Object of the Month: October 2016

The Appin Head

(on long-term loan from Kilmartin House Museum)

Appin Head

Appin Head

This human face carved on a natural boulder of local igneous stone (37 x 26 cm; 50kg) has been identified by the National Museum of Scotland as a Pagan Celtic Stone Head, dating from the Iron Age1. Jean and the late William Breckenridge found the stone by accident in their garden at Dunsleigh in Port Appin, in what may well have been a pagan shrine two thousand years ago. They looked after it carefully for 30 years but in recent years, they felt that it needed greater protection, and it came under the care of Kilmartin Museum. It is currently owned by Argyll and Bute Council. Under accreditation, and according to the wishes of the Breckenridges, it has returned near to home in Lismore Museum.

According to archaeologist Ann Ross “the Celts venerated the head as a symbol of divinity and the powers of the otherworld, and regarded it as the most important bodily member, the very seat of the soul”2. This was part of the pre-Christian system of beliefs, held by the Pictish occupants of Tirfuir Broch and the many duns on Lismore.

1 Cowie T G (1986) A stone head from Port Appin, Argyll. Prioc Soc Antiq Scot 116: 89-91
2 Ross A (1974) Pagan Celtic Britain: Studies in Iconography and Tradition. London Ontario: Cardinal Books

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