the first true king of all Scotland. As in the Huntingdon Chronicle – ” And so he was the first of the Scots to obtain the monarchy of the whole of Alba, which is now called Scotia “

Dunadd is an enchanting place and it is still easy to imagine the small hill teaming with people and life. It must have been a busy place in its day, and the remains of the work endured by its inhabitants remains there for us to see over a thousand years later.

The whole Kilmartin area is fascinating and littered with prehistoric and historic monuments. From castles and standing stones to brochs and burial sites, one could spend many days in the same area.

Scotland was born here –

From wikipedia

Dunadd Fort 20080427.jpg Dunadd Hill Fort

Dunadd, ‘fort on the [River] Add’, is an Iron Age and later hillfort near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, a little north of Lochgilphead (NR 836 936). At one time an island, it now lies inland near the River Add. The surrounding land, now largely reclaimed, was formerly boggy and known as the Mòine Mhòr ‘Great Moss’ in Gaelic. This no doubt increased the defensive potential of the site.

Originally occupied in the Iron Age, the site later became a seat of the kings of Dál Riata. It is known for its unique stone carvings below the upper enclosure, including a footprint and basin thought to have formed part of Dál Riata‘s coronation ritual. Though it is an assumption only and not attested in contemporary written sources, similarly as the legend saying that Dunadd was the first location of Stone of Scone in Scotland. On the same flat outcrop of rock is an incised boar in Pictish style, and in inscription in the ogham script. The inscription is read as referring to a Finn Manach and is dated to the late 8th century or after.

Dunadd is mentioned twice in early sources. In 683 the Annals of Ulster record: ‘The siege of Dunadd and the siege of Dundurn [a hillfort near Loch Earn]’ without further comment on the outcome or participants. In the same chronicle the entry for 736 states: ‘Óengus son of Fergus, king of the Picts, laid waste the territory of Dál Riata and seized Dunadd, and burned Creic [location unknown] and bound in chains two sons of Selbach king of Dál Riata], i.e. Dúngal and Feredach . .’.

The site was occupied after 736, at least into the 9th century. It is mentioned twice in later sources, suggesting that it retained some importance. In 1436, it is recorded that “Alan son of John Riabhach MacLachlan of Dunadd” was made seneschal of the lands of Glassary; the chief place of residence of the MacLachlans of Dunadd lay below the fort. In June 1506, commissioners appointed by James IV, including the earl and bishop of Argyll, met at Dunadd to collect rents and resolve feuds.

The site is an Ancient Monument, under the care of Historic Scotland, and is open to the public (open all year; no entrance charge).

Because Dunadd is mentioned in early sources, and is readily identifiable, it has been excavated on several occasions (1904-05, 1929, 1980) and has one of the most important ensembles of finds from any early medieval site in Scotland. These include tools, weapons, quernstones, imported pottery and motif-pieces and moulds for the manufacture of fine metalwork (especially jewellery).


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