Edinburgh Branch Event: James Bruce Talk on Sueno's Stone A 21-ft decorated monolith now inside a display cabinet outside Forres dates from an era when the Scottish throne alternated between rival families. The reality was a little different from Shakespeare, however we know that in 1034 Duncan followed Malcolm II in the first direct succession, but six years later was deposed and killed by Macbeth, who reigned until 1057.Scone-based Malcolm II had scored a direct victory against the Northumbrians at Carham in 1018 which added the Lothians and Strathclyde to his realm. He had then declared Duncan as his tanaiste or direct successor. However, awareness of Trajan's Column in Rome prompted a belief that a 9th century patron must have been inspired to commission the stone by a visit to the Eternal City. Timothy Pont's map showed a pair of columns, but this was a red herring, and the first written account in 1654 claimed a connection with a battle between Malcolm and Danish king Swayne. The current information hoarding is misleading in its claim that the name Sweno’s Stone was applied in the eighteenth century when it was found buried in the ground. If the monument was buried at all, it can’t have been for more than a few decades (from the mid-17th century), and the association with ‘Sweno/Sweyn/Sueno/Sven’ is older. Now there were theories for its purpose, to mark the vanquishing of the Picts, a Pictish-Norwegian conflict or the slaying in 966 of a Scots king Dubh by Moraymen, his body left under a bridge at Kinloss. Alexander Gordon told us in 1726 that it had been erected by the Scots after the Battle of Mortlach, when the Vikings were finally expelled in 1014. Dr Luisa Izzi in 2013 wouldn't deign to comment on the quality of the carved heads, but Leslie Alcock saw a parallel with one of the Ahenny Crosses in Tipperary. Parallels were drawn with the Bayeux Tapestry, and because Macbeth went on a grand tour to Rome it was guessed that Malcolm may well also have done so, perhaps with Macbeth in tow (there has long been speculation about this). Malcolm could then have brought back the design of Trajan's Column by Apollodorus of Damascus. Meanwhile at Felton, Northumberland in 1870 70 skulls were found buried along with Scots coins. Linton near Morebattle yielded 50 more, and those found during construction of a relief road at Weymouth served as a further reminder of the flux during the eleventh century which saw Malcolm founding a dynasty, the Norman Conquest and the Battle of Clontarf. Viewers of The Antiques Roadshow need no reminding of a tendency to date things as older than they actually are. Inspired also by the Jelling Stones erected by Harold Bluetooth in 970, interest focused on the contrast between the Stone's two faces, on the one side gruesome scenes of battle with decapitated bodies and severed heads, and on the other one aspects of early mediaeval art with a cross and royal inauguration which led to the conclusion that the Stone was sending out to the ruling elite of Moray a statement of Malcolm's power in declaring Duncan as his heir. David Sellar agreed in 1993 that the Stone was making a royal statement, and James noted that Malcolm's siege of Durham in 1006 prompted a harsh response by Uhtred of Northumbria which could account for the Stone's cruel depictions. Malcolm retreated, but John of Fordun recalls him reversing the defeat in a decisive battle near Burgum, reckoned to be Roxburgh which points to it being Carham. Meanwhile masons heading north from Durham towards their ultimate destination of Orkney brought skills in monumental stone-making, offering a clue to one of the most enigmatic objects on the monument. If James’s interpretation is right, he thinks the so-called Sueno's Stone could be touted as effectively the birth certificate of the new Scotland.