1.2 Definition of terms

This Framework is concerned with ‘carved stone monuments’ which we interpret in a broad and inclusive manner, aware that the boundaries of this category are indistinct. The ‘stone’ element of this definition is straightforward, making due allowance for the fact that stone monuments may incorporate elements in other materials, e.g. metal or glass. While issues raised within the Framework may be relevant to cognate monuments made from other materials, such as ceramic, metal or wood, these are excluded from direct consideration. By ‘carving’ we understand the use of tools to remove part of the stone surface, using any of a range of techniques, including pecking, grinding, gouging, cutting, chiseling, scratching and polishing. The stones in question may thus be incised, carved in various degrees of relief, or in the round. The level of technical skill and artistic ambition exhibited ranges greatly. At one end of the spectrum are highly accomplished public artworks created by teams of professional sculptors, at the other extreme are informal carvings, scratch art, and graffiti created by ordinary people, including children, for perhaps little more than personal enjoyment.

We use the term ‘monument’ somewhat loosely to convey the principle that the item should be or have been earthfast or otherwise tied to a specific location. We therefore embrace what Baldwin Brown (1905, 22) referred to as ‘immovables by nature’ (things that cannot normally be moved) and ‘immovables by destination’ (things that can technically be moved but were not normally designed to be removed, such as gravestones). By ‘monuments’ we do not mean only free-standing stones, but include carvings in outcrops of living rock or on cave walls. It is this physical connection to a specific place which allows us to discriminate between ‘monuments’ and stone ‘artefacts’ which were never intended to stand in or on the ground (we use ‘artefacts’ here in the technical curatorial sense of a portable item; of course, all human-made or altered materials can otherwise be described as ‘artefacts’). While the materiality of stone artefacts means some of the issues raised in the Framework may also be of relevance to them, nonetheless we view them as fundamentally different in nature. By this means we exclude from direct consideration small portable objects such as Neolithic carved stone balls or portable stone altars, although clearly much is to be learned from work on such objects (Imaging techniques: Case Study 7).

Note that mere portability is not grounds for excluding an item. On the contrary, many of the items considered within this Framework have been removed from their ancient location and/or have become fragmented such that they are now ‘portable’ and thus rendered uniquely vulnerable (see Section 5.3.3). Others are small enough that they have always been potentially portable. The difference is that at one time they were earthfast or otherwise tied to a specific location (‘immovables by destination’). We have chosen to exclude buildings per se but to include architectural carvings, whether in or ex situ, aware that these sit on a continuum of relevancy to the bulk of the material under consideration.

Although they do not fall strictly within the above definition, we are conscious that certain other categories of stones which stand at one remove nonetheless share characteristics with carved stone monuments proper, and in some circumstances are profitably considered alongside them. Examples would be unworked stones erected as monuments, e.g. prehistoric standing stones; ‘significant’ stones, whether worked or natural, which are endowed with special meanings by being named or memorialized through stories; and also uncarved stones to which colour has been applied (a separate issue from the painting of carved stones). While we would not include these under the label ‘carved stones’ they are nonetheless to be borne in mind as kindred monuments with bearing on many of the issues discussed in this document.

Our definition of carved stones in Scotland thus encompasses but is not limited to: prehistoric carvings in living rock and on monuments; Roman altars, dedication slabs and statuary; early Christian cross-marked stones, Pictish symbol-stones, cross-slabs and free-standing crosses; gravestones, tomb sculpture and burial monuments of all periods; medieval and modern architectural sculpture including sundials and fountains; public monuments such as war memorials and modern carved sculpture. For illustrated examples, see the NCCSS website.