Deciphering the Stone of Destiny

The Engine Shed, Stirling

The Stone of Destiny – an ancient symbol of the Scottish monarchy – has undergone extensive new analysis in preparation for its role in the Coronation of Charles III at Westminster Abbey.

IMAGE: Historic Environment Scotland

The Stone was taken by Edward I during the First Scottish War of Independence in 1296 and fitted into the Coronation Chair (see CA 283), where it remained for the crowning of most subsequent English and British sovereigns. In 1996, though, it was returned to Scotland, and since then, when not being used for official royal duties, it has been on display in the Crown Room of Edinburgh Castle.

To learn more about its long and somewhat obscure history, a team from Historic Environment Scotland (HES), who care for the Stone on behalf of the Commissioners for the Safeguarding of the Regalia, have scanned the object to create a new high-resolution 3D model. This revealed previously unrecorded markings, including a series of Roman numerals – the meaning of which is currently unknown, but which future research will hopefully be able to elucidate.

IMAGE: Historic Environment Scotland

In addition, while geological analysis of the Stone in 1998 had confirmed that it was quarried from the Scone Sandstone Formation, found in the area around Scone Palace, near Perth, this most recent project used X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis, which was able to tell us more about its elemental make-up. Traces of copper alloy were identified on the top surface, suggesting the Stone had once been in prolonged contact with a bronze or brass object, while gypsum plaster was found in the pores of the sandstone, indicating that a plaster cast had once been taken of it.

Text: K Krakowka